Search Gmail geek-style


I know what you’ll say, that you can do all this stuff using the ‘Show search options’ button. But if you’re like me and you like doing things simple, quick and using your keyboard then these tips might just be useful.

We all know the search bar in our Gmail accounts that lets us keep track of the e-mails we sent and received over time. Also we all know the advanced menu that helps us find that important e-mail you’re looking for 30 minutes. If you combine the two mentioned above you get the following:

Here are some standard tags to find e-mails, their function can be easily deduced:
– from:
– to:
– subject:
– label:

All you have to do is type it in the search box like so:
or maybe

Another interesting search criteria is ‘filename:’ after it you can add the name of a file attached to a e-mail and better yet you can put there only the extension and it will find all the files with the given extension.

A interesting combination is “in:” and “is:”. It tells Google where to look ( inbox, spam, anywhere but it does not work with the ‘sent’ folder) and is: has several values (starred, unread, read). You can use them separately or you can come up with expressions like:
in:inbox is:unread

There are also several searches I think you will find easy to understand:
before:date (yyyy/mm/dd)

Now that you know this basic syntax you can evolve using combined searches like:
to:etherfast subject:(hardware OR playstation)
from:etherfast before:2006/01/23 subject:games “WoW” price

There you have it, the possibilities are practically infinite, that’s what I like about Google, it just provides the tools for you to enjoy.

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33 Responses to “Search Gmail geek-style”

  1. sstave says:

    Try this too;


  2. KroniXxX says:

    Brayn, Tight site u got goin’ on here. Thanxx for the tips mentioned in your article above. Some people might read
    posts like this and say, “well DUH!” but for newbies like myself editorials such as yours can be used as “stepping stones” for guiding the most NOVICE USER down an intellectual path to EXPERT USER. I am also a HUGE fan and avid user of Google and it’s products and lately I’ve been finding myself almost addicted to it’s services! As a matter of fact I used Google’s updated version of “Notebook” to highlight personal notes for myself to refer back to in the future ;-p Have U tried it yet? I recommend it personally! So keep up the good work! I’ll definitely be checking back here from time to time for new tips and tricks for navigating myself thru the Web.

  3. belovedwife says:

    Just registered :)

  4. Dallas says:

    haha wifey! it was

  5. Don Wilson says:

    You can see the people you’ve sent emails to that have an email address with gmail by searching: to:* is:sent

  6. Shelly C. says:

    Thanks. This should be very useful. I still wonder if there is a size option there (2 or 3 Gigs are no longer infinite storage…).

    Now someone must write something similar to search multiple Outlook *.PST files – like most parts of Outlook, “advanced search” is a joke.

  7. Ankur Shah says:

    FWIW, I’ve also found the has: search option particularly useful when searching for all mails with attachments. In essence, you do has:attachments

    — Ankur

  8. Brayn says:

    Yes, there are multiple combinations but that’s the beauty of it, find it in your own as the need arise. :)
    @KroniXxX thanks and take care.

  9. Sinjah says:

    you can also use google common search terms like intext:

  10. GMail has something serious missing (IMHO) – the ability to “archive” (i.e. “clear”) the Sent view.

    Yeah, I know…you can do all kinds of searches to find what you need, but I just wish I could clear that view weekly/monthly or something. Mostly I find that I want to check if/where I sent something over a weekly or – at most – monthly timespan, and keeping that view clear except for the past [n] days/weeks would be useful

  11. Reg says:

    “Also we all know the advanced menu that helps us find that important e-mail you can’t view for 30 minutes.”

    I have no idea what that sentence is supposed to mean. Can the author of the article explain it to me? What kind of e-mail is not-viewable for 30 minutes. I’ve been using Gmail since before it was available for the general public, and I’ve never seen that behavior in the product.

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  13. Brayn says:

    @Reg: The author holds you in high regard.

  14. juan says:

    Hey people! I tried the search tip that Don Wilson suggested. It’s a great tip and I realized that it works also with hotmail and yahoo…I guess it will work with whatever email adress you type after to:
    Thanks Brayn and Don, and to you all.

  15. Reg says:

    @Brayn: If that was supposed to be sarcasm, it still didn’t answer the question. If it wasn’t sarcasm, it still didn’t answer the question.

    @Herman: I don’t understand. In the advanced search, you can do a date range search on only the Sent mail folder. AND, if you know who you sent the item to, you can narrow the search down to the person you sent it to, in the Sent folder, over a date range. Let me know if you want me to give an example.

  16. Reg says:

    @Brayn: Got it – saw your edit! Nevermind…

  17. John says:

    Thanks for the info…I’ve never actually delved into the search function in Gmail…instead I just list all mail and scroll through which is a pain. I agree with #11 that some simple build in controls (check boxes) for recency would be nice.


  18. Very interesting article. Thanks for the information.

    Cheers, Jonathan

  19. Blanche says:

    U guys rock, keep it going!
    Way to go Brayn ;)!

  20. Vesa says:

    there’s nothing “geek” on this. It’s actually in Gmail’s help too.

  21. ciops says:

    @Vesa: Just because there are quantum physics books out there, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing geek about it :p.
    Your argument is irrelevant :).

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  30. Oissie says:

    There is one missing, at least thing that I have not figured out and that is the option to either search for mail larger than x amount of bytes or order the mail with regards to size.

    Anyone know how to do this?

  31. JB says:

    Hi Oissie,

    Apparently a lot of people have been asking the Goog about this lack of functionality and currently there’s no way of doing the search you require. Here’s an article on lifehacker on how to free up space in your Gmail account and here’s the place to suggest it as a new feature.

    Good luck JB

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