Mobility

How to use powerful search operators in the Gmail app

Enjoy the power at your fingertips to enjoy a more effective search with the Gmail app.

Now that Inbox is finished, the Gmail app will return to being the de facto standard for most Android user. Fear not, intrepid Android fans, the Gmail app offers plenty of features that can satisfy even the power users among you. One such feature is search operators.

That's right, there's a bit of hidden goodness found in the Gmail search feature. It empowers your Gmail app searches in ways you probably never imagined possible. This added search feature comes without having to install a single third-party app or change any configurations in the app itself. Everything is ready to go. All you need to do is know how to make use of the search operators.

SEE: Cost comparison tool: Google Apps vs. Office 365 (Tech Pro Research)

How search operators are used

To make use of the search operators, just open the Gmail app and tap on the search button in the upper left corner of the window. Once the search bar pops up, you can then type the operator you want to use.

The operators

There are actually quite a few search operators available to use. I'll demonstrate a few very useful operators that will get you going.

First off, let's say you want to view emails only from a specific sender. You can do this two ways, by name or email address. Say our sender's name is Olivia and her email address is olivia@example.com. To search via name, you could enter the following in the Gmail app search bar:

from:Olivia

To search via email address, you could enter:

from:olivia@example.com

Say you want to list out emails from two different senders (say, Olivia and Nathan). This search operator looks like:

From:Olivia OR from:Nathan

What if you want to view only emails that include attachments? There's an operator for that as well:

has:attachment

What if you're looking for email that includes an attachment from (or link to) Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, or Slides? That's possible with the following operators:

has:drive
has:document
has:spreadsheet
has:presentation

Since Google owns YouTube, you can even view messages that include a YouTube video like so:

has:youtube

If you're looking for messages that were sent by date, you can use the after, before, older, and newer operators like so:

after:DATE
before:DATE
older:DATE
newer:DATE

where DATE is in the form YYYY/MM/DD.

But what if you need to search for a range of time? There are two operators that make this possible, older_than and newer_than. Say you want to view only messages sent within the last five days. To do that, enter the following in the search field:

newer_than:5d

Or, if you're looking for emails that are older than a year, you could enter:

older_than:1y

You can even filter messages based on a single word. Say you want to view every message that contains the word "linux." To do that, the operator is:

+linux

There are many more operators you can employ for this feature. Check out the official documentation here.

The caveat

There always seems to be at least one caveat. In this case, the search operators feature really only works well using a Gmail account. In other words, if you have an IMAP account configured in the Gmail app, the search operators feature will function, but the results won't be nearly as accurate as they are when using them with a Gmail account.

Enjoy a more powerful search

You now have the power at your fingertips to enjoy a much more powerful search with the Gmail app. If your Gmail inbox overflows with messages, and you can't find what you're looking for, these operators should make that task achievable.

Also See

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Image: Google

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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