7 Google Drive Search Tips to Help You Find Anything

Mihir Patkar 18-12-2015

Google Drive is brilliant. You get 15+ GB of free storage, a free online office suite, and it integrates with Gmail to boost your email experience. But that means your Drive has a whole bunch of files. How do you find the right one? With these Drive search tricks and tips.


For a long time, Drive offered only basic search tools, which is ironic considering this is a Google app. But recently, the search tools were upgraded and now it’s easier than ever to locate a file. Plus, remember, Google Drive can look into images and PDFs to “read” those and find content in them as well.

1. Search by File Type or Extension

You want to browse all the spreadsheets in Google Drive? Click or tap the search bar and you’ll see a list of different file types.

  • PDFs
  • Text documents
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations
  • Photos and images
  • Videos
  • Audio
  • Archive
  • Drawings
  • Folders

Note: If you’re using Google Drive on a desktop, you’ll need to click the little drop-down arrow in the search bar or More search tools, and then click Type to see the last four options.


This method shows you all file extensions in a certain category. For example, you can’t separate a PNG from a JPEG in photos, or an OGG from an MP4 in videos. However, Google Drive has a simple method to do that: an old command line classic.


Enter *. followed by the file extension, and search to find all files with that extension.

For example: *.png for all PNG files, or *.MP4 for all MP4 files.

2. Search by Date

Google Drive always lets you sort and manage files 7 Really Simple Tips To Manage Your Files And Folders On Google Drive There’s a lot you can do with 15GB of free storage. Ultimately, managing it well means knowing how to handle the files and folders you will keep on Google Drive. These tips help. Read More by date, but what about when you need to find files within a specific range. For example, when you’re doing your taxes, you might need to find certain files from a particular month or week.

In the More search tools on desktop and the default search options on mobile, you will find a few preset date ranges that you can use:

  • Today
  • Yesterday
  • Last 7 days
  • Last 30 days
  • Last 90 days

Note: This uses the time that a file was last modified. You cannot sort files by when they were created.



Desktop: To define a custom date range, click the last option Customized and use the two calendars to find files between the two dates.

Mobile: You’ll need to use a text command as there’s no Customized option here. Google Drive recognizes two self-explanatory commands for dates: before and after. The date itself needs to be put in the format yyyy-mm-dd. And you can use both commands together to find a range between them.

For files modified before a specific date:



For files modified after a specific date:


For files modified during a specific date range:

After:2015-04-22 Before:2015-10-18


3. Search by Owner or Who It Was Shared With

Cloud-based office suites can share files easily, but managing shared files on Google Drive 10 Tips for Managing Shared Files on Google Drive Are you still learning the ropes of Google Drive? Here are several tips to help manage your files on Google Drive better. Read More isn’t that easy. At least you can now search with those parameters.

In the More search tools on desktop, you have two ways to filter based on people.

  • Owner: Files owned (or created) by you, not owned by you, and those owned by a specific person. You’ll need to have that person’s email address though.
  • Shared with: Files that are shared with a certain person. Again, you’ll need to have that person’s email address.


Weirdly, in this method, Google Drive does not auto-complete email addresses based on your contact book. Google Contacts is a cool new Gmail feature What's New in Good Old Gmail? 5 Features You Should Check Out You might have missed out on a few new features Gmail has gradually added in the past year. So let's look at what deserves our attention. Read More , so this is surprising, to say the least. However, using specific search commands instead of the More search tools box, you can get those auto-suggestions, and search by owner on your mobile.

Files received from someone else: Use from: followed by an email address. For example, for all files sent to me by my imaginary colleague Donald Duck, I’ll use the command:

Files sent to someone else: Use to: followed by an email address. For example, for all files sent to Daisy, I’ll use the command:

Files owned/created by someone else: Use owner: followed by an email address. For example, for all files owned by Donald, I’ll use the command:

All these commands can be used in the same search string too. So if I want to find files sent to me by Justin and also shared with Tina, a search command would look like:

4. Search by Title, or Inside Files (Including Images and PDFs)

By default, when you type any word in Google Drive, it’s looking for that word in file names as well as their content. While it’s easy to do that with text files, not many people know that Google Drive has built-in optical character recognition (OCR) to read text in images The 5 Best OCR Tools for Extracting Text from Images When you have reams of paper, how do you get all that printed text converted into something that a digital program will be able to recognize and index? Keep a good OCR software close by. Read More . This property also lets you search text within PDFs 10 Tips to Do More With Your PDF Files on Google Drive Google Drive is a full-featured office suite. Some of its key features include the PDF capabilities built into the cloud app. Read More .

Not only that, but Google’s smart algorithms can also identify the contents of an image! For example, when I search “dog”, it can identify photos of dogs in my Drive, even if the title, description, or tags don’t say “dog” anywhere.


