If you want to master your inbox, you need to be using Gmail search operators.
These are search commands for when you need to find that email or attachment you’ve lost inside Gmail, quickly filter emails by a specific phrase or keyword, and lot’s more helpful functions (you’ll see in a minute).
In this article, you’ll learn what Gmail search operators are, why they are useful for finding things in a cluttered inbox as well a collection of useful search operators you can use to up your email management game.
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What Are Gmail Search Operators?
Gmail search operators (also known as Gmail search commands) are text strings made up of words and symbols that you can use in the Gmail search box to help filter your inbox/Gmail search results.
You can also combine operators to filter your results even more. Through the use of these commands to modify your search, you can get much more satisfying Gmail search results, and generally just find things faster.
Here’s what Gmail operators look in action looks like:
You can see the official documentation from Google here (it also lists out all the search operators you can use).
So Why Use Gmail Search Operators?
If you only have a few emails inside your Gmail inbox, it may not be too difficult to keep track of everything.
However, for most people, this isn’t the case (especially if you are working remotely). Chances are you have a lot of emails and even the best Google Workspace setup and all the useful Gmail add-ons in the world can’t save you sometimes.
Gmail is the most popular email platform with over 1.5 billion users worldwide, with 26% of emails being opened within Gmail. That’s a lot of emails.
Gmail search operators save you time. Instead of browsing through all your messages just to find the one that one thing you’re looking for, just use an operator.
Using these Gmail search commands you can quickly:
- Search for messages from a specific sender
- Find emails sent to a certain person
- Search for specific keywords
- And more.
You can also string together multiple search operators to get even more specific results (more on that later).
The One Disadvantage of Gmail Search Operators
Gmail search operators can and will save you time. There’s just one thing that can prevent them from working as well and it has to do with SMTP ports.
Let me explain:
If you access your email through a Gmail account, you’ll be okay to freely use these operators to find emails.
However, if you have an IMAP account that is configured using the Gmail app, results may not be as accurate when it comes to Gmail search operators.
Just bear that in mind when searching your inbox for that important email you’ve lost.
How to Use Gmail Search Operators
Using a Gmail search operator is pretty easy. Just click in the search box (that sits above your inbox) and type in your operator:
Entering your search operators or keywords for searching your inbox messages –works just like Google Search.
From here, just use whatever operator you need to filter your Gmail search results. You can also combine multiple Gmail search operators to filter your results even more.
Gmail Search Features Explained
Any information you remember about that email can be added to one of the suggested parameters:
- From (who sent the email to you)
- To (who actually received the email)
- Subject (name of the email subject)
- Has the words (any words that you remember being in the email content)
- Doesn’t have (anything you know the email doesn’t contain)
- Has an attachment (if the email had attached documents or images)
- Don’t include chats (exclude any chat conversations)
- Size (the size of the email)
- Date within (the time range from one day to one year)
- Search (the folder which you want to include)
Useful Gmail Search Operators
Here are the shortcuts to the above-mentioned parameters you can type in the search bar:
- -(term) – exclude emails with that specific term
- (term or phrase) – search for a specific word or phrase
- +(word) – searching for email messages containing the exact word
- After:(date) – search for emails sent on or after a specific date
- Before:(date) – search for emails sent before a specific date
- Bcc:(name) – search for emails sent that blind copied a specific person
- CC:(name) – search for email sent that carbon copied a specific name
- Category:(category name) – search for email messages in category
- Filename:(name of file) or (type of file) – search for a specific file or type of file attachment
- In:(folder) or (label) – search for emails in that folder or label
- Subject:(word) or (phrase) – search for emails with that word or phrase in
- In:anywhere – search for emails in any of your Gmail folders
So these are the parameters for writing your Gmail search operators, but let’s actually check out some practical uses:
20 Advanced Gmail Search Operators (You’ll Want to Use)
Think of Gmail search operators as shortcuts for quickly finding things in your inbox.
Want a head start?
Check out this list of useful Gmail search operators to help you find exactly what you need:
1. View a List of All Emails Sent by a Specific Person
If you want to view a list of all emails that were sent to you by a specific person, use this search operator. When you start typing in a name after from: suggested contacts from your company and from your Google Contacts will appear below the search bar. Click a contact to fill in their email address.
to:me from:[email protected]
2. View a List of All Emails Sent to a Specific Person
If you want to return emails that were sent to a specific email address, use this Gmail search operator. You can use the operator with a specific email address or you can type the name of the person.
