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How to Use iOS 7 Spotlight Search



Spotlight search in iOS allows you to search your entire phone for something that you’re looking for. Whether it’s an email, an app, a contact or a document, Spotlight search is like what indexed search is on Windows; when you enter in a search phrase, it searches your entire machine for files relating to that phrase.

In iOS 6, you accessed Spotlight search by swiping to the right and having it pop up, and it’s been like that ever since Spotlight search was introduced in iOS, so you would think that it would be the same in iOS 7, right? Wrong. Apple changed the swipe gesture in iOS 7 to something the company has never implemented before in iOS, so it’s a little difficult to find at first. Here’s how to do it.


Accessing Spotlight Search

To get to Spotlight search and find that something you’ve been looking for, simply swipe down in the middle of the home screen. Easy, right? Of course it is, but it’s amazing how Apple doesn’t tell you that they changed it, and since it’s a swipe gesture that Apple has never used before, swiping down in the middle of the home screen is the last gesture you would ever think of.

Anyway, to exit out of Spotlight search, you can either press the Home button, tap on “Cancel” or tap anywhere in the area where your home screen is still showing.

spotlight-2Customizing Spotlight Search

Spotlight search comes with a little bit of customization, but not a lot. To access these options, open up the Settings app and navigate to General > Spotlight Search. From there you can select which types of files that you want (and don’t want) included in Spotlight search. Just tap on an item to select/deselect it. A checkmark next to an item lets you know that those types of files will be included in a Spotlight search.

You can rearrange the items as far as what types of files show up at the top of the list when searching for something. Just tap and hold on the three horizontal lines to the right of an item, and drag it into a different position — either higher on the list or lower.

Personally, I don’t use Spotlight search and there’s no way to disable it without jailbreaking, sadly, but it doesn’t get in the way all that much anyway, as it’s unlikely that you’ll accidentally open it while you were actually just trying to open an app or complete another swipe gesture.



  1. jason

    09/18/2013 at 12:20 pm

    ” Easy, right? Of course it is, but it’s amazing how Apple doesn’t tell you that they changed it” Maybe you quickly swiped it away or didn’t notice it, but after upgrading to iOS7 earlier my phone indicated the new Spotlight search function and how to access it before it even displayed the home screen.

  2. Alan

    09/18/2013 at 12:33 pm

    It told me about the change when in did the install as well, but I accidentally went by it a little too fast and missed what action brings it up.

    • Noah garcia

      09/18/2013 at 4:13 pm

      I am able to swipe down but when I do it’s not the spotlight search

      • PKD

        09/19/2013 at 1:24 am

        Don’t start swiping down from the very top edge. Instead, basically act like you are dragging down the top row of icons.

        • Matt

          09/19/2013 at 9:06 am

          Thanks that helped so much. The swipe from the very top brings notifications. i am sure a lot of people are getting these two confused. They should have done it a different way in my opinion. Although once you know how you will never forget. Thanks a ton.

          • jordangarbz

            09/19/2013 at 9:18 am

            thnx! i was wondering what i was doing wrong!

  3. jack

    09/18/2013 at 12:39 pm

    Apple definitely DOES tell you about the new gesture :)

  4. PW

    09/18/2013 at 1:55 pm

    Interesting…because apple says “swipe down from any screen” but when I tried it, it just gave me the notifications screen. THANK you for this article because apple certainly wasn’t specific enough for some…

    • Noah garcia

      09/18/2013 at 4:14 pm

      Same here

  5. boecherer

    09/18/2013 at 3:14 pm

    I think further clarification is needed. It should say “swipe down with your finger starting ON the screen anywhere but the home row icons”.

    You can start swiping from the top row icons and anywhere down to the last row of icons above the home row icons and all starting positions will work. The key is not to start off the screen and not to start on the home row icons.

    • PKD

      09/19/2013 at 1:25 am

      I agree. Not even this article explained it very well.

  6. Sheana

    09/18/2013 at 5:35 pm

    So wait, you can only access search from the home screen? When I’m in most other programs (e.g., safari), that just scrolls the page

  7. dm

    09/18/2013 at 8:27 pm

    Saying they’ve never used that gesture before isn’t totally fair. They’ve not used it on the home screens, but it’s a common search gesture in their list views, they use it in contacts and notes for example. Drag down on the list to reveal the search bar. They’ve just taken it from the app space and introduced it to the home page space.

  8. pearlie

    09/19/2013 at 4:44 pm

    “it’s unlikely that you’ll accidentally open it while you were actually just trying to open an app or complete another swipe gesture.”

    Not true for me. I have accidentally opened it so many times it is now really bugging me. And even more now that I find out I can’t disable it.

  9. Zaahira

    09/20/2013 at 6:12 am

    the alert after the upgrade doesnt specify that you swipe the MIDDLE of the screen. so I kept getting the notification centre!!! that was awfully annoying! thanks for saving me from further misery!

  10. Steve

    09/20/2013 at 12:02 pm

    ‘but it doesn’t get in the way all that much anyway, as it’s unlikely that you’ll accidentally open it’ haha
    Mabye its just me then, but since i updated to iOS7 , i have not stopped accidentally brung up the Spotlight search bar (usally just by flicking through my home screen icons.
    It’s so annoying that i cant disable it (please make this a feature in next update, Apple) Do most people use Spotlight that much then? i never have done :S

  11. Frank

    09/21/2013 at 8:16 pm

    I find spotlight search very annoying and I want it disabled. Is it true the only way to do this is to “jailbreak ” my phone? What’s jailbreak and how is it done?

  12. Micah

    09/22/2013 at 10:08 pm

    I know how to access the new spotlight location and choose the areas of phone to search but it’s not offering the search web or Wikipedia option since iOS7 update. I really enjoyed that feature. What gives?

  13. Stephen

    09/25/2013 at 8:10 pm

    Please add the web search feature back it’s the only thing I liked about the iphone if not I’m going droid. Why do these tech company’s think they can just take features away especially something so easy for them to keep.

  14. Simon Webster

    10/14/2013 at 1:26 am

    If you do a search and click on 1st item and it is not what you want how do you quickly get back to the second?

  15. hardzdong

    09/17/2014 at 4:42 pm

    Anybody help i got Unknown error 9006 while restoring/updating to IOS8 on both ipad mini (wifi only) and my iphone 5 what should i do?

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