It’s tremendously useful, but sometimes, it leads to cluttered results. When you just want file titles containing that word and not full files, use the advanced search tools on desktop to find the Item name box and type your keyword. It will find all files that contain this word as part of the file name and not the content.

On mobiles, you can use the title: command. For example, to search for files with the word “dog” in the file name and not in the file content itself, the command would be:


5. All Google Drive Search Commands

Apart from the aforementioned operators, some of the best Google search commands and tricks The Best Google Search Cheat Sheet: Tips, Operators, and Commands to Know These special Google search tips, operators, and commands will help you narrow down your search results and always get the exact results you're looking for. Read More have made their way to Drive. You can use multiple operators or commands in a single search string to find the best possible result. Just separate them with a space.


Use quotes when you want to search for an exact phrase. For example:

Search term: “Exactly the words between these two quotes.”

Result: Files that have the exact term “exactly the words between these two quotes.”

Use the word or to find matches with one of multiple words used. For example:

Search term: Dogs or Cats or Dinosaurs

Result: All files with the word “dogs”, and those with the word “cats”, and those with the word “dinosaurs”.

Use the  sign for files without a certain word. For example:

Search term: Android Samsung

Result: All files with the word “Android” but without the word “Samsung”.

Use app to find files that can be opened with Google Drive integrated apps Making the Most of Google Drive With Integrated Apps Google Drive can be used to sync files between your computers, but that’s just one of its many features. Google wants Google Drive to be your new cloud hard drive, accessible from any device. To... Read More . For example:

Search time: app:PicMonkey

Result: All files that can be opened with the web-based PicMonkey app.

You can find all the Google Drive search operators here, under the header “Advanced search in Drive.”

6. Searching Drive on Android


On Android, Google Drive can search by voice using Google Now OK, Google: 20 Useful Things You Can Say to Your Android Phone Google Assistant can help you get a lot done on your phone. Here are a whole bunch of basic but useful OK Google commands to try. Read More . Fire up the Drive or your default Google Now search bar. Tap the microphone icon, then say Search Drive for and your keywords out loud. Drive will show you the results in a few seconds.

7. Searching Drive on iOS


If you have the Google Drive app installed on your iPhone or iPad, you can use the iOS universal search bar.

If you have a new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, then the killer 3D Touch feature Why 3D Touch Might Make You Switch to an iPhone Android fans: we can no longer claim we have the best smartphone. Read More comes into play. You can 3D Touch the Drive icon on the home screen to access recent files or search.

Have You Switched to Google Drive?

I have almost completely switched to Google Drive The Only Google Drive Guide You'll Ever Need to Read Google Drive is the perfect combination of online file storage and document management tools. We explain how to best use Google Drive on- and offline, by yourself and in collaboration with others. Read More now, both for its office suite as well as the excellent cloud storage.

Have you switched? What do you love about Google Drive or what holds you back? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Related topics: Google Drive, Google Search, OCR.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Tarun Gupta
    July 18, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    I just purchased 100 GB of GDrive storage. Per this article I should be able to search for text within images. I am unable to get that feature to work. I have 100s of screen shot of my iPhone with clearly legible printed text, but GDrive cannot find any of this text in Chrome browser or iPhone.

    What am I doing wrong?

  2. Anonymous
    December 19, 2015 at 4:15 am

    All these commands can be used in the same search string too. So if I want to find files sent to me by Justin and also shared with Tina, a search command would look like:

    Do their voices reflect their secret code names here? :D

    • Anonymous
      December 19, 2015 at 4:31 am

      Great article, Mihir.

      I'm full-force in GDrive, and my number one favorite feature is that any of my files saved in Google Docs format and all of my thousands of photos saved in 2048x2048 standard Google format, use a grand total of --> ZERO <-- storage. Has anyone really thought about the enormity of that?

      After I finish converting many previous files from standard formats to Google formats I'll probably have well less than 1GB of visibly used storage. The only files that will remain are certain PDF's (like extremely large eBooks), but even then if I chose to expend the effort I could split them up and convert them to GDocs format also.

      Microsoft OneDrive just can't compete with that.

      • Mihir Patkar
        December 28, 2015 at 9:40 am

        Thanks! GDocs supports PDF though, so what conversation are you talking about here?

      • Anonymous
        December 28, 2015 at 4:55 pm

        Sorry, I wasn't very clear on where the quote (which I also failed to put IN quotes), came from in the article. :)

        Yeah, I've got many PDF's stored in GDocs format, but I'm so picky I guess. I hate having to split them up into multiple 20 page files...I like my PDF's all in one piece, so if they're longer than 20 pages, I've just been leaving them in PDF format instead of converting to free storage. I know everything comes at a cost, but I wish the limitation on page quantity wasn't one of them lol.

    • Mihir Patkar
      December 28, 2015 at 9:39 am

      Hahah Justin LOOKS like Donald Duck. I'll show him this comment.