Sunday, January 4, 2015

Searching in Gmail

One of the biggest complaints I heard from people when our school switched from Outlook to Gmail, was that they couldn't make folders anymore.  I told everyone not to worry, because Gmail provides users with a labeling system.  I think it's even better than folders because you can give one email multiple labels, whereas you could only put an email in one folder in Outlook.  You can create up to 5,000 labels and even make sub-labels.  I'll be making a post about labels in the near future, but today I wanted to share with you about Gmail's amazing search feature.  It is so amazing in fact, that I don't even use labels.

At the top of your screen in Gmail you will see a search window.  You've probably even used it before.  You can type in a person's name, the subject of an email, or even a keyword to find the email you are looking for.  One you thing you may not have noticed though, is the little down arrow on the right edge of the search bar.  

This little arrow adds a lot of power to your search.  It allows you to search more specifically.  When you click on it, you get a bunch of options for your search.  

You can choose what section of your mailbox you want to search in (All Mail, Inbox, Trash, Spam, Read Mail, Sent, Drafts, etc.)  You can enter a name or email address of a specific sender or of the person you sent the email to, you can search for a specific subject, or for particular words. You can even search for an email that doesn't have a particular word or words.  One especially useful thing is the little check box for "Has attachment".  You can specify a size and even a date range, too.  It is pretty handy if you ask me.  

You can also use some advanced search operators to narrow down your search without clicking the arrow and using the drop down. 

When you are typing into the search bar, you can use these advanced search operators to help you:

use this to specify the recipient of the email
use this to specify the sender of the email
use this to search for words in the subject line of the email
use this to search for emails you know you have labeled
use this to search for an email you know has an attachment
use this to search for an attachment with a specific name or file type

If you know the file type, but not the exact name, you can simply search for the file type
use this to search a specific area of your mailbox
in:all mail
use these to specify a date range
you can use them together, or individually
(use the date format yyyy/mm/dd)

If you want to get a bit more technical, you can click here to see some other advanced search operators on Gmail's support page.

For example, if I wanted to search for an email from Heather about homework that has a pdf attachment and was sent before December 1, 2014, it would look like this:

I'm assuming here that I wasn't positive the word homework was in the subject line.  If I was sure of that, then I would have used subject:homework instead of just typing the word homework.

One thing you'll want to keep in mind is that Gmail search doesn't recognize special characters like &, *, ( ), [ ], and $.  

I know I use these search operators often when I'm hunting for emails.  I hope they come in handy for you as well!

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