10 Advanced Searches For the Gmail Power User

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With the volume of email most people receive in a given month, or even year, being able to find that one email from six months ago with your flight information in it can be nearly impossible.

Some people try to solve this with folders or labels in Gmail, but this can be tricky, and if you forget to add a label, the email is lost to the ocean of archived messages. This is why knowing how to search is so important. A good search can find even the most long-lost message and ensure you have the information you need close at hand.

Here are 10 advanced searches you can use to traverse your inbox with ease and find the messages you need. All of these searches rely on you using operators like “to,” “from,” and “in.” Using these by themselves is great but using them together is where the real power comes from. The first five searches below are all about the basics, and the last five will show you how to combine them.

1. From A Person

Using the from: operator will show all emails from the user listed. For example, to find all emails from bob@scrubly.com, you would enter the following:

  • From: bob@scrubly.com
  • Invoice from: bob@scrubly.com

2. In A Specific Folder/Label/Location

Labels in Gmail are very similar to folders. Thinking of them this way, you can run a search that only looks inside a specific label. If, for example, you label all your online bills with the “bills” label, you can find a search term by using the in: operator.

  • Electric in: bills

3. Find An Attachment

If you know the filename of an attachment you received but can’t seem to find the email, you can search for just the filename. This is helpful if the filename is a common word that brings back a ton of results. So, instead of searching for invoice.pdf, you would search for:

  • Filename: invoice.pdf

4. Search Using Time

Another great way to search in Gmail is to use time. You can tell Gmail to run your search before or after a given date. This helps you only find the specific email you need and not have to sort through a lot of older or newer messages that you don’t need to.

  • Timesheet after: 2011/06/15

This search returns any email that included the word “timesheet” received or sent after June 15th, 2012. Please note the format of the date: year/month/date

5. Search Chat Logs

If you use Gmail to chat with your family, friends, or coworkers, you can accumulate a lot of information in there. You can search the Google Chat logs the same way you would search for an email. You just need to use the is: operator to look in the chat logs. It would look something like this:

  • Movies is: chat

This search string looks for the word “movies” in your chat logs, and leaves your email out of the search.

Now that the basics are down, here are five more searches for Gmail, but this time we’re combining the basics to really get advanced.

6. Specific Subject After A Given Date

If you know you received an order confirmation after July 5th but can’t remember anything else about the email, this search will find that email quickly and easily while filtering out a lot of other emails that would just muddy the waters.

  • Subject: order after: 2013/07/05

7. Attachments From A Person

Sometimes just finding an attachment isn’t enough. If you need to find all the invoices that Bob sent you, but don’t care about other invoices from other clients, you can search for the attachment filename only from the person who sent it.

  • From: bob@scrubly.com filename: invoice.pdf

8. Find Emails With Attachments Less Than 30 Days Old

Instead of searching for a specific attachment, you can find ANY email that has an attachment. Doing this within a certain timeframe can help you narrow down specific messages you may have lost.

  • Has: attachment after: 2013/08/16

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9. Search Within Circles

This search isn’t a combination, but it’s still advanced. If you use Google+ and are good at aligning people into circles, you can use Gmail to search emails within a specific circle only. This will only look for emails from people in that circle.

  • Circle: family
  • Subject: vacation circle: friends

10. Enter Searches Without Operators

The last tip here is not a search but a way to search. If you want to save any of the searches mentioned above, just click the down arrow in the search box after you run a search, then click Create filter with this search.

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As you can see, you can also add items easily to your search using this box. Saving your searches as filters lets you easily see common searches with one click.

Wrap-Up

As you can see, Gmail is far more powerful than most people give it credit for. You can make your searches VERY granular so that you’re only returning results that you actually need instead of having to sort through hundreds of results to find that one email.

Search is at the heart of everything Google does, so it’s no surprise that Gmail has features like this. Searching smartly is one of the keys to real productivity since a good search will help you spend less time in your email and more time out there getting things done.

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