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email attachmentsThere are plenty of reasons to love Gmail: completely free features, plenty of storage space, free POP3 access to your email as well as free offline access to your email messages via the IMAP route, and many other awesome great options.

As the search geek, there’s one thing I really appreciate: the ability to use very flexible (advanced) search features to go through thousands of email messages stored for years in one place. I am not geeky (and probably organized) enough to synchronize my email efficiently when moving from computer to computer or to make and update my backup, and (I realize that might be my mistake) I have been used to relying on Gmail for years.

This post looks at one of Gmail life-saving features: the option to store and search through tons of email with attachments for you to be able to:

  • Quickly and efficiently find email attachments (even if you can hardly remember the file name, the sender name, the date when you received the email, etc).
  • Free up some space (yes, storage space is huge but not unlimited. In case you have ever sent or received high resolution photographs, videos or large database files, you may want to delete them to save on space).

Search For Email With Attachments

There are several ways to search for attachments in Gmail using Gmail advanced search How To Search Emails In Gmail Efficiently How To Search Emails In Gmail Efficiently Read More operators:

  • has:attachment – This one filters emails to only those that have anything attached.
  • has:attachment doc – This one filters emails to only those that have .doc files attached.
  • filename:.doc – Works almost exactly as the above one (but this one is the documented operator for searching attachment types).
    • Note: filename: already implies that there should be an attachment included, so you don’t need to use has:attachment together with it.
    • Note: a dot is not required before the file extension: filename:.doc = filename:doc
  • filename:google*.doc – This one filters emails to only those that have doc files attached and these files have [google] in the beginning of the name (whereas filename:*google*.doc searches for messages that have documents attached with “google” mentioned somewhere in the middle of the file name).
  • filename:.doc OR filename:.html – This one filters emails to only those that have either .doc or .html files attached (or both).
  • filename:.doc AND filename:.htmlThis one filters emails to only those that have both .doc or .html files attached.

find attachments in Gmail

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See What’s Attached From Search Results

Now that we know how to locate our email attachments, let’s learn to cope with one inconvenience: you have no idea what is attached until you enter the actual message scroll down and see the attached file names.

Pimp My Gmail is an awesome Greasemonkey script that lets you quickly see what is attached without the need to click away from Gmail search results. The script is compatible with Firefox, Google Chrome and Opera.

Note: The script has a lot more features to customize your Gmail but I am only using it for the sake of the attachment feature.

With the script installed, you will be able to see:

  1. An icon representing the attached file extension right in the email list;
  2. The actual file names attached (on hover over):

search attachments in Gmail

Locate Your Largest Email Attachments: Find Big Mail

Find Big Mail is a free service that lets you sort your email by size. It does require access to your Gmail account (using Gmail OAuth, so as far as I understand, it doesn’t store your Gmail password and you can make sure the access is removed immediately after you use it in your Gmail account).

After you grant access to your Gmail account, the tool will immediately start scanning your messages. It may take some time. Once it’s done, you’ll receive an email notification which brings you to the stats page:

gmail attachments

What you can do now is log into your Gmail interface, click through your full label list and find some new labels created by FindBigMail app. The labels will organize your largest emails by size:

  • Top (the largest emails).
  • 2mb’ messages are larger than 2,000,000 bytes.
  • 500kb’ messages are between 500,000 and 2,000,000 bytes.
  • 100kb’ messages are between 100,000 and 500,000 bytes.

gmail attachments

Click on each label to view the large messages. Then follow these Gmail instructions to remove the mail you no longer want. Be sure to empty the Trash using “Delete Forever” if you need to free up the space immediately. Otherwise it will automatically be removed in 30 days time.

Otherwise, consider using this smart way to locate your largest messages (be sure to use the has:attachment filter if you have too many emails stored in your account to make it work).

Any other Gmail attachment tips to add to the mix? Please share them in the comments!

  1. Tushar Kapila
    September 4, 2015 at 8:56 am

    Please can we have this feature? Have attachment called "joe_twopager.doc" searching for :
    filename:(*page*.doc*) is:sent
    gives 0 results. But can see it and others when I search for
    filename:(joe*.doc*) is:sent
    or
    filename:(joeIndia_2pager.doc*)

    Thing is a lot of mails have joeIndia_CV.doc & joeIndia.odp so want to narrow down to the ones that have the word 'two' in them. Need this in the near future. Thank you

  2. issac
    May 15, 2015 at 8:29 am

    great article.. You saved me from checking all my mail list..

