Techie tips: Do you know how to search your emails efficiently?
How to be more efficient searching for emails
How many times have you thought ‘I definitely read that in an email!’ and then spent half an hour unsuccessfully trawling through your inbox? Or lost a payment for a random amount and can’t find where it came from? Wondered if you’ve got an account with a particular business?
If you are using Outlook or Gmail, there are built in search features that can make finding those bits of lost and lurking information much easier. The search box in Outlook is at the top of your inbox:
In Gmail, it looks like this:
1. Using search parameters
Narrow you search by using the information you can remember! Know who the email was from? Sure of the subject line or some identifying words in the message? Was there an attachment? You can use these parameters to begin with.
Here’s an example. I got an email from Bob about a month ago, sending me over a file I’d asked for, but I didn’t get round to reading it and now I need it ASAP. I’m going to search from:email@example.com and then click ‘has attachments’ in the toolbar. All email just from bob’s email address, which have attachments, will appear.
You can use all of the following search terms in this way:
Type your search criteria after the : without a space.
2. General searching using unique terms
When you type a word into the search box, outlook will search every part of every email for a match, including to/from email addresses, and the signature – e.g. if you search ‘bob’, it will also return results for bobby, bobbin, thingamabob, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc.
Think carefully before selecting your search term. If Bob’s surname is Schinken, and you only know one person with the surname Schinken, search this part of their name instead of Bob. If you are searching for a transaction, search by the amount, e.g. a notepad that cost £2.34, search 2.34.
3. Searching for an exact phrase
If you search the words ‘arriving at 9am Monday’, Outlook or Gmail will search for all of those terms individually, returning far too many results. To search for an exact phrase, add double quote marks either side, like this: “arriving at 9am Monday”. This will return only exact matches for the whole phrase.
4. Bonus tip!
One final note – if in doubt, use the advanced search panel.
As soon as you click in the search box, the search toolbar will appear in the panel above. You can use this to select other options, such as when the email was sent or receives, which folders to search, and more.
Searching in Gmail is just like searching in Google (and most of the tips above apply to general internet searches too). To the right of the search bar, you’ll see a small black arrow. Click this arrow and the search menu will drop down.