Welcome, Guest Login

Search for Common Ground's US offices are closed on Monday 19 January 2015 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Requests received during this time intended for US-based staffers will be answered on 20 January, unless urgent.

SFCG Help Center

IT Update: Advanced Search Feature in Gmail

Last Updated: May 21, 2018 05:53AM EDT

Sometimes we look but we don't see. And sometimes we see but we don’t look. There is a difference. And sometimes many things remain unnoticed and unexplored even when they are in front of our eyes. Well, that’s enough intro. The question is, how many of us have used Gmail’s search email feature ? Raise your hands please! Yes, true, that’s everybody. And how many of us have used ‘advanced’ search feature of Gmail to narrow down our searches to find exactly what we are looking for ? I see, many hands are down now. :)


There is a small search bar on the top-middle of gmail inbox. We usually use it for a quick search. And have you noticed a small triangle drop-down on the right corner of the Gmail search box? This will let you explore many unexplored ways of searching emails in your Gmail inbox. Give it a try today.


Not only this, you can also use the quick search-bar to specify the search criteria that you want by typing some pre-specified set of simple commands.


When you click on the drop-down triangle on the search bar, it give you a whole lot of other options to narrow down the email search such as, emails having attachments only or emails arriving within a range of dates. Please refer to the screenshot below.



Useful search operators you can access from the basic dialog include:

  • to: – Search for messages sent to a specific address.

  • from: – Search for messages sent from a specific address

  • subject: – Search the subject field.

  • label: – Search within a specific label.

  • has:attachment – Search only for messages that have attachments

  • is:chat – Search only chats.

  • in:anywhere – Also search for messages in the spam and trash. By default, Gmail’s search ignores messages in the spam and trash.

Here is an example to find emails received from a specific sender. After the command, when you hit ‘Enter’ (‘Return’ key on Macbook) it will show you the emails only from that sender.


Constructing Searches

To put together more complicated searches, you’ll need to know the basics.

  • ( ) – Brackets allow you to group search terms. For example, searching for subject:(monthly reports) would only return messages with the words “monthly” and “reports” in their subject field. If you search for subject:monthly reports, you’d get messages with “monthly” in their subject and “report” anywhere in the message.

  • OR – OR, which must be in capital letters, allows you to search for one term or another. For example, subject:(monthly OR report) would return messages with the word “monthly” or the word “report” in their titles. You can also combine other terms with the OR. For example, from:sfcg.org OR has:attachment would search for messages that are either from sfcg.org domain or have attachments in them.

  • “ “ – Quotes allow you to search for an exact phrase, just like in Google. Searching for “exact phrase” only returns messages that contain the exact phrase. You can combine this with other operators. For example, subject:”exact phrase” only returns messages that have “exact phrase” in their subject field.

  • – – The hyphen, or minus sign, allows to search for messages that don’t contain a specific term. For example, search for -from:sfcg.org and you’ll only see messages that aren’t from sfcg.org.

Some More and Hidden Search Tricks

You can access many search operators from the search options dialog, but some are hidden. Here’s a list of the hidden ones:

  • list: – The list: operator allows you to search for messages on a mailing list. For example, list:authors@example.com would return all messages on the authors@example.com mailing list.

  • filename: – The filename: operator lets you search for a specific file attachment. For example, file:example.pdf would return emails with a file named example.pdf attached.

  • is:important, label:important – If you use Gmail’s priority inbox, you can use the is:important or label:important operators to search only important or unimportant emails.

  • has:yellow-star, has:red-star, has:green-check, etc. – If you use different types of stars (see the Stars section on Gmail’s general settings pane), you can search for messages with a specific type of star.

All of the available commands are listed here on google help page. Give it a try today. It’s useful and is fun too. :)

seconds ago
a minute ago
minutes ago
an hour ago
hours ago
a day ago
days ago
Invalid characters found