  3. Ann Smarty
    March 9, 2011 at 10:27 am

    Unfortunately, I am not aware of either Google or Gmail operators that can search for part of the word (versus part of the phrase).

    If anyone reading this can come up with a good solution, that would be awesome.

    Maybe, posting your question to MUO Answers would result in more people looking for the answer for you.

  4. Troy Goldman
    March 8, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Google doesn't list any supported boolean operators for FILENAME:

    http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=7190

    • Ann Smarty
      March 9, 2011 at 9:23 am

      Well, they have plenty of undocumented operators. Besides, most of the official operators can be combined - which is what we are doing.

  5. Troy Goldman
    March 8, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Of course I did. I posted a response with links to pictures, but alas, my post needs to be approved by the moderator.

  6. Troy Goldman
    March 8, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Of course I believe you.
    Of course I've tried that.
    Of course I made my own screen shots.

    http://ditdir.com/Found.jpg
    http://ditdir.com/Found.jpg

    ^^ There they are ^^

    I didn't bother blocking out anything.

    • Ann Smarty
      March 9, 2011 at 9:27 am

      Unfortunately, I am not aware of either Google or Gmail operators that can search for part of the word (versus part of the phrase).

      If anyone reading this can come up with a good solution, that would be awesome.

      Maybe, posting your question to MUO Answers would result in more people looking for the answer for you.

  7. Ann Smarty
    March 8, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Would you trust my word or would you want me to make another screenshot for the next search result? :)

    Have you tried something like that:

    has:attachment 1218001

    • grace maposa
      March 27, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      an looking for an attachment an at Midlands University in zimbabwe

  8. Troy Goldman
    March 8, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Google doesn't list any supported boolean operators for FILENAME:

    http://mail.google.com/support...

  9. Ann Smarty
    March 8, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Actually it does work with me. I have uploaded a screenshot for you: http://www.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/gmail-search.jpg

    Please mind that * is treated as a word, not as part of a word. Gmail search must be treating underscore _ as the word: so that whole filename was treated as one word...

    • marg
      April 18, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      hi
      h r u there
      u wanna chat

  10. Troy Goldman
    March 8, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    Of course I believe you.
    Of course I've tried that.
    Of course I made my own screen shots.

    http://ditdir.com/Found.jpg
    http://ditdir.com/Found.jpg

    ^^ There they are ^^

    I didn't bother blocking out anything.

  11. Ann Smarty
    March 8, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Would you trust my word or would you want me to make another screenshot for the next search result? :)

    Have you tried something like that:

    has:attachment 1218001

  12. Troy Goldman
    March 8, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Thanks Ann. I'm suspicious of your results. Is the word "Google" also within the text of the email?

    If not, can you please tell me what to type to find all the emails that have files attached whose filenames include "1218001"?

  13. Ann Smarty
    March 8, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Actually it does work with me. I have uploaded a screenshot for you: http://www.makeuseof.com/wp-co...

    Please mind that * is treated as a word, not as part of a word. Gmail search must be treating underscore _ as the word: so that whole filename was treated as one word...

  14. Troy Goldman
    March 8, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Your "filename:*google*.doc" example simply doesn't work. The only way I can find an email based on the filename is to know the ENTIRE filename.

    filename:*1218001* .pdf - returns zero hits.

    while:

    filename:*1218001_Area 3_LUAGT018_11030317* .pdf - returns the email I am looking for.

  15. Moneystylemoga
    January 29, 2011 at 10:12 am

    hellooooooooooooooooo

  16. Anonymous
    January 28, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    And you can save your has:attachment search results as a quick link with the Quick Links lab.

    • Ann Smarty
      January 28, 2011 at 9:23 pm

      Another bright idea - thanks!

  17. Chris
    January 24, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Very helpful. I'm so disorganized that it's sickening.

  18. Jake P.
    January 23, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Well, I didn't really click on the last link. I was reading the article, and thought I'd throw in my two cents. Should've clicked on that last link!

    • Ann Smarty
      January 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm

      Not a problem at all! In fact, I really appreciate it that you brought up that great point again!

  19. Jake P.
    January 23, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    If you have an email program like Outlook or Thunderbird, add gmail as an IMAP account, and then in your "All Mail" folder, sort the messages by size.

    • Ann Smarty
      January 23, 2011 at 7:09 pm

      Yes! Great suggestion! That's something I referred to as one "smart way" in the last but one paragraph, I guess!

    • Aibek
      January 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

      that's exactly what i do :-)

  20. hari baskar
    January 23, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Hi
    good tips for Gmail users ... thank you

    Hari baskar
    http://www.millionairecycler.c...

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