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How to Search Gmail to Master Email Productivity

Nothing is more efficient than using the search function within your inbox when it comes to email productivity. Being the leader in web search, it is no surprise that Google has packed a ton of functionality into their inbox search feature - and yet few Gmail users understand how to get the most out of it.

This article will learn how to master email productivity by utilizing advanced search queries within your inbox. This includes building basic search queries such as finding emails from a specific sender and advanced search queries that consider a few conditions to find a specific email.

An Overview of Gmail Search

Before developing search queries it is important to understand how Gmail’s search function works. When you click into the search bar at the top of your email you will see a handful of options that enable you to develop anything from the most basic to the most advanced search query to find exactly what you’re looking for.

List of Gmail Search Functions 

  • From: the sender of emails you receive
  • To: who received the email, most likely you
  • Subject: the wording in an email subject line
  • Has the words: any keywords that could be in the content of an email
  • Doesn’t have: any keywords that you know would not be in the content an email
  • Has an attachment: if an email has any attached documents or images
  • Don’t include chats: to exclude any chat conversations
  • Size: the file size of the email - helpful if you’re searching for an email with attachments
  • Date within: the date range which an email was received
  • Search: the folder you want to include

Advanced Search Operators

If you are looking to quickly search through your inbox by typing out advanced search operators, no problem. Below is a listing of Gmail Search Operators that can be used to query your inbox.

  • “-” a minus symbol ahead of a search term will exclude that term from your search
  • “+” a plus symbol ahead of a search term will search for emails with that term
  • “(search phrase)” a search phrase within brackets will look for that specific phrase
  • “After:” Typing After: followed by a Date will search for emails that were received after that specific date
  • “Before:” Typing Before: followed by a Date will search for emails that were received before that specific date
  • “BCC:” Typing BCC: followed by a name will search for emails where a contact or email address was blind copied in the email
  • “CC:” Typing CC: followed by a name will search for emails where a contact or email address was copied in the email
  • “Category:” Typing Category: followed by the name of a category will search for emails within the specified category
  • “Filename:” Typing Filename: followed by the name of a file or the type of a file will search for emails with a filename or type as specified
  • “In:” Typing In: followed by a label or folder name will search for emails within the specified label or folder
  • “Subject:” Typing Subject: followed by any search term will search for emails where the specified search term was within a Subject Line.

How to Search for Emails Sent from a Sender

from:[email address]

One of the easiest, and most helpful search queries is to view a list of emails in your inbox that was sent from a specific email address or sender. To do this, you have to enter from: followed by the email address or contact you’re searching for. To make life easier, as you begin typing your query, Gmail will start to autocomplete your search while allowing you to select the contact that you’re searching for.

Tip: If you want to ensure that the email you are searching for was addressed to you, add in the to: operator followed by “me” to specify.


How to Search for Emails that You Sent to Someone

to:[email address]

Looking for a list of emails that you’ve sent to someone? No problem. Use the to and from operators from the previous example while switching the order. 


How to Search the Content of Emails 

[search term]

Sometimes you might be looking for a certain email but you can only remember what the email may have been about. No problem, you can search for specific keywords to help uncover an email based on its content. This could come in handy if you’re looking for an email that involved a specific project or if you’ve just remembered that food delivery coupon you received last week. Either way, enter the keyword search term into the Gmail search bar to find all of the emails related to it.

release notes

How to Search the Subject Line of Emails 

subject:[search term]

Searching through the content of an email using search terms or keywords might be a bit too broad if you’re looking for something specific. Thankfully, if you can recall the subject line of an email then searching for it is straightforward. A great example of subject line search queries can include searching for commonly used subject lines such as Invoice or Receipt. To search through your inbox for a specific subject, type in subject: followed by any search term that would be in the subject line.


How to Search for Emails with an Attachment


You may have received an email with important documents or files attached to it only to forget to download the attachments or misplace where you saved the files. Fortunately, searching for and finding emails those emails to retrieve those files is simple in Gmail. To search a list of all emails that have an attachment, type in has:attachment in your Gmail search bar.

Tip: If you want to specify a certain file type or filename, you can add in the additional operator, filename: followed by the type of file such as PDF or CSV or the name of the file you’re looking for. Note: You can also search for different types of files using has: such as has:presentation, has:spreadsheet, or has:youtube.

has:attachment filename:pdf

How to Search for Emails by Label

label:[label name]

If you have set up Gmail filters to improve your inbox productivity by auto-assigning labels to an email, then searching through those emails is a breeze. Type labels: followed by the name of your inbox label to search for all emails in your inbox that have been assigned that label. 

Tip: You may want to be more specific with your label search by including additional operators such as from, has, or to. 


How to Search for Emails Based on a Certain Period


Sometimes you may need to retrieve a set of emails from a certain time. A great example of this could be reviewing past reporting emails between two dates. Thankfully, Gmail makes it easy to search for emails based on a specific period. To search for emails in your inbox within a period use the before or after search operators.

Tip: If you want to search for emails between to time dates, you can use both before and after operators in one search.

after:2021/01/01 before:2021/02/01 

How to View All Unread Emails In Your Inbox


If you are one of the many people struggling with hundreds, if not thousands, of unread emails, across different labels or folders then you might find it helpful to have a central view of all of them in one place. To search for emails in your inbox that are marked as unread, you can use the label operator. For some advanced unread searching you can add additional date operators.

label:unread before:2021/07/04

Take Your Inbox Productivity to The Next Level with Email Smart Filters

Using Gmail’s search bar to retrieve past emails can improve your inbox productivity. By combining easy-to-use search operators you can ensure you can find the exact emails you need in record time without the need to scan through hundreds of emails, labels, and folders. 

While search is the best way to be more efficient with retrieving old emails, it isn’t much help when it comes to organizing new emails in your inbox. Although you can develop dozens of Gmail filters to organize your inbox, maintaining them is a lot of work. 

InMoat allows you to select from a handful of predefined Smart Filters so you can focus your inbox on incoming emails that are important to you. By combining InMoat’s prioritized inbox with your newly learned Gmail search capabilities, you can control both your incoming emails while making your inbox organization and email retriever even better.

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