Chapter 4: Store and organize mail

Table of contents

Use Labels to organize by class or subject

Folders vs. Labels

Default Labels

Create and edit Labels

‘Label’ your email

Remove Labels from email

Organize Labels

Nested labels

Customize labels with color

Star important messages

Add a star


Archive vs. deleting messages


Archive or unarchive messages

Delete messages

Automate your inbox with filters and templates


Create a filter to automatically mark messages

Create a filter to automatically respond to messages

Change a filter

Advanced filters

Priority Inbox


How importance ranking works

Train your importance ranking

To change your inbox style:

Forward mail to a different address

Automatically forward all messages

Automatically forward some messages

Search tips for finding email

Search overview

Advanced search

Search within a Label

Find a missing message

Search autofill

Use Labels to organize by class or subject

Folders vs. Labels

Apps mail doesn't use folders. Instead, to help you organize your mail more effectively, Apps mail uses "labels".

Basically, labels do all the work folders do and give you an extra bonus: you can add more than one to a message.

There is no limit to how many labels you can apply to an email. And, because Apps mail aggregates all related email messages into "conversations", when you label one message in the conversation, you automatically apply the labels to all the messages in the conversation.

You can view all the messages related to a label by clicking on the label name in the left side of your Apps mail window.


Suppose you receive an email from a student about his final research paper. With a folder system, you have only one choice where to "file" your email message - under "Students" or under "Research Projects" With labels, you can create several categories of organization and apply multiple labels onto an email. In this case, the email can have both the "Students" label where you keep emails from students and the "Research Projects" label where you keep emails regarding research projects. Now, to access the message, you can click on either of the labels you applied. If you click "Students" you will see all the messages that you have tagged with the "Students"  label. If you click "Research Papers," you will see only the messages you have tagged with the "Research Paper" label.

Here's a breakdown of why we think labels are better than folders:



A conversation can have more than one label

You can only put a message in one folder

A conversation can be in several locations (Inbox, All Mail, Sent Mail, etc.) at once, making it easier to find later

You have to remember where you filed a message to retrieve it

You can search conversations by label

You can't always do folder-specific searches

If you delete a label, you do not delete the messages associated with it.

Default Labels

Apps mail has created several labels automatically with your account. These include

  1. Inbox shows your conversations (the number in parentheses indicates how many unread conversations you have).
  2. Starred shows you only messages you've marked with a star (use stars to mean whatever you'd like). Assign stars to special conversations or messages, or use them as a visual reminder that you need to follow-up on a message or conversation later. To apply a star, click the "star" next to a message or if you use keyboard shortcuts, use 's'.
  3. Chats lists your archived Chat conversations.
  4. Sent Mail shows messages you've sent.
  5. Drafts houses messages you've started and saved to work on later.
  6. All Mail is all the mail you have sent or received, regardless if it is still in the inbox or not.
  7. Spam is where we send the messages we think are suspicious.
  8. Trash is where messages you delete end up; you can empty the trash whenever you feel like it.

Please note: You cannot change the names of these labels, but you can choose which labels display along the left side of your mailbox.

Create and edit Labels

Once you've created a label, you can view all the messages with that label by searching, or by clicking the label name along the left side of any Apps mail page.

You can start using labels to organize your email to make it easier to find the messages related to topics of your choosing. You could create labels for messages sent from parents or students in different classes, a label for emails coming from a core group of people like the Planning committee, labels for transactions, enewsletters, etc. Think of labels as a way to navigate through your inbox by category instead of chronologically as it is typically listed.

To start organizing and categorizing your email, create a label:

  1. Click the Labels drop-down menu or if you have keyboard shortcuts enabled, type 'l'.
  2. Enter the name of your new label and click Ok.
  3. You can also go to Settings and click the Labels tab.
  4. Enter name of your new label in the "Create a label" box and click Create.

If you'd like to keep organized, you can remove a labeled conversation from your inbox by archiving it and view it later by clicking All Mail, or by clicking the label name along the left side of any Apps mail page (it may be in the 'More' section of your labels).

