How to Use Gmail Advanced Search

Everyone knows what a pain it is to sift through hundreds or even thousands of emails. But Gmail users can save time with the help of its advanced search feature, a powerful tool that lets you quickly search, organize and purge your email.

You will find the Gmail search bar at the middle top of the page when you are signed in. At first glance, the search box looks like any ordinary search bar: you type keywords and Gmail returns a fairly accurate list of related messages. What you might not know is that you can use advanced search operators to refine your queries. Knowing how to use these search operators can help you navigate your Gmail messages quickly and efficiently.

Here is a breakdown of some of the most useful Gmail search operators and how to use them. You can either type operators directly in the search bar, or use the Gmail advanced options dialog box. To open the dialog box, click the down arrow in the search bar.

Search by Name or Email Address

Most basic searches involve looking for a particular email address or name. To retrieve messages sent to or from a specific email address, name or domain, use the operators:

from (sender)

to (recipient)

cc (carbon copy)

bcc (blind carbon copy)

To use the above, type operator: keyword where operator is the field and keyword is the word or phrase you want to find in it.


from: Mr. ABC


to: Company XYZ

bcc: Agent XXX


Note that when using the bcc operator, Gmail cannot retrieve messages in which you yourself received a blind carbon copy.

Search by Message Title

Frequently, you can find the email you want if you remember its title. To find a message that contains a word or phrase in the title, type: subject: keyword where keyword is the full or partial title you are looking for.


subject: Your password reset information

subject: XYZ Magazine Newsletter

Search for Phrases

Doing a search for keywords in Gmail is simple. Just type the keyword(s) in the search bar. If you want the results to be exact enter the phrase within quotes, like so:

$2 off”

Error message 5″

Search by Label or Status

In Gmail, you can assign labels to your mail to help organize them. To retrieve messages you had previously marked under a particular label, type: label:keyword where keyword is the name of the label.



label:Old mail

You can also search for messages you either starred or marked as important. Type is:starred or is:important in the search bar.

Search Read/Unread Messages

Many people have a mix of read and unread messages in their Gmail accounts. If you want to view only one or the other kind, type: is:unread or is:read in the search bar. To retrieve only unread messages in your inbox, type is unread, in:inbox.

Search for Files

Looking for that elusive PDF file that someone sent you a year ago? Use Gmail’s powerful search tool to track it down. Type filename.type has:attachment where filename is the name or partial name of the file, and type is the file extension.


logo*.png has:attachment

… retrieves messages with attached PNG files that begin with “logo.”

*.pdf has:attachment

… retrieves all messages with attached PDF files.


… retrieves all messages that contain file attachments.

Alternatively, click the down arrow on the search bar. This will bring up the advanced search dialog box. Check the has:attachment check box. Type the name, partial name or file type of the file you are looking for. Click the blue magnifying glass button.

Search by Size

You can request Gmail to retrieve messages based on their size. This is useful when you need to find emails with big files attached to them. Use the larger and smaller operators.



… retrieves messages at least 15 megabytes in size.


… retrieves messages smaller than 500 kilobytes in size.

Search by Date

Do you keep mail that goes back several years? Save yourself time with Gmail’s time-based operators before, after, older_than and newer_than.

The operators before and after are suitable for retrieving mail prior to or following a specific date. They use the format yyyy/mm/dd.



… retrieves all mail before January 1, 2014.


…. retrieves all mail on or after October 1, 2014.

The operators newer_than and older_than are similar but better for more general date ranges. They recognize the values d,m and y for day, month and year respectively.



… retrieves messages older than 12 days.


… retrieves messages newer than 2 months.

Combination Searches

You can combine Gmail search opreators to perform more complex functions. Here are some examples.

Find all important messages by sender:

from:(sender email), is:important

Find all JPEG attachments sent to recipient:

to:(sender email), filename:*.jpg, has:attachment

Find all file attachments with a specific label:

label:(label name), has:attachment

For more information, please refer to the Gmail help page on advanced searches: