Gmail Search Modifiers

It can be frustrating trying to find an email that you got a long time ago.

You might vaguely remember who sent it or what info was in the email, but if you don’t know how to search for it, it could take awhile clicking page by page scanning your Gmail inbox.

If you are proactive about organizing your account, you could set up labels, stars, and other features offered by Gmail.

However, setting up those features now won’t help you find an old email.

Like a Google Search

Since Gmail is a product of Google, the largest search engine in the world, you can understand why they made it easy to search within your Gmail account.

Gmail Search Operators

Searching in Gmail is much more than putting keywords into the search box and hitting the enter key. Using search operators and modifiers, you can get much better Gmail search results.

Let’s start with the basics.

1. Search by Keyword

For the most basic search, you just type in your keyword into the search box and search and won’t need any modifiers.

Gmail Search Modifiers

2. Find Exact Words & Phrases

To find an exact word or phrase, put quotation marks (“”) around the keyword(s). For example:

“lunch meeting”

That would give you results with that exact phrase within an email, but it will not show emails that just have the word lunch or just the word meeting.

Advanced Search Operators You Can Use With Gmail

Here are some slightly more advanced search modifiers you can use in your Gmail search box.

What you can search bySearch operator & example
Specify the senderfrom:
Example: from:karen
Specify a recipientto:
Example: to:kevin
Specify a recipient who received a copycc:

Example: cc:manager
Words in the subject linesubject:
Example: subject:complaint
Messages that match multiple termsOR or { }
Example: from:sara OR from:dave
Example: {from:sara from:dave}
Remove messages from your results using a dash. In this example, emails containing the word tacos will be removed.
Example: dinner -tacos
Messages that have a certain labellabel:
Example: label:people
Messages that have an attachmenthas:attachment
Example: has:attachment
Find messages with words near each other. Use the number to say how many words apart the words can be.
Add quotes to find messages in which the word you put first stays first.
Example: holiday AROUND 12 vacation
Example: “secret AROUND 23 birthday”
Messages that have a Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, or Slides attachment or linkhas:drive

Example: has:drive
Messages that have a YouTube videohas:youtube
Example: has:youtube
Messages from a mailing listlist:
Attachments with a certain name or file typefilename:
Example: filename:pdf
Example: filename:homework.txt
Group multiple search terms together( )
Example: subject:(dinner movie)
Messages in any folder, including Spam and Trashin:anywhere
Example: in:anywhere movie
Search for messages that are marked as importantis:important

Example: is:important
Starred, snoozed, unread, or read messagesis:starred

Example: is:read is:starred
Messages that include an icon of a certain colorhas:yellow-star

Example: has:purple-star
Recipients in the cc or bcc fieldcc:

Example: cc:carl
Note: You can’t find messages that you received on bcc.
Search for messages sent during a certain time periodafter:

Example: after:2006/05/11
Example: after:07/19/2011
Example: before:2015/02/17
Example: before:03/16/2016
Search for messages older or newer than a time period using d (day), m (month), and y (year)older_than:

Example: newer_than:2d
Chat messagesis:chat
Example: is:chat movie
Search by email for delivered messagesdeliveredto:
Messages in a certain categorycategory:primary

Example: category:updates
Results that match a word exactly+
Example: +unicorn
Messages with a certain message-id headerRfc822msgid:
Messages that have or don’t have a labelhas:userlabels

Example: has:nouserlabels
Note: Labels are only added to a message, and not an entire conversation.

Hopefully these Gmail search modifiers and operators will help you finally find that old email you’ve been looking for.

4 thoughts on “Gmail Search Modifiers”

  1. This has definitely helped me improve the efficiency of my Gmail organization. Saved this blog in case I need help later.

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