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10 Gmail Search Tips, and Then Some

Do you spend a lot of your time in Gmail? If it’s your main e-mail client, you probably do. Market research shows that the average worker spends nearly two hours a day working on e-mail. Learning to search effectively in Gmail can save you quite a bit of time, and you would expect Google to make the search robust in its e-mail client, which it is. In this post, I’ll round up several ways to become much more efficient at it.

Use parentheses to narrow down to the messages you want. If you’ve sent 100 messages back-and-forth with other people about Florida, and the ones you want to review pertain to Jacksonville, enter Florida (Jacksonville) to get rid of the Florida-related messages you don’t want.

Use multiple terms within parentheses. With regard to the tip above, if you want to see all messages pertaining to Jacksonville and Miami and Florida, enter Florida (Jacksonville and Miami).

Isolate messages from one sender by using his/her e-mail address. You can see all messages from any sender by simply typing his or her e-mail address in the search field.

Searching for messages sent within a given time frame. You can search for messages sent between two dates. For example, if I want to find all messages sent after February 4th of this year but before February 11th the syntax I’ll enter in the search bar is: after:08/02/04 before:08/02/11.

Combine the above two tips. Use a person’s e-mail address and the before/after syntax above to search for all messages the person sent between two dates.

Use the Show Search Options drop-down. Right next to Gmail’s search field, there’s a link called Show Search Options. Click it to input advanced search options of several kinds.

Use query words.
Google has a complete table of Gmail query words you can use to help drill down to exactly what you want.

Find attachments fast. When you need a message that had an important attachment from, say, Ben, type from:Ben has:attachment.

Use Quick Find. Hit the forward slash key on your keyboard to pop a Quick Find box at the bottom of your screen which lets you jump to any particular word(s) on the page you’re looking at.

Use filters. While learning to search well in Gmail is essential, you can save a lot of time with a little advanced planning by learning to use filters. These help keep your Inbox uncluttered. Leo has an excellent tutorial on them on this site.

Do you have any good Gmail search tips?

17 Responses to “10 Gmail Search Tips, and Then Some”

  1. Search for messages sent during a certain period of time*
    *Dates must be in yyyy/mm/dd format.

    Example: after:2004/04/16 before:2004/04/18
    Meaning: Messages sent between April 16, 2004 and April 18, 2004.*

    *More precisely: Messages sent after 12:00 AM (or 00:00) April 16, 2004 and before April 18, 2004.

  2. A quick word about the “quick find” — having it bound to your forward slash key is freaking annoying (especially if you’re a programmer). I disable that one and use cntrl+f instead.

    I’m also a big fan of using the hyphen (“-“) to take out any certain keywords. Example: freelancing -writing If I want to search for all emails on freelancing but don’t have the word “writing” in them.

  3. Nice round up. Thanks! I think the Gmail query word I use the most is subject:. For example, if I’m searching for for messages with the word “Florida” in the subject, I enter “subject: Florida” — That way I don’t end up with all the messages that have Florida in the body but not the subject. Handy!