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 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:.html – - This one filters emails to only those that have both .doc or .html files attached.
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:
- An icon representing the attached file extension right in the email list;
- The actual file names attached (on hover over):
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:
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.
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!