Gmail logo.

Gmail is a Google platform, so of course, it has powerful search features. But some of Gmail’s search features are hidden and don’t appear in the “Search Options” pane. Learn Gmail’s search tricks to master your massive inbox.

You can also create filters from any search you perform. Filters automatically perform actions on incoming emails, such as deleting them, applying a label, or forwarding them to another email address.

RELATED: How to Search Gmail by Date

Gmail’s Basic Search Features

Instead of just typing a search query in the search box, click the “Show Search Options” icon to reveal more search options.

The search options dialog exposes many of Gmail’s basic search functions. But there are some search options that don’t appear in this dialog.

Gmail's search options.

You can skip this dialog for basic searches. Perform a search with the search options dialog and you’ll see the search operator you’ll need in the future. For example, if you type youtube.com  into the search box, you’ll see the following search appear:

from:youtube.com

Gmail's basic searches.

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 the messages that have attachments.
  • is:chat – Search only chats.
  • in:anywhere – Also search for messages in Spam and Trash. By default, Gmail’s search ignores messages in these two folders.

Constructing Searches in Gmail

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:(how geek)  would only return messages with the words how and geek in their subject field. If you search for subject:how geek , you’d get messages with how in their subject and geek anywhere in the message.
  • OR – OR, which must be in capital letters, allows you to search for one term or another. For example, subject:(how OR geek)  would return messages with the word how or the word geek in their titles. You can also combine other terms with the OR. For example, from:howtogeek.com OR has:attachment  would search for messages that are either from howtogeek.com or have attachments.
  • ” “ – Quotes allow you to search for an exact phrase, just like in Google. Searching for "exact phrase" only returns messages that contain 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 you to search for messages that don’t contain a specific term. For example, search for -from:youtube.com  and you’ll only see messages that aren’t from youtube.com.

Hidden Gmail 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: – This 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: – This operator allows you to 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 these operators to search only important or unimportant emails.
  • has:yellow-star, has:red-star, has:green-check, and so on. – 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.

"Stars" in Gmail.

  • cc:, bcc: – The cc: and bcc: features allow you to search for messages where a specific address was carbon copied or blind carbon copied. For example, cc:user@example.com  returns messages where user@example.com was carbon copied. You can’t use the bcc: operator to search for messages where you were blind carbon copied, only messages where you bcc’d other people.
  • deliveredto: – This operator looks for messages delivered to a specific address. For example, if you have multiple accounts in the same Gmail inbox, you can use this operator to find the messages sent to a specific address. Use deliveredto:email@example.com  to find messages delivered to email@example.com .

Saving a Gmail Email Filter

Create a filter to automatically perform actions when a message matches a specific search.

To create a filter, click the “Show Search Options” icon. Enter the search information you wish to use for your filter and then select “Create filter.”

Select "Create Filter" at the bottom.

Select an action from the options and click the “Create Filter” button.

You can manage your filters from the “Filters and Blocked Addresses” pane on Gmail’s “Settings” page.

Filters can also be used to block email addresses. Check out our guide to learn more.

RELATED: How to Block Emails from Specific Senders in Gmail

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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Mahesh Makvana is a freelance tech writer who specializes in writing how-to guides. He has been writing tech tutorials for over a decade now. He’s written for some of the prominent tech sites including MakeUseOf, MakeTechEasier, and Online Tech Tips.
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