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How To Improve GMail Search Result by Mastering Advance Search

Updated on June 20, 2012

Like many on the Internet I have been a devote GMail user for a number of years and have grown to love the fact that it allows me to store gigabytes of e-mail on-line. Of course with this much content it becomes unwieldy to find just the right e-mail without mastering a couple of search skills.

The most important thing a GMail user can learn are some of options available for advance search and how to combine them to narrow your selection.

Advance search simply refers to combining keywords in a structured way to allow the Google search engine to operate that way the user intends. For example, instead of simply typing "John" and hitting search you can qualify the message with "from:John" or "to:John" to get only the messages that were sent from or to John. The first sample will include all messages that contain the word "John" while the the other two will provide just the messages from or to him.

Google has a number search terms available for use including:

  • from - Used to identify the person who sent the message.
  • to - Used to specify a person in the recipient list.
  • subject - Used to search the subject line.
  • has:attachment - Is used to identify messages that contain attachments.
  • quotes - Are used to provide exact phrasing for the search.
  • in:inbox - Limits the search to the in-box.
  • in:anywhere - Searches all ares of Gmail except the Spam and Trash folders.
  • after - Returns only messages sent or received after a certain date.
  • before - Returns only messages sent or received before a certain date.

(Google offers a complete list of additional terms in their Support page)

Once you learn the search terms you can combine them to gain control over your messages. For example you want to find all messages from Bill regarding an Halloween party you may type a search phrase as follows: "from:bill after:10/1/2008 before:11/1/2008 subject:halloween or party". Assuming Bill is a common correspondent this would return a much narrower set of results than just searching on "bill halloween party".

Once you have a firm grasp of the search techniques you will be able to quickly and efficiently recall messages from your GMail in-box.


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