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Useful Gmail Search Operators To Make Finding Emails Easier

Search is a lesser known feature of modern email services. Your average John Doe still enters very basic search queries that increase the amount of time it takes for him to find his email. Google recently published a list of new search operators that let you narrow in on your targeted email more quickly. They’re very easy to use and you shouldn’t be using Gmail without them. We’ve discussed some of the best ones after the jump!



size: is an all-new operator that lets you search for emails by, well, their size! By default, the unit used for size-based searches is bytes, but by adding “M” right after your entered number, you can search for email size by megabytes. So, if I wish to search for emails greater 5 megabytes, I’d write “size:5M”. You can also use “larger:5M” and “smaller:5M” to search for emails at least greater than 5MB or at most 5MB, respectively.

Time-Related Operators

The other new set of operators let you search for emails by date received/sent are after:, before:, older: and newer:. For example, you can enter “after:2012/01/01” to see emails in your account after said date. You can use two search operators together to search for emails within a range of dates as well, e.g. “after: 2011/11/14 before: 2012/05/12”.

Related to these time operators are older_than: and newer_than:, which lets you use “d, m, y” for days, months and years, respectively. Want to search emails sent over two years ago? Enter “older_than:2y” to do so. Useful if you don’t want to get into the hassle of finding a specific date or entering your date according to the odd yyyy/mm/dd format.

Operators For Basic Email Parameters

There are five basic parameters you enter every time you send an email: the to:/from:, cc:, bcc:, subject: and body. You can simply enter any number of words to search for text within the email into the search box, but for specifically searching who you sent the email to or who sent the email to you along with its subject, you can use the preceding bolded operators. For example, to search for an email from Sameed with the subject “Herp Derp” cc’d to Ghaus, I’d use the following search term: from:Sameed cc:Ghaus subject:”Herp Derp”.

Additionally, if you wish to search for emails with attachments, you can use the has:attachment operator.

Searching for Exact Phrases

Using the quotes operator, you can search for exact phrases. Like in the previous example, I wanted to search for the exact phrase “Herp Derp” in the subject of an email, so I used subject:”Herp Derp”.

Joining Together Two Search Terms

Using the OR keyword, you can join together two search operators. This is useful if, for example, you’re searching for emails sent by two or more people, you can use “from:Sameed OR from:Ghaus”. You can this in many other combinations, of course.

Removing Terms From Search

Also very useful: the (hyphen) operator removes a term from search. Searching for emails that have the word “iOS” in them but not “Android”, you can use “iOS Android”. This can greatly narrow down emails returned by your search query.

Search For Google Talk Chat Logs

One of Google Talk’s more nifty features is how it sends chat logs to your email inbox after every conversation. Gmail comes with a related search operator is:chat for exactly this purpose.

Searching For Attached Files By Name And Format

The filename: operator searches emails and returns results based on their attachment’s name or format. “filename:PNG” would return emails that have an attachment in the popular PNG format, and “filename:”reference_letter.docx”” would return the email that has an attachment in DOCX format named “reference_letter”. You can also use plenty of other file formats like PDF, PPT, MP3, etc.

Search For Email In Specific Folders

Say your prospective employer tells you they replied back to your application. You open your inbox and can’t find it. What do you do? You look in your Spam folder, of course! This is since you know Google can sometimes mistakenly mark legit email as spam.

For this purpose, you can use in:spam search for emails inside the Spam folder. Additionally, if you want to look for recently deleted emails, you can use in:trash. You can can use this for searching in other folders as well.

Searching For Read / Unread Emails

With the is: operator, you can search for read or unread emails. All it takes is adding “read” or “unread” in front of the colon i.e. “is:unread” or “is:read”.

These are only a dozen or so of what we think are going to be the most commonly used and most useful search operators. Share your favorite Gmail search operators in the comments!

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