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Search Gmail – Quickly locate the email message with these commands

Search Gmail email messages

Because of the large storage space at Gmail you can keep emails forever… no need to delete any message. This means you can potentially store tens of thousands of emails. And herein lies a problem – How do you search for an email lying in your Gmail account when you have hundreds… even thousands? It’s like trying to locate a needle in a haystack.

This is where Google’s search algorithms come into play! The company, as we all know, has been leading the web search field for some years now. Gmail search takes advantage of in-house search technology of Google.

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So how should I begin searching my Gmail account?

The search field on your Gmail account is located at the top on the right of the logo – refer image below. It allows you to perform searches on both email messages in your Gmail account and the web.

Gmail search field located at the top lets you search email messages in your account and also the web

To hunt for a message, type in your query in the search field and hit the Search Mail button. However, you can perform specific searches through the different search options. Click on the “Show search options” link which opens up these options – refer image below.

the search options panel on Gmail search. This lets you perform specific searches for messages in your account

With these options you can search:

  • emails from specified senders or receivers: the From: and To: fields,
  • messages containing or not containing specified words: the Has the words and Doesn’t have: fields,
  • email subject lines for keywords: the Subject: field,
  • emails that have attachments: the Has attachment checkbox,
  • within a specified date range,
  • email messages that are lying in your inbox, trash, chats, spam , drafts, send folder or those that have been read or unread.

You can use one or more fields to enter your search queries. For instance, if I want to list all emails from my friend Jonathan that have an attachment, I would type in Jon’s email address (or name) in the From: field and check the Has attachment checkbox.

Gmail search syntax and commands

The syntax for searching Gmail is derived from the options described above and extends the functionality even more. Here are some commands you can use:

Example – from:jonathan would search the headers of emails hunting for the supplied keyword ‘jonathan’.

Example – to:user@example.com would search messages sent to that account.

Example – cc:user@example.com searches messages that carry a carbon copy to specified recipient.

Example – bcc:user@example.com searches messages that carry a blind carbon copy to specified recipient.

Example – subject:video searches email subjects for the specified keyword ‘video’.

Example – filename:doc hunts for emails that have doc file attachments. You can either enter a file extension or query a file name.

There are others like has:attachment, in: (examples: in:spam, in:trash, in:anywhere and for specifying date ranges before: and after:. Important note: the date needs to be in YYYY/MM/DD format.

Unless you want to prove your “geekness” to everyone, you really don’t need to memorize these commands and Gmail search syntax. You can search Gmail pretty well using the search option fields.

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