You can also change a label name without impacting the messages associated with the label. All the messages categorized under your old label name will now be categorized under your new label.

You can edit a label through both the Labels list or the Labels tab of your Gmail Settings.

To edit a label through your Labels list, follow these steps:

  1. Click the square to the right of a label in your Labels list.
  2. A color palette and label options menu opens. Click Edit
  3. Enter the new label name, and click OK.

To edit a label through the Labels tab of your Apps mail Settings, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Settings link on the top of any Apps mail page.
  2. Select the Labels tab.
  3. Hover over the current label name and click on the name. A cursor should appear that allows you to edit the current label name.
  4. Click away from the label name and the edited name will be saved and updated.

All the messages categorized under your old label name are now categorized under your new label. And, if the label you've edited is part of a filter, Gmail automatically updates your filter settings so new messages are categorized with the new label's name.

‘Label’ your email

You can add labels to your email from the inbox view or when viewing a message or conversation.

To apply a label to a message in the inbox view, follow these steps:

  1. Select the checkbox next to the message(s) you want to label.
  2. Select the label name from the Labels icon drop-down menu (or you can label a single message while you're reading it by using the drop-down menu or the keyboard shortcut L).  
  3. You can select multiple labels from this menu.
  4. Click Apply to add the labels to the message.

Another way you can add labels is by dragging:

  1. You can also drag a Label's name onto the message.
  2. You can also drag a message to a label's name to move that message to a label.  When you drag the message onto a label the label is applied and the message is archived. This is the same action as using the "Move To" function. If you would like to apply multiple labels, drag the message again to the other label names.

When you are reading a message, you can also add a label by selecting the label name from the Labels icon drop-down menu.

If you would like to "move" your email message to your label and out of the inbox, use the Move to button and label drop down menu. This is the same action as if you applied a label and archived the message.

Remove Labels from email

You can remove labels from messages while in the inbox view or from the conversation view.

To remove a label from a message message while in the Inbox view:

  1. Select the checkbox next to the message(s)
  2. Uncheck the label name(s) from the Labels icon drop-down menu (or you can label a single message while you're reading it by using the drop-down menu or the keyboard shortcut L). If you are within a list of documents for a label, you can even select the Remove label button.
  3. You can uncheck multiple labels from this menu

When you are reading a message, there are 2 ways to remove a label:

  1. Uncheck the label name from the Labels button drop-down menu.
  2. Click the 'x' next to the label name alongside the subject of the email at the top of the message.

Organize Labels

Apps mail automatically selects the labels that you view most frequently to show up in the list on the left.  

You can access your full list of labels by clicking the "X more" link at the bottom of the list.

You have control over the list of labels: if you would like to view more or all your labels without clicking the link at the bottom, or you would like to remove a label that appears.

You can access your label settings in 3 different ways:

  1. Click the "More" link at the bottom of your label list and click Manage labels

  2. Click the Labels icon and select Manage labels from the drop down

  3. Click the Settings gear, choose Mail settings then the Labels tab

To customize if the label is displayed in your full label list:

  1. Click on the Labels tab of your mail Settings.
  2. Click the show or hide link next to each label to choose whether it's listed. Certain labels also have the option to be show only if unread.
  3. Or, if you see a label you don't need anymore, you can always click remove. (You'll have to confirm that you'd like to remove the label by clicking OK).

To customize the short list of labels on the left:

  1. Click the label you would like to move (either from the visible list or from the "More" list)
  2. Drag the label into the desired section: the visible list or the "More" list.

Nested labels

Labels are a great way of organizing your email; nested labels give you the ability to organize labels hierarchically. To start using them, you can either create a new sub-label from the dropdown menu on the left hand side or just move an existing label under another one using the edit option:

Customize labels with color

You can also add colors to your labels that will make it easier to find messages in your inbox.

