Ever wanted to find that one specific email in your Gmail inbox?
Even if you have a general idea of when you received it or who sent it, you can’t afford to spend hours scrolling through thousands of emails trying to locate it!
Fortunately, you don’t have to.
With powerful Gmail search functions, any Gmail user can easily find specific emails in seconds.
In this guide, I’ll go over how to use Gmail’s search function and maximize its utility through search operators. I’ll even share a few tips and tricks to make your Gmail search experience easier than ever.
This Step-by-Step Guide Contains:
(Click on a link to jump to the specific section.)
- How to use Gmail search on the web app
- How to use Gmail search on your mobile phone
- What are Gmail search operators?
- How to use search operators to filter incoming emails
- Bonus tip: How to use Gmail search to create email lists
Let’s get started.
If you’re a beginner to Gmail, check out my comprehensive guides on:
How to Use Gmail Search on the Web App
Using Gmail’s search box is incredibly easy.
You can find the search bar at the very top of the Gmail inbox screen in the web app.
Here’s how to use it on the web app:
- Go to gmail.com in your web browser and sign in to your account.
- Type in the keyword or phrase you’re looking for into the search bar at the top, and Gmail will automatically start listing suggestions.
Alternatively, you can hit the Enter key (in Windows devices) or Return key (in Mac systems) to search for the word, address, or phrase you’ve entered.
You can pick any search option Gmail suggests simply by clicking it.
- If you still don’t see what you’re looking for, you can use Gmail’s advanced search feature to narrow down your search.
Just click the downward-facing arrow in the search bar to view the advanced search options.
- Gmail will then give you several additional options to help refine your search further.
With the advanced search, you can narrow your search results according to:
- The sender
- The file type
- The date you received the message
- The email’s label, like starred messages or unread messages
- Whether there was an attachment, like a Google Doc, and the attachment type
- Chat messages, and more
- If you still can’t find what you’re looking for, try running a search inside a folder Gmail typically wouldn’t search, such as the Spam or Trash folders.
To search in the Spam or Trash folders, click the Search option at the bottom of the advanced options drop-down.
Then, select Mail & Spam & Trash from the list that appears.
Gmail will then search for the keyword through all folders, including the Spam and Trash folders.
Read my article on Why Your Emails Go to Spam and How to Solve It.
How to Use Gmail Search on Your Mobile Phone
Using the search function on the Gmail app is as easy as it is on the web app.
The only difference being there are no advanced search features on the mobile app.
- Open the app on your device and tap the search bar at the top of the window.
- Next, enter your search term in the search bar. It could be the sender’s name, the subject line of the email, or the sender’s email address.
- Tap the Search button to view the results.
And while the mobile app’s functionality is limited, the web app comes with an additional search feature — Gmail search operators.
What Are Gmail Search Operators?
Gmail’s advanced search operators (also known as search commands) are strings of text that you can use to enhance Gmail’s search capabilities.
These can be very effective when Gmail provides too many search results, and you want to filter out the irrelevant ones.
It’s also possible to combine more than one search operator to refine your search results further. For example, you can combine search operators to find emails from a specific sender that contain attachments and were sent in the last two months.
10 Useful Gmail Search Operators
Now that I’ve explained what search operators are and how to use them, here’s a short list of ten of the most useful ones.
For a complete list of Gmail search operators, check out Google’s support page.
1. Specify the sender (from:)
Narrowing your search results by the sender can be extremely helpful if you remember who sent the email to you.
To filter search results by sender, use the “from:” command.
For example, “from:ajay” will show you all the emails you’ve received from Ajay.
2. Search by subject line (subject:)
If you remember the subject of the email you’re looking for, you’ll find this command helpful.
To use this command, type in “subject:” followed by the word you’re looking for in the search bar. For example, “subject:marketing” will bring up all emails that contain the word “marketing” in the subject line.
3. Search by messages that have a specific label (label:)
If you can’t find an email in a specific folder, this search operator may be able to help.
Simply use the “label:” command to filter your results.
For example, “label:social” will search for the email in your social label.
4. Search for a message in folders like Spam and Trash (in:anywhere)
When you run a regular Gmail search, it automatically excludes emails that have been deleted or marked spam.
If you want to bypass this, the “in:anywhere” command can be a lifesaver.
It will search across all folders, including the Spam folder.
For example, “in:anywhere book club” will search for the keyword book club across all your labels.
5. Search for a message sent within a certain time period (after: before: older: newer:)
Gmail lets users search for emails that were received during a certain time period.
To do this, use one of these commands:
For example, if you want to find email messages received after August 8, 2020, type in “after:08/08/2020.” Alternatively, if trying to find an email from before November 19, 2020, use “before:11/19/2020.”
