How do I search for messages in Gmail?


Many people who use email often encounter a problem. Probably each of us can imagine the situation: we remind ourselves that in the email received long ago there is important information that we need just now. We can’t remember, however, when we received the e-mail and what the full subject of the message was. Google, in order to address this problem, introduced search operators. They are available both in the free version of Gmail as well as in the G Suite package. Thanks to them, the user won’t have to manually browse hundreds, if not thousands, of messages in search of the right one.

What are search operators?

Search operators available in Gmail allow you to filter messages based on various criteria. They can be divided into:

  • operators regarding elements of e-mail messages,
  • operators further refining search results, 
  • operators searching in specific places

It is also possible to search in one query based on several criteria.

See also:

Operators for email items


In order to search for the topic of interest, it is necessary to enter the operator in the search field in the top panel of Gmail (“Search mail”). It is necessary to use the “:” sign between the operator and the searched phrase. Here is the list of operators for email items with explanations:

  • subject – searching based on a topic, e.g. subject:billing,
  • from – based on the sender of the message, e.g. from:Kowalski,
  • to – based on the recipient of the message, e.g. to:Nowak,
  • label – based on the label assigned to the message, e.g. label:contractors (searching for messages labeled as “contractors”),
  • deliveredto – messages delivered to specific recipients, e.g.,
  • cc – messages sent as a copy to recipients, e.g. cc:Kowalski,
  • bcc – messages sent as Bcc e.g. bcc:Nowak,
  • filename –  search for attachments of a specific type or with a specific name, e.g. filename: pdf (attachments in .pdf format).

Operators that further refine search results

Among the operators that further narrow down the search results, there are:

  • has:attachment – messages only with attachments,
  • has:drive – with an attachment from Google Drive,
  • has:document – with an attachment from Google Docs,
  • has:spreadsheet – with an attachment from Spreadsheets,
  • has:presentation – z załącznikiem z Prezentacji Google,
  • has:youtube –  with an attachment in the form of a YouTube video,
  • is – tagged messages, e.g. is:unread, is:read, is:starred,
  • has:(kolor)-star –messages marked with a star of a specific color, e.g. has:yellow-star, has:green-star,
  • is:important oraz label:important –  messages that Gmail considers important,
  • category – messages from a specific category, e.g. category:update,
  • size – messages of a specific size (in bytes), e.g. size:2000000
  • larger lub smallermessages larger or smaller than a specific size (in bytes), e.g. larger:1000.


Operators searching in specific places



Among the operators searching specific places, there are:

  • in:anywhere –  search for messages across your entire Gmail account (including “Spam” and “Trash”),
  • in:inbox – messages in the “Inbox”,
  • in:trash –  messages in the “Trash”,
  • in:spam –  messages in “Spam”,
  • in:snoozed –  “Snoozed” messages,
  • in:chat – messages in the chat history,
  • after – messages sent after a specific date (the format of the date entered is yyyy/mm/dd), e.g. after:2019/01/15,
  • before – messages sent before a specific date, e.g. before:2018/12/20,
  • older_than – messages older than the specified number of days (d), months, (m) or years (y), e.g. older_than:5d
  • newer_than – as above, but these are messages newer than the specified number of days, months or years,
  • listmessages on mailing lists, e.g.:


Operators combining several queries

Gmail users can also search messages using several operators. So knowing the basic formulas is important:

  • OR lub { } – messages that meet one of the following conditions,
  • – (minus sign immediately before the excluded word) – exclude messages with a specific keyword,
  • ” “ – search for messages with the exact phrase,
  • ( ) – grouping search terms.

Here are some examples of practical applications of combined queries:

  • from:Kowalski OR from:Nowak – messages from Kowalski or Nowak (similar to the formula {from:Kowalski from:Nowak}),
  • company -settlements – messages that contain the word “company” but do not contain the phrase “settlement”,
  • “Orders and contractors” – messages with the phrase “orders and contractors”,
  • subject:”orders and contractors” – messages that contain the phrase “orders and contractors” in the subject,
  • from:Kowalski (quarterly report) – messages from Kowalski containing the word “report” and / or “quarterly”,
  • in:spam from:Nowak – messages in “Spam” received from Nowak,
  • has:yellow-star from:Kowalski – starred messages from Kowalski,
  • from:Nowak has:attachment – messages from Nowak with an attachment.


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