To change the color of a label:

  1. In your Labels list, click the square to the right of a label.
  2. Select a color from the palette that appears. Changes will be instantly reflected in Gmail.

You can remove a color by selecting Remove color at the bottom of the color palette. You can also add custom colors by clicking the Add custom color link and

Star important messages

Add a star

You can easily flag important messages using "Stars" in gmail. You can assign stars to special conversations or messages, or use them as a visual reminder that you need to follow-up on a message or conversation later.

To star a message from your inbox, click the star icon located to the left of the sender's name on a message:

You can also use the keyboard shortcut "s" key to quickly add a star.

To star a message from the message view by clicking the star icon next to reply button in a message.

Please note: Stars apply to a single message within a conversation. When you star one message in a conversation, that message will automatically be open when you open the conversation next.

You can search for particular stars using "has:" with the star's name (you can find these names on the General tab of the Settings; just hover your mouse over each star icon). For example, you can search for "has:blue-star", "has:red-bang", or "has:orange-guillemet".


You can also choose to use multiple types of stars to indicate different types of messages. For example, use a green star for messages where you need a reply, or the exclamation mark for messages that you need to follow up on. You can access up to 12 star icons.

To turn on these additional icons, follow these steps

  1. Click the Gear icon in the upper-right corner of Gmail.
  2. Click Mail settings.
  3. On the General tab, find the Stars section. There, you can select the number of stars you'd like in your rotation.
  4. Use the Presets to choose from 1 star, 4 stars, or all stars simply drag the stars you wish to use from the “Note in use:” area to the “In use:” area.
  5. Drag the stars into the order you wish them to appear.
  6. To use one of these stars on a message, click on the star next to email message at the top or use the (‘s’) keyboard shortcut. The stars will rotate in the order you place them when you click successively.

Use the search operator "has:" to find all messages with your superstar (e.g. "has:red-bang", "has:blue-star").

Learn the name of a superstar by hovering over its image in the "General" Settings page.

Add a Quick Link to bookmark your search so you don’t have to remember the names of the stars.

Archive vs. deleting messages


With 25 GBs of email storage in Google Apps Education Edition available for free, you will most likely not need to delete email messages to stay under storage quota. Keeping all your messages has advantages - you can keep and search for years of email - but with all of that storage, organization for your email is important to find messages quickly. Labels is a way to categorize all your email messages. Archiving is a way to organize your Inbox - the main view of Apps Mail.

You do not need to keep the thousands of messages in your Inbox to save them in your Apps Mail account. The "Archive" feature in Apps Mail can be used to move messages out of your Inbox and into your All Mail label, letting you tidy up your inbox without deleting anything. All Mail is your archive, a storage place for all the mail you've ever sent or received, but have not deleted. You can see a list of archived messages by clicking All Mail. Archived messages are also available by searching, and under any assigned labels.

When someone responds to a message you've archived, the conversation containing that message will reappear in your inbox.

Deleting a message, on the other hand, moves a message into the Trash label. If you do not move the message out of trash for 30 days, Apps mail will automatically delete that message. Your message will not be available in All Mail, any labels you applied, or in search results. The email will no longer exist in any capacity. If you would like to find an email before it has been completely deleted, you can search for it using search operators or the advanced search options. Make sure to use the search query 'in:anywhere" when looking for mail in the trash.



Suppose you received an email message regarding an end of the year brunch. After reading the email once, you Archive the message because you don't need to read it again or have it sit in your inbox. A week before the event, you want to double check the event information. To do that, you click in All Mail and locate the message. Let's say 2 days later, the organizer sends out another email changing the date. That email will appear in your Inbox  in the conversation format, where you can see the original message and the new message in one view. Even though you archived the original message, the conversation reappears in your inbox because a new message came in. While archiving moves the message out of the main inbox view, you will not miss any new messages that are part of the conversation.

Here's why we think archiving a message is better than deleting:



A message is no longer in your Inbox view

A message is no longer in your Inbox view or anywhere else.