Note: These are American values. If you’re searching in Europe or Asia, where dates are expressed, for example, as 19 November 2020, then you would search this way: “before:19/11/2020.”
6. Search for a message older or newer than a specific time period (older_than newer_than)
If you want to narrow your search results even further, this is a great trick for returning more specific results.
If you remember when you received the email, try searching for the email by using “d” for the day, “m” month, and “y” year, and the “older_than” or “newer_than” command.
For example, “older_than:4d” will bring up all the emails in your inbox that you received more than four days ago.
7. Search for messages that have an attachment (has:attachment)
Gmail has a useful command that allows users to filter their email search results to highlight only emails that included an attachment.
To use this search operator, type in “has:attachment” in the search bar.
For example, “has:attachment invoice” will display all emails with the word “invoice” and an attachment.
8. Search for an exact phrase or word (“ ”)
If you remember an exact word or phrase from the email you want to find, try using the “ ” command with the specific word to narrow your results further.
For example, if you want to find an email with the details of a book club meeting, try using: “book club meeting” to refine your search results.
9. Search for a message with words close to each other (AROUND)
Gmail will even let you search for words in an email if the words aren’t next to each other.
So if you can only remember a few random words included in the email, you can still try to find it.
For this, use the “AROUND” command. You’ll need to use a number to estimate how many words apart the words you’re looking for are.
For example, “Friday AROUND 6 book club” will search for emails that have six words between “Friday” and “book club.”
10. Specify the recipient who received a copy (cc: bcc:)
If you want to filter your results according to who received a copy of the email, type in either “cc:” or “bcc:” in the search bar.
How to Use Search Operators to Filter Incoming Emails
While you can narrow your search results with Gmail’s search commands, you can also use them to create a filter for messages.
Gmail will then use this filter to screen all your incoming emails automatically.
You can use these commands to send an email to a label, archive it, delete it, forward it, or even star it automatically.
Note: You can only do this on the web app. The mobile app doesn’t support this feature.
A. How to create a filter in the web app
Creating a filter in Gmail is very easy.
Here’s how to do it:
- Log in to your Gmail account.
- Type your query or search operator into the search bar and click the little gray downward-facing arrow next to the search field.
For example, I’m using the “from:” command here to filter for emails sent by Ajay.
- The advanced search drop-down will now appear.
- You can now customize your filter.
For example, I want this filter to focus on emails sent by Ajay that have the words “Friday Night Plans” included.
Once done, click Create filter at the bottom of the search window.
- Next, you need to choose what you’d like the filter to do from the option list that appears and click Create filter.
For example, if you select “Star it,” every email you receive from Ajay with the words “Friday Night Plans” will be starred automatically.
B. How to edit or delete a filter in the web app
Created a filter that you don’t want to use any more?
Alternatively, you might want to change what the filter does.
No problem. Removing or editing filters you’ve made in Gmail is very easy.
Just follow these simple steps:
- Log in to your Gmail account.
- At the top right-hand corner of the website, click the Settings icon.
- From the Quick settings menu that appears, click See all settings.
- Navigate to the Filters and blocked addresses tab.
- From there, you can see all the filters you created. All you have to do then is to edit or remove the filters you want.
Now, you know how to use the Gmail search functionality for regular and advanced searches.
Bonus Tip: How to Use Gmail Search to Create Email Lists
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a business owner or the host of a book club; most of us maintain email lists that we use to send emails regularly.
However, manually building these email lists can be a tedious and time-consuming process.
To use GMass, all you have to do is download the Chrome extension and sign up with your Gmail or Google Workspace account.
It’s that simple!
Then, follow these steps:
- Log in to your Gmail account.
- Enter the search term into Gmail’s search bar at the top of the screen and click the blue magnifying glass to initiate the search. In this case, the keyword is “tadpole”
- Gmail will highlight all emails that contain the word tadpole. When you’re ready to build your list, click the red magnifying glass icon.
- GMass will then automatically compile the list based on the search results’ email IDs. Then it will open Gmail’s Compose window, and you’ll see that it contains the matching recipients’ email addresses in the To field.
- Compose your email’s subject and body, and click the red “GMass” button to send. That’s it!
Note: GMass auto-saves all your lists to help you send future emails to those same recipients easily.
Running a search for emails in Gmail is incredibly easy; its search capabilities help you find your old emails in no time.
If your results are too broad or aren’t returning the email you’re looking for, Gmail gives you multiple features to enhance your search results and find important emails.
For example, if you’re not having any luck with the standard search feature, try using the advanced search features or its search operators to refine your search results further.
Additionally, when you connect Gmail with powerful tools like GMass, you can build email lists with Gmail search, too.
And that isn’t all it can do.
From scheduling emails to automatically personalizing your emails, GMass can take care of everything.
Just download the extension to super-charge your Gmail inbox today!