In the latter version, you will see a list of emails that were sent to anyone with this name.
3. Find Emails You Sent to Recipients in a Particular Field
Sender and recipient searches won’t apply to the CC (carbon copied) or BCC (blind carbon copied) field. To search these areas, there are separate search operators. Use the cc: or bcc: operators to see a list of emails that were sent in these particular fields.
4. Find Messages from Specific Mailing Lists
To list the messages from specific mailing lists, use the list command followed by the address of the mailing list.
5. Access the Emails According to the Keywords in Them
The most basic search in Gmail is when you don’t use any operator, just type a keyword in the search bar.
For example, if you know you have an email with a specific word somewhere in it, or if there’s a topic you’re interested in searching, simply type that word or phrase into the search bar and hit the Enter.
6. List the Emails Containing Exact Keywords
If the phrase you would like to search for contains more than one word, use the “…” quotation marks to start an exact search. This will only return emails that contain the quoted phrase exactly.
7. Access Emails According to the Words in the Subject Line
You can search for emails by the contents of their subject lines. By using the subject: operator followed by a word or phrase you would like to find, you can specifically search only within the subject lines.
8. View a List of All Emails That Contained a File Attachment
You can search only for messages that have an attachment with the has:attachment Gmail search operator. Gmail filters your emails and only shows the messages that contain a file attachment of any kind, regardless of file type or format.
This Gmail search operator will cause the advanced search filters to appear:
Just select the type of attachment you want to see, and Gmail will automatically filter your inbox accordingly.
9. Find Emails That Contained a Specific Type of File Attachment
If you use Google Drive and frequently send such files, you can use several search operators for specific Google Drive attachments. “has: drive” will show you any emails with any Drive attachment.
But you can also use specifically “has: spreadsheet” for Google Spreadsheet attachments, “has: document” for Google Docs documents, and “has: presentation” for Google Slides slideshow presentations.
10. List Emails That Contain YouTube Videos
11. Search Emails Labels by Filename or File Type
The filename: Gmail search operator can be used to search for emails that have an attachment with a specific title or a specific extension that appears in its name.
For example, if you remember that an email had an attachment with a specific name, you can easily find it with this operator. You can also return any emails with a certain extension.
You can also focus your search to a specific email label by combining with the label operator like this label:important filename:pdf
12. Return Emails from a Specific Location
Use the in: search operator to find emails in a specific folder, for example, the Spam folder or any custom folder you created. You can also use the in: Gmail search operator followed by “anywhere” to search throughout your entire Gmail history.
13. Return Emails in a Specific Category
You can return the messages from a certain category in your Gmail account with the category: search operator followed by the name of the category.
14. Find Marked Messages
You can search for emails with a specific status in your Gmail account. Just put the condition after the is: search operator to return these marked messages.
15. Find Messages from a Certain Time Period
If you are looking for messages from a certain time period, you can use the commands before: and after: for emails sent before or after a specific date.
Alternatively, you can use older: instead of before: and newer: instead of after: as they are practically the same. The date must be given in the date format yyyy-mm-dd.
16. Find Messages by a Specific Label
You can filter emails that have a specific label. To do this, use the label: Gmail operator followed by the name of the label you’re searching for.
17. Remove Some Messages from the Search Results
You can use a minus before the word to remove some unwanted messages from your search. This operator will exclude any emails that have a specific keyword you type after the minus sign.
18. Find Messages That Exceed a Certain Size
If you want to list the messages that exceed a certain size in bytes, use the size: operator followed by the number of bytes. This way Gmail will return all messages with attachments or content that make them larger than the size you searched for.
You can also use abbreviations, for example, 15M for 15000000.
19. List Emails That Include Multiple Conditions
[operator:value 1] AND [operator:value 1]
You can combine multiple conditions and create more specific and accurate searches. The AND Gmail operator ensures that both of the operator:value pairs apply to your search.
Using two conditions separated with space and without the AND operator gives the same result.
to:[email protected] AND has:attachment
20. List Emails That Comply with One of the Conditions
[operator:value 1] OR [operator:value 1]
Putting OR between two operator:value pairs will return a list of emails that meet either of the two conditions.
Now you know how to use Gmail search operators. Hopefully, your days of getting lost in your inbox are over.
With these features, Gmail allows you to become super efficient with both managing your inbox and sending emails. Combine these Gmail search operators with some solid methods of finding email addresses, and you’ll be an email pro in no time.
Further reading: Google Search Operators: 40 Commands to Know