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How to Search Your Emails in Gmail Like a Pro

Did you know that Gmail includes a powerful search utility?

If you’re like me, you’ve either been ignoring that Gmail search
bar at the top of your inbox or not utilizing its features. Maybe you didn’t realize how helpful it could be.
Maybe you thought it would take you back to Google web search.

Whatever your reasons for not using the Gmail search tool,
it’s time to rethink them.

Google is known for its top-notch search engine. So, it only
makes sense that the Gmail search tool would be powerful as well.

Have you ever lost an important email from a client or colleague? If you have, you know what a pain finding that lost email can be— especially if you’ve misfiled it or accidentally sent it to the Trash.

Its time to start using Gmails search
Use Gmail’s search tool to find your important emails.

As a small business owner, learning to make full use of Gmail’s search tool can save you time and help you organize your Gmail inbox. In this tutorial, I’ll provide a step-by-step guide that shows you how to search Gmail like a pro. I’ll also discuss Gmail search operators and how to use them.

How to Search Gmail

Watch this quick screencast to learn the basics of how to use the gmail search utility: 


Or walk-through the detailed written steps below for comprehensive instructions on using gmails search features.

How to Open the Gmail Advanced Search Box

Open your Gmail account. From the main Gmail
screen, click the small down arrow in the Google
search bar
at the top of the screen to display the advanced Gmail search box:

Gmail search box
Advanced Gmail search box.

From this screen you can search eight different Gmail
elements. You can also combine the search elements for more complex searches.
Here are the Gmail elements you can search:

  1. Label – Search all of your Gmail, or use it to specify a specific folder or label. Or choose to
    search only starred messages or only read or unread messages.
  2. Sender – Find messages from a specific individual or organization.
  3. Recipient – Search for messages to a specific individual or organization.
  4. Subject – Find messages about a specific topic.
  5. Body of Messages – Search for a word or words in the body of your Gmail messages.
  6. Attachments – Use Gmail search to find only those messages that have an attachment.
  7. Chats – You can exclude chats from your search parameters.
  8. Size – Search for messages that are larger than a certain size.
  9. Date – Look for messages within a specific time frame.

Let’s take a look at each element of Gmail search.

1. How to Search Gmail by Label

Step 1

Start from the advanced Gmail
search
box. To search your Gmail messages by label, click the arrows next
to the Search field to open the
pop-up menu:

Label Pop-Up Menu
Gmail label pop-up menu.

Step 2

Click the name of the label you want to search. The
folder name displays next to the Search
field:

Label search example
Label search example.

Step 3

In this case, I wanted to search my folder for Project XYZ.
To complete the search, click the magnifying glass icon in the lower left of
the advanced Gmail search box. Your
search results display.

2. How to Search Gmail by Sender

Step 1

Start from the advanced Gmail
search
box. Type the name of the individual or organization you want to
search for in the From field:

Gmail sender search
Gmail sender search.

Note: Capitalization
does not matter. However, spelling does matter. Also, you cannot type a partial
name to get results.

Step 2

In this case, I wanted to search All Mail for messages from Envato. To complete the search, click
the magnifying glass icon in the lower left of the advanced Gmail search box. Your search results
appear.

3. How to Search Gmail by Recipient

Step 1

Start from the advanced Gmail
search
box. To search your sent Gmail messages by recipient, type the name
of the recipient you want to search for in the To field:

Search Gmail by recipient
Search Gmail by recipient: input To field.

Note: Capitalization
does not matter. However, spelling does matter. Also, you cannot type a partial
name to get results.

Step 2

In this case, I wanted to search Sent Mail for messages to Envato. To complete the search, click the
magnifying glass icon in the lower left of the advanced Gmail search box. Your search results appear.

4. How to Search Gmail by Subject

Step 1

Start from the advanced Gmail search box. To search Gmail by the message Subject field,
type at least one word from the message subject field in the Subject search field:

Search Gmail by Subject
Search Gmail by Subject.

Step 2

In this case I wanted to search All Mail for any subject field references to Project ABC. To
complete the search, click the magnifying glass icon in the lower left of the
advanced Gmail search box. Your
search results appear.

