Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts for Finding Messages in GMail

There are times when we are faced with the daunting task of finding old messages among the hundreds of mails in our inbox. This is worse for people who have multiple email addresses that are not forwarded to a central one. Whatever your case is, this guide will help you find messages faster in your GMail. If you are a Gmail power user, there are a lot of tips to help you use GMail faster, easier and better.

Obviously, the information age has plunged the entire world into an irrepressible consciousness of the need for speed in virtually everything. Unfortunately, the digital age is still evolving and many of us are still learning the best tips and tricks for various platforms. No matter if you’re an online freelancer, customer service representative, marketer,  human resource professional or a normal internet user the inevitable communication via email is increasing by the day. Thus, we all need a sound knowledge of best practices to avoid losing more time.

Tips and Keyboard Shortcuts To Quickly Find Messages in GMail

Instead of trudging through your GMail box for lost messages, it is better to use these simple tricks to narrow down your search. Google, being the king of Internet search, can be trusted to provide intelligent search results.

1. Search Options

The first and the most obvious (but can be forgotten) tool for locating specific messages in GMail is the “Search options”. In search options, you can decide whether to search All Mail, Trash, Inbox, Draft or any other folder. (This is not to be confused with the regular search box)

GMail Advance Search Options

You can search based on subject, content words or phrases, date range as well as whether the message has attachment or not.

2. Search GMail with Operators that Perform Special Actions

A quicker alternative to using Search Options is the use of operators which are query words or symbols that help search GMail based on specified criteria. They let you search for messages based on what you can remember; whether you only remember who a message was sent to, who sent it to you or that it has an attachment.

Here are some handy operators:

from:To locate messages received from a particular personfrom: Obama
( This will show all the messages received from Obama)
to:To locate all the messages you have sent to a particular personto:Clinton (This will show all the messages sent to Clinton)
has:attachmentTo locate messages with attachment. Note that you may need to add another criteria to make this more effectivehas:attachment from: Bush
(This will show all the messages received from Bush that have one or more attachments). You can also use:
has:attachment doc or has:attachment pdf
(To locate all the .doc or .pdf attachments).
in:anywhereWhen you cannot remember the folder a message is stored. This will enable GMail to search all your foldersin:anywhere heart attach first aid
To locate specific messages in your inboxin:inbox from:FBI (This will show all the messages you have received from FBI that are still in your inbox)
subject:When you remember only one or two words from the subject of a mail. You can combine this with other operators to get more narrow resultssubject: Terrorist from: Osama
(This will show only the messages you received from Osama that contain the word Terrorist in the subject)
To locate messages that you have read or not read. This is useful when you need to confirm if you missed any of your client's from:Kennedy (This will show all the unread messages from Kennedy)
filename:To locate specific attachments in your mail.filename:unitedstatesconstitution.pdf (This will show the messages that have PDF attachments named "unitedstatesconstitution").If you are not sure of the file name, simple enter filename:.doc, filename.pdf, filename:
after:yyyy/mm/ddTo locate all the messages after a specified date.after:2011/09/11 from:Bush (This will show only the messages received from Bush after September 9th of 2011).
before:yyyy/mm/ddTo locate all the messages before a specified datebefore: 2005/05/15 to: Obama (This will show only the messages sent to Obama after May 15th, 2005).

3. Scan through Messages in Your Mail Faster and Accurately

When you get your search results, it is important that you run through the results fast and accurately. Using the scroll bar or keyboard scroll keys to run through messages can make you miss one or two. A better way is to use keyboard keys J and K to quickly scroll up and down your received or sent messages. K will go up, while J will go down; and each message will be highlighted with a thin blue line to ensure your eyes do not skip any message.

GMail Keyboard Shortcut for Scroll Through Messages

When you get to a message you want to read, simply enter the letter O on your keyboard to open the message.

4. Scroll Up and Down Message Threads with Shortcuts

When reading through a message with a long conversation thread, you can use N and P to move faster through previous and next messages. Hit the letter P (for previous) to move to the previous message and the letter N (for next) to move to the next message. When you get to a message you want to expand, simply hit O (for open) to open the message.

5. Jump to Different Sections of GMail

As you search through your GMail, you may need to return to your Inbox, Drafts etc. at different points. You do not necessarily have to scroll back to the top or scroll through the categories bar to move from Inbox to Trash. There are keyboard shortcuts to quickly navigate to different folders in GMail.

To turn these case-sensitive shortcuts on or off:

  1. Click the gear icon  in the upper right corner of your inbox, then select Settings.
  2. Choose the option next to “Keyboard shortcuts” to turn them on. You can also enable shortcuts automatically by going to

Here are some handy keyboard shortcuts:

Keyboard ShortcutDestination
G followed by IInbox
G followed by TSent Messages
G followed by AAll Mail
G followed by CContacts
G followed by SStarred Messages
G followed by DDrafts

For a complete list of Gmail Keyboard shortcuts go here.


Hopefully, you have found a few techniques to find lost messages. Be sure to enable Keyboard Shortcuts in your Settings page if you will be using the above shortcuts. Remember, your email messages will only increase; and having this tricks at your finger tips will help you save time and work faster.

Do contribute to this discussion by sharing your thoughts and any tips that you may have in the comments section below.

See Also: