Searching for files and applications is incredibly easy on macOS, thanks to its Spotlight feature. You just need to use the Command + Space shortcut to bring up the tool and start searching. Furthermore, Spotlight can even be used as a currency converter, calculator, and more.

However, since this is a feature of Apple's OS, Windows users may feel left out. Fortunately, there is a way to get a Mac-like Spotlight search on your Windows computer. You can use Microsoft PowerToys to do so, and the process is explained in detail here.

Downloading And Installing Microsoft PowerToys

Microsoft PowerToys is a set of utilities for the Windows platform designed to help power users maximize their productivity. They help you perform tasks that would otherwise be impossible or require considerable effort.

You can install PowerToys from the Microsoft Store by following these steps:

  1. Click the 'Start' button on the taskbar, search for Microsoft Store, and launch it.
  2. The Microsoft Store has a search bar at the top. Type in Microsoft PowerToys to search for the module and click the PowerToys icon from the results that appear.
  3. Click the blue 'Install' button on the left to start downloading and installing the utility. Once it is installed, you can use it to enable a Mac-like Spotlight search feature on your Windows system.

Setting Up The PowerToys Run Utility

PowerToys Run is the PowerToys utility that brings the Mac-like Spotlight search feature to Windows.

  1. Once the PowerToys utility is installed, open it. This will bring up the User Account Control dialogue box asking for permission. Click the 'Yes' button to launch the module.
  2. Once PowerToys is running, you will see all the utilities it offers on the left side. Click the 'PowerToys Run' option to select it.
  3. With the PowerToys Run option selected, you will see the description of the utility on the right side. To be able to use the Spotlight-like search feature on Windows, you will need to enable the module first; click the 'Open Settings' button on the bottom.
  1. Make sure the button labeled 'Enable PowerToys Run' is toggled on.
  1. You can also customize the shortcut to run the utility from there. By default, the shortcut is the Alt + Space keys. To change it, click the pencil icon, which will bring up a new window where you can change the shortcut keys.
  1. It allows you to create a shortcut using the 'Windows', 'Ctrl', 'Alt', and 'Shift' keys along with alphanumeric keys. Once you've customized your shortcut keys, click the 'Save' button to save the combination. Clicking the 'Reset' button will reset the shortcut keys to the default settings.
Note: Avoid creating a shortcut that overlaps with system shortcuts, such as Ctrl + C.
  1. You can also customize some other settings of the PowerToys Run module by scrolling down. This involves options like 'Input Smoothing', 'Immediate Plugins', 'Background Execution Plugins', 'Results Order Tuning', and more.
  1. Coming down, you will see the 'Position and Appearance' section, which lets you customize how and where the PowerToys Run module looks.

Once you've customized the PowerToys Run utility according to your preferences, you're ready to start using the Mac-like Spotlight search feature on your Windows computer.

Using The PowerToys Run Spotlight-like Search Utility

PowerToys Run is more than just a search tool and can help you access files and even run applications quickly. Here is how to use it.

  1. Press the Alt + Space keys or the shortcut keys you've chosen to bring up the PowerToys Run search bar on your screen. The search box will be accompanied by a few suggestions.
  1. Start typing your search query in the box and then press the 'Enter' key to open the file or application you are searching for. For instance, typing in Settings in the search box will show you a few results.

    Click on any of these to open them, or press the 'Enter' key to quickly open the first file or application.
  1. Next to the search results, you will see four power user buttons to perform specific actions. Which buttons will appear will depend on the results; hover your mouse over them to see what each one does.
  2. The box with a shield icon appears next to applications and allows running them as an administrator, while the box with a user icon allows you to open the app or file as a different user. There will also be a copy icon, usually appearing next to documents, that lets you copy the path to the location where the document is stored.

    The folder icon opens the folder containing the file, showing the location of the app or file in File Explorer. Lastly, there will be a C:\ Box, which can open a path to the document or file in a command prompt.
  1. You can also use PowerToys Run for other things besides opening applications and files. For instance, you can use it as a calculator. Just enter the numbers and the symbol for calculation and press the 'Enter' key to get the results.

    For example, entering 690/7 will give you the results of the division.
  1. Similarly, you can perform various actions like shutting down, rebooting your system or emptying the recycle bin by typing the command in the search box. For instance, type Empty Recycle Bin in the box and press the 'Enter' key to permanently delete files lying in the Recycle Bin.

Using Plugins With PowerToys Run

The functionality of PowerToys Run can be further enhanced with plugins, and there are over 15 plugins that can be used with the module. Not only that, each plugin can be used with a specific shortcut key for quick and easy use.

  1. To enable plugins, click the 'Open Settings' button at the bottom of the PowerToys Run section to bring up the settings for the utility.
  1. Scroll down to the 'Plugins' section to view the available plugins. By default, many of the plugins will be turned on. You will find plugins such as the 'Calculator', 'Folder', 'History', 'Windows Search', and more here.
  1. To enable a plugin, simply turn on the corresponding toggle on the right side and use the key assigned for that plugin when typing in the PowerToys search bar.
  2. One of the best ones worth trying out is the OneNote plugin that lets you search the OneNote app directly from the Powertoys Run search box.

    With the plugin enabled, press the shortcut keys to launch the Powertoys search box and type O: in the box. This will direct the tool to search your OneNote notebooks. Enter a specific name after the 'O:' command to look for it.
Note: The OneNote application should be installed on your system for this plugin to work.
  1. Another useful plugin is the Unit Converter plugin, which makes it easy to convert different measurement units. To use this plugin, launch the PowerToys search box and type %% into it. Then, without a space, type the units to be converted, like 10 ft in m.
  1. You can also search for specific Windows settings using the Settings plugin. Again, launch the PowerToys search box, and this time, use the $ symbol before typing in the name of the setting you want to search for, such as mouse.

    This will show you the various settings related to the mouse connected to the computer.

With the PowerToys Run module, you can easily get a Spotlight-like search feature on your Windows machine. Use it to look up files and folders, open applications, and even perform system actions easily. It is a much more efficient tool compared to the standard Windows Search tool and can help you work faster and be more productive.