Gmail is a product of Google, and the most obvious thing that it is expected to excel at is in performing advanced searches. Having Google’s DNA, it doesn’t fail to impress its users with some advanced search tricks which can be quickly learned. Not just the searches, you can create filters from any of your searches which can perform actions such as delete them or apply a label when a new email satisfying the filter is received.

One of my colleagues was looking for his resume attachment which he had sent few people a few months ago, not being able to crawl through  the thousands of mail and having failed with the primary search direct from the search box, he asked me for help in case I knew some scraping tool that could be of some help. I showed him how the advanced search in Google works and it impressed him the most. Within 2 more trials, he could finally find the resume attachment that he’d been looking for.

Since most people don’t understand exactly how the advanced search works, you could just follow the simple guide below which will explain all the basic terminology and effect of each filter.

Basic Search:

Instead of just typing a search string into the search box, try clicking the down arrow to the right corner of the search box which should reveal more search options. This search options box shows most of Gmail’s basic search options but there are still a few options that don’t appear in this dialog box. For basic searches, you can skip this box and just perform a search from the main box. If you perform a search with the search options dialog then you’ll see the search operator that you’ll need in the future, for example, if you search for gizmotimes.com in the search box then you’ll see “from:(gizmotimes.com) in the search field.

Some of the search operators that you can use to access the search from the default search box are

  • to: – Used to search for emails sent to a given mail address
  • from: – Used to search for messages sent from a given email address
  • subject: – Used to search the subject field
  • label: – Used to search for a given label
  • has: attachment – This feature can be used to look for only those emails that contain an attachment
  • is: chat – Used if you want to search only for chats.
  • in: anywhere – This option is used if you want to search everywhere including the spam and trash folder. By default, Gmail ignores the messages that have been trashed or filtered as spam.

How to construct a search term:

If you want up your level of search skills then here are a few ways that can help you improve your skills and perform advanced searches in the Gmail website with ease.

  • () – These brackets are used if you want to group a few terms as a single entity while searching. For example, if you search for subject:(teach tech) then, despite the space between teach and tech, they’re considered as a part of the search under the subject field and the search looks for emails with a subject containing teach and tech. However, if you search for subject: teach tech then the search would be performed to find emails that have the term teach in the subject field and tech in the body of the mail.
  • OR – The OR, in capital letters is used to search for one of two terms. For example, if you’re looking for a mail that contains information about a particular area in the state of Telangana but you’re unsure if it was before or after partition then you can simply perform a search with both the state names. Use subject:( Andhra OR Telangana) which should return both the sets of emails which contain the term Andhra and Telangana in the subject field. You could combine filters like from: gizmotimes.com OR has: attachment which would filter all the mails from the above mentioned domain and all other mails having an attachment.
  • – : The hyphen(-) is used to search for messages that don’t contain a particular term. For example, if you search for -from:gmail.com it will show emails from people who do not use Gmail as their email service provider.
  • ” “- The double quotes are used if your search has an exact phrase. This could be of great use if you remember exactly what you’re looking for. Similar to Google, even in the Gmail search, when you perform a search using the double quotes, it looks for the exact match. if you search for subject:”this” then it will filter only those emails that contain the term “this” only in the subject field.

Hidden Search tricks:

There are few more search tricks that you could use if you want to perform a more specific search.

  • list: – Using the list operator searches for messages on the mailing list which match the filter. For example, if you search list:[email protected] then you will see all the messages that were on the [email protected] mailing list.
  • filename: – The filename operator is used to search for emails having a particular file has an attachment, searching file:example.txt would return all the emails with example.txt as an attachment.
  • is: important or label: important – If you’ve enabled priority mailbox for Gmail then you can look for important emails using one of the above-mentioned tags. This can be used to filter only those emails that are in the priority mailbox.
  • has:yellow-star, has:red-star or, has:green-check – If you have configured different types of stars in the settings panel of Gmail then you can search for messages with a specific type of star using the above search operators.
  • cc:, bcc: – The cc; and bcc: filter can be used if you know that the mail has been sent as a carbon copy or as a blind carbon copy to someone else. you could search for cc:[email protected] and only the emails which have been sent as a carbon copy(cc) to [email protected] will be displayed here.

Saving a filter from a search:

Saving a filter is easy and greatly helpful if you want to perform a search or a sort repeatedly based on a previous search.

To create a filter, click on the down arrow to the right of the search box and then click on the “Create filter with this search” option to open the filter creation box. Select the options that apply to you and click on the Create Filter button to create the filter.

You can manage all the created filters from the FIlters pane in the Gmail’s settings page.

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