5 Advanced Gmail Search Operators You Should Know

Tina Sieber 25-09-2012

gmail search operatorsGmail is an ingenious webmail client with many awesome features. You only need to read through our Gmail guide The Power User Guide to Gmail This free Gmail Guide is for those of you who already use Gmail as an email client and want to take maximum advantage of its many productivity features. Read More for power users to see how powerful it can be. Being a Google service, one of its strengths obviously is Search. And this is exactly how Google revolutionized email. While every other email client focused on sorting emails, Google focused on what they do best. In Gmail you don’t really have to worry about filing or sorting emails because you an always find them in a matter of seconds using the Search.


While you will easily get to most emails with a plain keyword search, it does help to know some advanced Gmail search operators to quickly find very specific emails. This article highlights 5 advanced Gmail search operators. It goes without saying that the Gmail Search works almost exactly like Google Search. To construct a good search query in any Google service, it is beneficial to understand some basic rules. You can review a complete list of Gmail search operators on Gmail’s advanced search page and to learn more on how to write search queries, you can read this timeless article Master the Google Operands: Search Really Fast Read More .

Search is one of the The 10 Best Features That Keep Me In Gmail ROUNDUP: The 10 Best Features That Keep Me In Gmail Gmail is one of Google's greatest projects and in my eyes it has revolutionized email. Not only is it the best web-based email client around, Gmail also beats free desktop clients by miles. After using... Read More and I have previously written about this feature in more detail How To Search Emails In Gmail Efficiently Read More . Note, however, that Gmail Search has been updated significantly since this last article was published.

The Basics of Gmail Search

Let me start off with some basics for those who are yet unfamiliar with Gmail Search. Those of you using Gmail will know the search bar in the very top. Have you ever bothered to click the little arrow in its very right?

gmail search operators

This is how you open Gmail’s search options, i.e. a form that offers basic search fields to fill in.


advanced gmail search

The form is a shortcut if you want to search in a specific folder/label, an email from or to a specific person, the email subject, or within a specific time frame. In most cases, using the form is much quicker than typing out the respective search operators.

Advanced Search Operators

Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s look at advanced operators that may come in handy.

1. filename:

The search form shown above let’s you search emails that have an attachment. Simply check the respective box in the form. The filename: operator is a more advanced way to search emails with attachments. You can pair it with any part of the file name, including the file type. So you could search for filename:london to search for any attachments that have the word london in the file name. Or you could search for filename:pdf to find any attachments that are PDF documents.


advanced gmail search

Do you find this operator interesting and would you like to know more? Then have a look at these articles:

2. after: & before:

Personally, I find the date within search option in the form shown above a little complicated. Thus I prefer to use the before: and after: search operators. Use them by themselves to search before or after a certain date and use them together to search a time frame.

advanced gmail search


3. in:anywhere

This operator may seem a little odd at first because wouldn’t you think that the Search is searching anywhere by default? Well, not quite. Per default, messages in Spam and Trash are excluded from search results. If, for some reason, you want to include emails in these folders, you can use the in:anywhere operator, followed by your keyword.

gmail search

By the way, the screenshot above reveals that Gmail Search is showing actual email content in auto-complete. Good to know, right?

4. Search Starred Emails

This point is special since it doesn’t feature an advanced operator, but an advanced query. Using the has: operator paired with the respective star name, you can search emails starred with a specific star.


gmail search

Gmail offers up to 12 stars to highlight or star your email. Here is a complete list of the whole dozen:

  • yellow-star
  • yellow-bang
  • orange-star
  • orange-guillemet
  • red-star
  • red-bang
  • purple-star
  • purple-question
  • blue-star
  • blue-info
  • green-star
  • green-check

5. is:chats

The chat logs of your Gmail chat or GTalk are stored in the respective Gmail account. If you ever want to find a detail from one of your conversations, you can specifically search your GTalk logs using the is:chats operator, followed by the search term.

gmail search operators

In a similar fashion, you can also search in:circles.


Curiously, there used to be a search operator called language: or lang: that would allow you to find emails written in a specific language. This one must have been discontinued, since it is no longer working for me. Or does it work for you?

Which Gmail search operator do you find most useful or do you have no use for them at all?

Related topics: Email Tips, Gmail, Google Search.

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  1. Basil
    October 1, 2012 at 5:36 am

    WIll be helpful if you can give me some way to search 'via' mails.
    Now a days i used to get mails in format ' via' and all times xxx will be different and couldn't place any filter for the same. Any ideas is helpful

    • Tina
      October 7, 2012 at 9:32 pm


      I'm not sure I understand what you are asking. If only the part behind the @ changed, can't you search for the part before the @ and including the @?

      • basil m kallungal
        October 8, 2012 at 5:02 am

        I will give you an example, In my mail box i see : via , via ,
        ...@.... via ,

        I think, is some email spams ad company which sells emails to clients, I don't know

        If i place search - any part before 'via' - 10 to 20 different filters I need to add,... and gmail is not allowing me to place search- after 'via'.
        I think you got my probs,

  2. macwitty
    September 28, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    I so also miss lang: as it was a way to reduce the result when searching in mail, esp when working om project with different language groups

  3. Krysia Baker
    September 27, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Very nice summary and explanation of the operators.

    In my quest to find out why the terminology is "is:chats" (I thought 'in' made more sense, but I guess that's reserved for mail folders) I found this useful site: // . I hope some of you will find it helpful too.

  4. Deekshith Allamaneni
    September 26, 2012 at 2:08 am

    They really made my life easy on Gmail. They are very helpful. Thanks a lot.

  5. Brayan Habid
    September 25, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    The in:anywhere operator also adds the archived messages, which have no tags.

    • Tina
      September 26, 2012 at 3:55 am

      That's true, but I think the archive is searched per default when you perform a search.

  6. Jacob Twitchel
    September 25, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    I have never really used them recently but I probably am going to start to because I didn't know about some of these and I could really use them. Thanks!

  7. Patricia Calvert
    September 25, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I can vividly remember some situations where this would have come in very handy.

    Saving & definitely reading later. Thanks!

  8. Chance McClain
    September 25, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    I use l:unread a million times per day. I know there are apps and scripts and other stuff that will allow me to add an unread button, but I am stubborn. Like a mule. And I type l:unread so much that it makes me crazy.

    • Tina
      September 26, 2012 at 3:54 am

      Why do you do this to yourself, Chance?
      Anyhow, thanks for sharing!

  9. Jack Hecker
    September 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Didn't know about a few of these, thanks for the info!

  10. Deekshith Allamaneni
    September 25, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    I never knew this. Thanks.

  11. GrrGrrr
    September 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    i don't have to use any operators for gmail search.

  12. Samarth Gupta
    September 25, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    Amazing.. Nice to know about the operators.