How to Search Messages like a Pro on Facebook, WhatsApp and iMessage

George Tinari

As we’ve migrated away from instant messaging clients like MSN Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger in favor of the likes of Facebook, it’s become more difficult to search through your conversation history. Many apps make how to search quickly for a conversation by name pretty obvious, but really digging through to find a specific message can sometimes be a complex chore.

shutterstock-whatsapp-conversation-history
WhatsApp messaging, photo via Shutterstock.

Popular messaging service WhatsApp seems to just about nail searching through conversation history, while other platforms like iMessage and Facebook Messages seem to severely lag behind. Fortunately, there are tips and tricks for conversation search in all three of these apps.

Facebook Messages

As mobile usage keeps climbing, Facebook continues to add features to its Messenger app before adding them to the website. However, search is one area in the app that still significantly lags behind the Facebook desktop website. As of now, you cannot search for specific messages in a conversation in the Messenger app. The only function the search bar serves is for finding names of Facebook friends you already messaged.

This is where Facebook’s website remains one step ahead, as it has a powerful search feature buried in Messages. The easiest way to access it is by first clicking the Messages icon on the top right when logged in. Then click See All.

facebook-messages-conversation-history-search

On the left, enter in your search query. At first Facebook just searches for people or conversation names. Underneath that, you can click Search Messages to initiate a search within messages for the word or phrase you entered. What’s great is that Facebook automatically organizes the results in reverse chronological order and searches across all of your archived messages with all of your friends, going past years in the past if necessary.

Additionally, if you click a result, you’re taken directly to that section of your conversation history. Clicking the right and left arrows also pages through the results.

iMessage

iMessage has always had search issues and an iOS or OS X update has yet to fix them. Yes, you can back up or search through conversations, but it’s no easy task and comes with limitations.

On iOS, you can reveal the search bar in the Messages app by pulling down or tapping the time at the top of the screen. Like Facebook, iMessage prioritizes searching for people’s names first rather than keywords in conversations. If it finds a keyword, it lists that conversation as a search result. Tapping it opens the conversation and highlights the most recent message your query was used in.

Note: Good luck trying to navigate the search results if you’re looking for other instances in the same conversation because the Messages app doesn’t allow that. It’s the same story in the Messages app for OS X as well. It just about renders search useless unless you only need to find something recent.

imessage-chatology-message-search

Flexibits, the creators of Fantastical, have a remedy by the name of Chatology. It’s a Mac app that does search the right way, rounding up your entire iMessage history and allowing you to search through conversation names or content. It goes back as far as the entire past year’s worth of messages and even cleverly organizes images and links separately as well. A purchase may require some pondering at its price of $19.99, but it definitely gets the job done.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is the only major contender in the messaging war that just about perfects the art of search, particularly when it comes to browsing through the archives. Power users ought to take note.

Everything you need for searching through WhatsApp conversations is built right in. Just pull down in the Chats view to reveal a search bar and type in what you’re looking for (Android users should find the search option somewhere in the top menu). WhatsApp highlights the word or phrase in the search results and includes multiple instances in the same conversation. It even searches through archived messages, too. Tapping a result goes directly to that portion of the conversation and highlights it, much like in iMessage.

whatsapp-search-conversations

An extra perk of using WhatsApp is that it’s cross-platform. If you’re looking for something specific in your conversation history and you message your friends on WhatsApp, there’s no need to worry about which messaging service to search through.

Also See
#facebook#imessage

Join the newsletter

George Tinari

Written By

George Tinari

George Tinari has written about technology for over seven years: guides, how-tos, news, reviews and more. He's usually sitting in front of his laptop, eating, listening to music or singing along loudly to said music. You can also follow him on Twitter @gtinari if you need more complaints and sarcasm in your timeline.