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Alfred incapable of finding files that Spotlight does find


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I've been having this issue for 1 or 2 years I believe: Alfred does not find PDF files (by filename) that Spotlight has well indexed (I find them immediately with Spotlight search).


I have a lot (~4000) PDFs of scientific papers organized in a folder (`Papers/Doe & Curie Year/Doe & Curie (Year) Title.pdf`)

Those files used to be well indexed in Alfred a few years ago. But many aren't anymore.

It is not systematic: I do find some of these files. After opening them, I can find them in Alfred. I also systematically find the folders they are in, but most of the PDF files do not appear in Alfred.


I thought is might have been an issue with Spotlight index, but I've just started using the same files on a brand new mac and have the same issue.

Reloading Alfred cache didn't help.


I'm using Alfred 4.3.4 on macOS Big Sur 11.3.1


Here is an example:


Via Alfred:



Via Spotlight:



Here is the output of the File Search Troubleshooting.

File: 'Huang & Tsao (2019) Using collocation clusters to detect and correct.pdf'
Path: '/Users/serge/Dropbox/Bibliotheque/Papers/Huang & Tsao 2019'


Check file cache database...

File cache integrity is ok


Check if file is readable...

Alfred has permissions to read this file.


Check if volume '/' is indexed by macOS...

Indexing is enabled on this drive


Check direct file metadata...

Direct metadata available

Display Name: Huang & Tsao (2019) Using collocation clusters to detect and correct.pdf
 Other Names:
Content Type: com.adobe.pdf
   Last Used:


Check mdls file metadata...

Metadata contains required items

_kMDItemDisplayNameWithExtensions      = "Huang & Tsao (2019) Using collocation clusters to detect and correct.pdf"
kMDItemAuthors                         = (
    "Huang Ping-Yu"
kMDItemContentCreationDate             = 2020-07-09 06:57:59 +0000
kMDItemContentCreationDate_Ranking     = 2020-07-09 00:00:00 +0000
kMDItemContentModificationDate         = 2020-07-09 06:57:59 +0000
kMDItemContentModificationDate_Ranking = 2020-07-09 00:00:00 +0000
kMDItemContentType                     = "com.adobe.pdf"


Check file is in search scope...

File exists within Alfred's default search scope


Troubleshooting passed



Edited by iNyar
Screenshots of search query
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@iNyar When searching for files elsewhere on your Mac, are you seeing everything you need in Alfred?


I would suggest, to help work out whether the files in Dropbox can be found, creating a File Filter workflow to search your "Papers" folder specifically:



Set the search scope to that folder (and optionally, which file type(s) you want to see returned in the search) then use this and see what's returned.


Let me know how you get on :)



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Thanks for your reply, @Vero. I did it (scope == .../Papers/ + file type == PDF). The results are the same however: most of the files do not appear.

If I open one (via the Finder) though, after that, it does appear in Alfred's results.

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37 minutes ago, iNyar said:

If I open one (via the Finder) though, after that, it does appear in Alfred's results


That sounds like it might be related to the access time of the files. Opening files/folders is the standard way to get them to appear in Alfred because it orders results by access time. Normally, this is only an issue when there are too many results, though, and the file you're looking for has not been accessed recently enough to make the cut.

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