It used to be that Spotlight would figure out math operations for me (for example, if I typed 5 + 3, the first Spotlight result, before any located files or other search results, would be the answer). For the last few weeks, it hasn't anymore - if I type a math operation, it just finds a bunch of documents.

I'm running Mac OS X 10.5.7. UPDATE: So far I've tried, based on the suggestions below:

  • Deleting the Spotlight preferences.
  • Setting defaults write com.apple.spotlight CalculationEnabled -bool YES
  • Opening up the Calculator app and confirming that it's still in its default location.
  • Forcing Spotlight to reindex my hard drives.
  • Re-installing the 10.5.7 combo update.
  • Rebooting after each of the above.

Unfortunately, nothing has worked - Spotlight still doesn't solve the operations.

  • I can still run Calculator manually - and it's still in the default location (/Applications).
    – Charles
    Jul 19, 2009 at 12:55
  • 5+3 is an operation on two numbers not an equation
    – bandi
    Jul 19, 2009 at 18:46
  • You're right, of course. Corrected to remove references to equations.
    – Charles
    Jul 19, 2009 at 20:38
  • 1
    +1 I didn't know that my Spotlight does this! Thanks. I mean, thanks and I hope you solve your problem. Sep 3, 2009 at 9:33

4 Answers 4


open up a terminal and try

defaults write com.apple.spotlight CalculationEnabled YES

If that doesn't work, you might need to remove com.apple.Spotlight.plist from your user preferences folder, and then re-boot. This will remove any exclusions you have set up though, so you will need to manually put them back.

If that doesn't work, open up calculator and use it to perform a calculation. That as worked for some people.

There were some problems with this caused by the 10.5.6 update, so if you have recently upgraded, or the steps above don't work. You might want to download the combo update for you current version and reinstall it.

  • I deleted the preferences file, added the CalculationEnabled preference, rebooted, and let Spotlight chug away for a while. Still no luck. I'm running 10.5.7, do you still think there is value in reinstalling the 10.5.7 combo update?
    – Charles
    Jul 19, 2009 at 12:58
  • It might be worth a shot, some people have reported it as solving the problem when they upgraded from 10.5.5 to 10.5.6, so you might have the same problem. Jul 19, 2009 at 13:05
  • Also try opening up calculator and using it. That has fixed it for some people. Jul 19, 2009 at 13:12
  • I had opened up Calculator before (that's how I've been doing my simple math queries now that Spotlight isn't working) and it had no effect. Unfortunately, reinstalling the 10.5.7 combo update also didn't work - it's still not working.
    – Charles
    Jul 19, 2009 at 13:29
  • oh crap ... I'm fresh out of ideas ... Jul 19, 2009 at 13:34

Installing Snow Leopard fixed the problem - hopefully it doesn't recur, since I never figured out what caused it in the first place!

  • That's too bad, I'd advise looking into Console and checking for file permissions (chmod / chown) as well. Two of most common methods and issues that I couldn't see advised anywhere else here.
    – cregox
    Apr 23, 2010 at 20:26

Spotlight does this by "feeding" calculator.app. The Calculator program must be in a folder being checked by Spotlight in order for this function to work.

Make sure Spotlight can find Calculator.app by checking Spotlight Preferences.

Or perhaps you moved Calculator.app to another location, in that case you might just want to move it back to Applications.

P.S. Your problem is not uncommon, I've seen this question asked before. So +1 to your question.

  • Calculator is still in the default spot - when you say to make sure Spotlight can find Calculator.app, what do you mean? I can't find anything on either of the two tabs for Spotlight Preferences that have anything to do with Calculator app. (Spotlight does find the Calculator app just fine when I do a Spotlight search for it, though.)
    – Charles
    Jul 19, 2009 at 12:56

Maybe re-indexing Spotlight might do something? Doing this now, have the same problem. The easiest way to re-index is to go to Spotlight prefs., go to Privacy, select your HDD, add it. Then close the prefs., open them again and remove your HDD. Spotlight should now be re-indexing it. Alternatively, for you bash-shell fiends, you can use the command sudo mdutil -i on /

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