Ok, you're probably used to sorting messages in your Inbox by name, subject, date and so on, and wondering how to do the same in Gmail. Fortunately, it's really easy! Instead of sorting messages, however, you search for them. Searching is easy, and it's much more powerful than sorting - once you learn a few tricks! In this tip, we'll look at using keyword searches to help you quickly find messages from a specific person or with a specific subject.


Perform a basic keyword search

Let's warm up with a basic search. Say you want to find messages from a specific person, like Ben. You could search for the word Ben and find messages from him. But you'd probably find a lot of other messages, too. Specifically, you'd find :

  1. Messages from anyone named Ben
  2. Messages you've sent to Ben
  3. Messages containing the word "ben."
  4. And a notice of messages in your Trash that are to, from or contain the word "ben." (Note: Deleted messages remain in the trash for 30 days before being deleted permanently.)

Search for messages from an individual

But you don't want to find all those other messages; you just want the ones from Ben. To narrow down your search, you can use keywords. The keyword from:, for example, lets you find messages from a specific person (just as if you were sorting messages in your old mail system).

To begin, type from: in the Gmail search bar. As you type, Gmail opens a list of matching keywords. Select  'from:' from the list or just keep typing. Next, begin typing the person's email address or name. If it's someone you've emailed in the past, Gmail lists matching addresses (so you don't have to type the whole thing). Otherwise, just keep typing the entire name or email address. You don't have to capitalize the name but can enter upper- or lowercase letters.

Tip: To find all messages you sent, including drafts, enter 'from:me' in the search field. You can also view the messages you've sent but not deleted in the Sent Mail label and all drafts in the Drafts label.

Search for messages by subject

To find message by subject, use the subject: keyword. For example, type subject:Miller to find all messages with the text "Miller" anywhere in the subject line. 

Search for messages by subject and from a specific person

You can combine keywords to narrow down your search even further. This example searches for all messages with the word "report" in the subject line that are also from from Ben. Note that subject:report is separated fromfrom:ben by a space. (Gmail automatically inserts an implicit 'AND' between the two items.)

Search for messages by subject and from one or another person

Now let's find messages with report in the subject that's from either Ben or Dudley. When searching for this person or that person, or this item or that item, enter the operator OR, which must be entered in uppercase letters. 

Easily learn search operators

Gmail can help you learn search operators if you open its search options box. (1) Click the small gray down-arrow at the right of the search bar. (2) Select search options in the various fields and (3) click the search button. (4) Gmail then displays the equivalent search keywords in the search bar. 

Tip: You can also print out our handy Search keywords reference sheet? The flip side contains Gmail keyboard shortcuts.