5. How to Search Anywhere Within a Message

Start from the advanced Gmail
search
box. To search for text within messages, type the text you are
looking for in the Has the words
field:

Search Gmail Anywhere Inside a Message
Search Gmail anywhere inside a message.

Step 2

In this case, I want to quickly find any project team
members who might need help. So, I typed the word Help into the Has the words field. Gmail search will
return any messages that have the word Help anywhere in the message. If I
wanted to exclude words from anywhere in the message, I could have used the Doesn’t have field.

To complete the search, click the magnifying glass icon in
the lower left of the advanced Gmail
search
box. Your search results appear.

6. How to Look for Emails With Attachments

Occasionally, you may want to limit your search to emails
that have attachments. This can be a quick way to find proposals, ebooks, and
other attachments. Here’s what to do:

Step 1

Start from the advanced Gmail
search
box. Click in the check box to left of the Has attachment field:

Search for emails that have attachments
Search for emails that have attachments.

Step 2

To complete the search, click the magnifying glass icon in
the lower left of the advanced Gmail
search
box. Your search results appear.

7. How to Exclude Chats From Your Gmail Search

Step 1

Start from the advanced Gmail
search
box. To exclude chats from your search, click the check box to left
of the Don’t include chats option.

Exclude chats from Gmail search
Exclude chats from Gmail search.

Step 2

To complete the search, click the magnifying glass icon in
the lower left of the advanced Gmail
search
box. Your search results appear.

8. How to Search Gmail by Message Size

Step 1

Start from the advanced Gmail search box. To search Gmail based on message size, click the
arrow up and down arrow to the immediate right of the Size field. The drop down menu appears:

Search gmail by message size greater than or less than
Search gmail by message size: greater than or less than.

Step 2

Click either the greater
than
option or the less than
option. Type the numerical size in the field next to greater than or less than.

Search for messages with a size of less than 5 MB
Search for messages with the less than field, type in 5.

Step 3

Click the arrows to the far right of the Size field. The unit type drop-down
menu appears. Click MBKB or Bytes to select the unit size. To complete the search, click the magnifying glass icon in the lower left of the advanced Gmail search box. Your search results appear.

Search for messages by size in MB KB or Bytes
Search for messages by size in MB, KB, or Bytes.

9. How to Search Gmail by Time Frame

Step 1

Start from the advanced Gmail
search
box. Click the up and down arrows to the right of the Date within field. A time frame
drop-down menu
appears:

Time frame drop-down
Time frame drop-down.

Step 2

Click the desired time frame to select it. Click anywhere in
the blank to the right of the Date
within
field to bring up the calendar:

Select a time frame to search for messages
Select a time frame to search for messages.

Step 3

Click a date to select it. For example, in the illustration
above clicking October 1 would search for any messages sent before and
including October 1. To complete the search, click the magnifying glass icon in
the lower left of the advanced Gmail
search
box. Your search results appear.

How to Use Gmail Search Operators

The Gmail search box is a powerful way to find what you’re
looking for. However, if you know the correct Gmail search operators you can
type them directly in the Gmail search bar without going through the advanced Gmail search box.

Gmail Search Operator Chart

Here is a handy list of Gmail search operators and a description of what each
one does with an example.

Note: In the
chart below the search parameters are italicized and in brackets next to the
search operator.

Search Operator

What It’s For

Example

Result

[term]

Excludes messages with the specified term.

Type -Help in the search
bar after any search request.

 

Finds indicated messages except those with the term Help.

[term or phrase]

Searches for a specific word or group of words.

Type “Status Report”
in the search bar.

Finds messages with the exact phrase Status Report in them.

+[word]

Searches for messages with an exact word match.

Type +Report in the search
bar.

Finds messages with the exact word Report.

After:[Date]

Searches for messages sent on or after the indicated date.

Type After:2016/10/01 in
the search bar.

Finds messages sent on or after October 1, 2016.

Bcc:[name]

Searches for messages you sent that blind copied the indicated name.

Type Bcc:Joe in the search
bar.

Finds messages you sent where Joe was blind copied.

Before:[date]

Searches for messages from before the date.

Type Before:2016/01/01 in
the search bar.

Finds messages from before January 1, 2016.

Category:[category name]

Searches for messages in the indicated category.

Type Category:Promotions
in the search bar.

Finds messages in the Promotions category.

