The Guiding Tech Guide to Mastering Gmail Search

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If Google is king, the Gmail is probably the best knight at the round table. Gmail has an inbox that can swallow a lifetime’s worth of emails. The last few years of mine have swallowed just over a quarter of the 7 GB inbox limit, and that’s because I usually archive most of my emails.

Gmail allows me to use email management features like labels and nested labels to neatly sort all my emails. Even then, the inbox is a huge haystack and if you have to search for a needle, you need something as powerful as Gmail Search Operators. Keep an arsenal of them in your head to dig deep for long lost emails.

The Easiest Way To Search Gmail

The little link just next to the large search box at the top in your Gmail interface that says – Show Search Options, offers you the quickest way to do a specific search. Clicking on it expands to reveal these options:

Gmail Search

Search options make your basic search a lot easier. You can filter all emails that have attachments. You can search emails that have a specific string of text. You can use time ranges by using a date and a range from the dropdown next to the Date within field. Plus, to make it more targeted you can use the fields in combination. For example, search for an email from a specific sender, on a certain date, and with an attachment.

A List of Operators

You can take these Gmail search operators and use them manually in the search box for the same results. For instance, you can retrieve emails from specific sender by using from:sender (where sender is the name of a sender). The search box also auto-suggests matching operators as you start keying it in.

Here are the common operators you can use:

Search with Exact Keyword

Usage – “keyword”

Example – “punctuate”

Search for Emails Sent to a Specific Contact

Usage – to:name

Example – to:Guidingtech

Or…to:guidingtech@gmail.com

Similarly, you can also search for cc and bcc copies.

bcc:name or cc:name

Search by Subject

Usage – subject:keyword

Example – subject:software

Search in Specific Location

Usage – in: label name|inbox|trash|spam|anywhere

Example – in:spam

This returns email stored in the spam folder. If you are not sure of the location, you can use anywhere.

Search for Emails Marked with a Specific Status

Usage – is:important

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This returns emails that are marked as important.

Search for Files

Usage – filename: filename.format or filename: format

Example – filename:resume.doc or filename:doc

Search in General for Attachments

Usage – has:attachment

Example: from:Abhishek has:attachment

This returns emails from Abhishek that have an attachment.

Search for Chat Messages

Usage – is:chat

Example – is:chat meeting

This returns chat messages that have the word meeting in them.

You can master Gmail search by printing out the list of search operators given on the Gmail support page.

Just like Google Search, all operators can be combined together to make them more powerful and specific. For instance, if you want to search for an attachment in a specific label. You can construct a search query like – label:labelname filename:extension

Constructing complex search operators can be time consuming every time. That’s where you can use Quick Links to save your searches and use them when needed.

Use Quick Links to Save Your Searches

Quick Links is a very handy feature if you search often. It takes away the pain of typing in the search operators every time. Quick Links is activated from Labs (click on the Gear icon > Labs).

Gmail Search

When you save your changes and return to the Gmail interface, you can see the Quick Links box on the left sidebar.

Gmail Search

Type your search query in the search box. After you results appear, click on Add Quick Link in the Quick Links box.

Gmail Search

Enter a more readable name in place of the default string and save your quick search. Clicking on a quick link displays the results of a search and saves you the bother of typing in the search.

Similarly, you can save multiple Quick Links and use them to sort your mail box more efficiently.

Are you a Gmail search virtuoso? Or are you someone who manually dredges through the inbox? Tell us about your Gmail search story.

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