A message is stored in All Mail for all time

A message is in Trash for 30 days, then deleted forever

A message is available in labels

A message is not in the labels

A message shows up in search

A message does not show up in search after 30 days because it no longer exists. Before the 30 day mark, can be searched only with the 'in:anywhere' search operator

Archive or unarchive messages

You can move messages out of your inbox but still store them for later in All Mail by using the Archive function.

To archive messages:

  1. Select a message(es) by checking the box(es) next to the sender's name.
  2. Click the Archive button at the top of your inbox, or use the 'y' key if you have keyboard shortcuts enabled.

If you have a conversation or email message opened, you can archive it by clicking the Archive button at the top of the page, or by using the 'y' key if you have keyboard shortcuts enabled.

If you archived a message but now want it to appear again in your inbox view you either search for the message or browse all your messages. To browse all your mail, follow these steps:

  1. Click All Mail (If you do not see it on the left side of your Apps mail page, then it is in the 'More' labels menu)
  2. From the list of messages, check the box next to the sender's name. You can also follow this step if you performed a search for the message you wished to recover.
  3. Click the Move to Inbox button.

You can also move a message you previously archived back to your inbox if you have the email message open. To do this, click the Move to Inbox button at the top of the message.

Delete messages

Apps Mail lets you delete either an entire conversation or one message from a conversation. Deleted messages are a lot like the stuff in the trash can in your kitchen: eventually, it's all going in the big dumpster outside, but for a little while, you can still rummage through it if you lost something important. Gmail will empty messages from your Trash automatically after 30 days, or you can permanently delete messages yourself.

Remember, if you delete a message and it is emptied from your Trash, you will no longer find the email message in any label, in All Mail, or in search results.

  1. Open the message (or select the checkbox next to it).
  2. Click the Delete button to move the message to Trash.
  1. Open the conversation and find the message in question.
  2. Click the down arrow next to Reply, at the top right of the message pane.
  3. Click Delete this message.

Oh no! I've made a terrible mistake! I want that message back!

It's okay. Just after you delete a message from the inbox view, a yellow bar with an Undo discard link appears at the top of the page. If you click it, your message will be moved from Trash back to its original location.

If you delete a message from the conversation view, you will not see the yellow bar. As long as your change of heart occurs within 30 days of deleting the message, you can also retrieve it from Trash by clicking Trash, selecting the message in question, and clicking Move to Inbox. This won't work if you've already permanently deleted the message, though.

No, really. I don't even like having that message in my Trash. Please take it away.

Once a message is in Trash, Gmail will delete it in 30 days, but you're more than welcome to delete it permanently yourself.

  1. Click Trash along the left side of any Gmail page.
  2. Check the box next to the message you'd like to permanently delete.
  3. Click Delete Forever. This time, it's really gone forever.

Automate your inbox with filters and templates


Filters analyze emails as they receive and perform certain actions on the messages such as labeling, archiving, deleting, starring, or forwarding your mail. Filters even keep messages you want out of Spam. Once you set-up a filter, Apps mail does this all automatically based on a combination of keywords, sender, recipients, and more.

Apps mail does not have a limit to the number of filters you can create, so you can create as many filters as you want - for labeling emails from distribution lists, for labeling emails from certain individuals, for starring emails with attachments, etc. Please note: You can create an unlimited number of filters, but only 20 filters can forward to other addresses. You can maximize your filtered forwarding by combining filters that send to the same address.

Basically, filters are an automatic organization system that let you tell Apps mail how to handle your email based on who it's from, who it's addressed to, or the subject or message content it contains.


Suppose you receive weekly email newsletters titled "Math Round-up" from the school math department. You have already created labels for "Math Department"  and for "School Newsletters" which you use for these newsletters. These are not particularly important emails that need to appear in your inbox so you would like them to be Archived as they are received so that they will skip the inbox, but to be available every time you click on the "Math department" or "School newsletters" labels.  Apps mail can do this automatically with a custom filter.