Cc:[name]

Searches for messages that carbon copied the indicated name.

Type Cc:Joe in the search
bar.

Finds messages Joe was copied on.

Filename:[name of file] or [type of file]

Searches for a specific file or type of file attachment.

Type Filename:jpg in the
search bar.

Finds .jpg files.

From:[name]

Searches for messages from a specific name.

Type From:Joe in the
search bar.

Finds messages from Joe.

Has:[descriptor]

Searches for messages that meet the descriptor.

Type Has:attachment in the
search bar.

Finds messages with attachments.

In:[folder] or [label]

Searches for messages in the indicated folder or label.

Type In:Drafts in the
search bar.

Finds messages in the drafts folder.

Is:[descriptor]

Searches for messages that meet the descriptor.

Type Is:unread in the
search bar.

Finds unread messages.

Label:[label name]

Searches for messages in the specified label.

Type Label:Project ABC in
the search bar.

Finds messages under the Project ABC label.

Larger:[file size]

Searches for messages larger than the indicated size in B, MB, or KB.

Type Larger:8KB in the search
bar.

Finds messages larger than eight kilobytes.

Newer: [Date]

Searches for messages newer than or dated on the indicated date.

Type Newer:2016/10/01 in
the search bar.

Finds messages newer than or dated on October 1, 2016.

Newer_than: [time period]

Searches for messages newer than the specified time period. Use d (day),
m (month) or y (year)

Type Newer_than:4d in the
search bar.

Finds messages from the past four days.

Older: [Date]

Searches for messages older than the indicated date.

Type Older:2016/10/01 in
the search bar.

Finds messages that are older than October 1, 2016.

Older_than[Date]

Searches for messages older than specified time period. Use d (day),
m (month) or y (year).

Type Older_than:4d in the
search bar.

Finds messages from more than four days ago.

OR also {  }

Searches for messages that meet differing criteria.

Type From:Joe OR Is:starred
in the search bar.

Finds messages that are from Joe and messages that are starred.

Size: [file size]

Searches for messages larger than the indicated size in B, MB, or KB.

Type Size:2KB in the
search bar.

Finds messages larger than two kilobytes.

Smaller: [file size]

Searches for messages smaller than the indicated size in B, MB, or KB.

Type Smaller:4KB in the
search bar.

Finds messages smaller than four kilobytes.

Subject:[word] or [phrase]

Searches for messages with the word or phrase in the subject field.

Type Subject:ABC Project
in the search bar.

Finds messages with the phrase ABC Project in the subject field.

To:[name]

Searches for messages to the indicated person.

Type To:Joe in the search
bar.

Finds messages with Joe in the To field.

Note: Except for the
operator OR (which must always be all caps), capitalization of the search
operator is not important.
Has:attachment
will work as well as
has:attachment.

Gmail search operators allow you to search in ways not
available through the Gmail search menus. You can combine search operators to
narrow your search parameters.

Example of combining search parameters
Example of combining search parameters.

In the example above, the Gmail search operators searched all
Gmail locations for messages from Envato Tuts+ that arrived after January 15,
2016. To run the search, I clicked the magnifying glass icon to the right of
the search bar.

More on How Gmail Search Can Help You Get Organized

Using Gmail search can help your small business get
organized. Here are just a few of the tasks you can perform using search:

  • Find a lost message.
  • Find a group of messages from the same sender or
    about the same topic.
  • Find messages about a specific project.
  • Find messages sent or received in a certain
    time frame.
  • Find a file attachment.

To learn even more about how your small business can organize
their email review these tutorials:

Also, this tutorial can help you work more effectively with
Gmail and save you time:

If you’d like to learn more about working with Gmails features, jump into our multi-part, Ultimate Beginner Guide to Using Gmail. It includes tutorials on how to work with passwords, keyboard shortcuts, customizing the interface, and more.

Conclusion

Learning how to search Gmail like a pro and how to use Gmail
search operators can save you time. As a small business owner, you rely on your
email. Being able to find what you need in your Gmail system quickly helps your
business run smoothly. It’s not difficult with our step-by-step instructions.

Make better use of your Gmail system today with the Gmail
search tool.

Has the Gmail search function helped your small business?
Share how you use Gmail search in the comments below.