Gmail Advanced Search for Mails, Spam & Trash

Is Gmail your primary personal email? Gmail has better spam control and is faster. I use email (provided by Google Apps) as the primary for work and home. It has the same features as Gmail, including the Google Talk, but has my own domain name. As you would have noticed, Gmail now provides more than 5 GB space and it is growing at the rate of 100 MB per month.

One of the features that make Gmail so user friendly is its searchability. In the Gmail Searchbox, you can enter a word or multiple words that appears anywhere within the message you want to locate – just like how you use Google search.

You can make your search more specific using Gmail’s search options. Click ‘Show search options‘ next to the search box, and enter your criteria in the appropriate fields. This is the user friendly search interface.

Yesterday a Prospect called me up and told that he had sent me an email a few days back and he did not receive any reply yet. I guessed his email would have gone to spam, as I did not find it in the inbox. I searched for the mail using Gmail search, but it did not return any result. But when I checked the messages in Spam folder one by one, I found it there. Why was it considered spam? Because his email server is blacklisted. Why did not the search return any result? Because Gmail search does not search in Spam and Trash unless we specifically select the option in Advanced Search options.

Gmail search won’t recognize matches to partial strings or matches that are ‘similar’ to your query (stemming), including plurals and misspellings. If you search for travel, Gmail returns messages containing instances of travel, but doesn’t return messages including travels or travels. Gmail search does not include the contents of message attachments. Search results do not include matches to most special characters, such as square brackets [], parentheses (), currency symbols $, ampersands &, pound signs #, and asterisks *.

Gmail doesn’t search for message in Spam or Trash unless you tell it to. To search all mails including Spam and Trash, use the Show Search Options, next to the searchbox in Gmail page, and select Mail & Spam & Trash from the Search: drop-down menu.

You also can target your search using special words and symbols called advanced operators. Please note that the ‘or’ function in Gmail is represented by ‘OR,’ and the ‘not’ function is represented by a minus (-). You also can use quotes (” “) to specify an exact phrase.

The table of advanced operators are given below for your easy reference, thanks to Google.

Operator Definition Example(s)
from: Used to specify the
Example – from:amy
Meaning – Messages from Amy
to: Used to specify a recipient Example – to:david
Meaning – All messages that were sent to David (by you or someone else)


Search for words in the subject line
Example – subject:dinner
Meaning – Messages that have

the word "dinner" in the subject


Search for messages matching term A or term B*
*OR must be in all

Example – from:amy OR from:david
Meaning – Messages from Amy or from David


Used to exclude messages from your search
Example – dinner -movie
Meaning – Messages that contain the word "dinner" but do not contain
the word "movie"
label: Search
for messages by label*
*There isn’t a search operator for unlabeled messages
Example – from:amy label:friends

Meaning – Messages from Amy that
the label "friends"

Example – from:david label:my-family
Meaning – Messages from David that
the label "My Family"

Search for
messages with an attachment
Example –

from:david has:attachment
Meaning – Messages from David that have
an attachment


Search for an attachment by name or type

Example –

Meaning – Messages with an
attachment named "physicshomework.txt"

Example –
label:work filename:pdf

Meaning – Messages labeled
"work" that also have a PDF file as an attachment

" "

Used to search for an exact phrase*
*Capitalization isn’t taken into consideration

Example –
"i’m feeling lucky"

Meaning – Messages containing
the phrase "i’m feeling lucky" or "I’m feeling lucky"

Example –

subject:"dinner and a movie"
Meaning – Messages containing
the phrase "dinner and a movie" in the subject

( )

Used to group words
Used to specify terms that shouldn’t be excluded

Example –

from:amy(dinner OR movie)
Meaning – Messages from Amy
that contain either the word "dinner" or the word "movie"

Example –
subject:(dinner movie)

Meaning – Messages in which
the subject contains both the word "dinner" and the word "movie"


Search for messages anywhere in your account*
*Messages in Spam and Trash are excluded from searches
by default
Example – in:anywhere

Meaning – Messages in All Mail,
Spam, and Trash that contain the word "movie"


Search for messages in Inbox, Trash, or Spam
Example – in:trash

Meaning – Messages from Amy that
are in Trash


Search for messages that are starred, unread or read
Example –

is:read is:starred from:David
Meaning – Messages from David that
have been read and are marked with a star


Used to specify recipients in the cc: or bcc: fields*
*Search on bcc: cannot retrieve messages on which you were blind carbon copied
Example –

Meaning – Messages that were cc-ed to David


Search for messages sent
during a certain period of time*
*Dates must be in yyyy/mm/dd format.
Example –
after:2004/04/16 before:2004/04/18

Meaning – Messages sent after April 16,
2004, but before April 18, 2004.*
*More precisely: Messages sent on April
17, 2004.

Search for chat messages Example –

Meaning – Any chat message including the word “monkey.”

BTW, watch the final collaborative video on how a Gmail message travels around the world.

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