You set-up a filter that detects the common subject "Math Round-up," and specify that you want to have the "Math department" and "School newsletters" labels applied to these messages, and to Archive the messages so they don't appear in the inbox view. After you set-up the filter, every week when the "Math Round-up" newsletter is sent, it goes directly to your "Math department" and "School newsletter" labels without going to your inbox first. After 2 weeks, you check your "Math department" label and see 2 "Math Round-up" newsletters unread within the label.

Create a filter to automatically mark messages

Filters let Apps mail perform certain actions on your messages based on criteria you provide.

Want to apply a star to each of the 3000 messages from the school principal all at once? Here's how you would do it without filters:

  1. Select the Label name - in this case it could be a label you have for messages from the school principal (or, your Inbox, or Sent Mail, etc) containing the messages you'd like to select.
  2. Click the Select: All link above your messages.
  3. Click the link that says Select all [number] conversations in [current view].
  4. Select the action you'd like to take from the More... drop-down menu.

That's easy enough for conversations that are already categorized where you want them, but what about the 200 messages scattered throughout your inbox related to Unit Test planning you sent or received over the past month? No problem. Just create a new filter so that Apps mail can automatically find the messages, by following these steps:

  1. Click the Settings icon (at the top-right of any Apps mail page) and select Mail settings.
  2. Click Filters
  3. Click Create a new filter (at the bottom of your filter list)
  4. Enter your filter criteria, for example, 'subject contains: Unit test'.
  5. Click Create filter with this search to select actions that should apply if an email is received with your search term(s).
  6.  Select one or more actions from the list. (Fun fact: these actions will take place in the order they're listed -- for example, you could choose to Forward matching messages to a specific email address, then Delete the messages).
  7. Presuming you'd like to apply this filter to the messages you already have (rather than only to new messages), select the 'Also apply filter to [X] matching conversations' checkbox.
  8. Click Create Filter.

You can also create a filter based on characteristics of the message you're reading. For example, if you receive emails from a school mailing list (e.g., you can easily filter messages like those. Or if you receive several emails with the same subject, you can also start with an email message to create a filter.

To create a filter from within a message you're currently reading, just follow these steps:

  1. Click the More button at the top of the message.
  2. Select Filter messages like this.
  3. Enter your filter criteria in the appropriate field(s). Apps mail will try to automatically add the criteria based on the message you were reading, such as the mailing list name or sender email address.
  4. Click Create filter with this search and then select the actions you would like Apps mail to perform on these message - for example it could add the 'Math Teachers' label and archive it so the message is moved out of the inbox.
  5. You can apply the filter to messages you already have by clicking the 'Also apply filter to [X] matching conversations' checkbox.
  6. Click Create Filter.

Create a filter to automatically respond to messages

You can also save some time and use filters to automatically send an email template you created. For example, if parents are sending you a signed permission slip as an attachment, you can send an automated response each time you receive the permission slip to acknowledge that it was received.  

Please note:  You must have Apps mail Labs enabled and the 'Canned Responses' labs enabled  for this to work. For more information about Apps mail labs and email templates, please review the lesson in Chapter 2.

To use a filter to send automatic email responses, follow these steps:

  1. Select the criteria for your filter (review the previous step on how to create a filter)
  2. Click Create filter with this search and then select the checkbox next to Send canned response:
  3. Select from the drop down the 'Canned Response' or email template you would like to use. (Don't have any? Review Chapter 2 for a lesson on how to create an email template.

Now whenever a message meets your filter criteria, an email will be sent automatically to the sender.

Change a filter

Once you have created a filter, you can easily modify the settings to change the criteria - how Apps mail selects the messages -  or actions - how Apps mail handles the messages.

To edit or delete existing filters, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Settings icon (at the top-right of any Apps mail page) and select Mail settings.
  2. Click Filters.
  3. Find the filter you'd like to change and click its edit link, or click delete to remove the filter.
  4. If you're editing the filter, enter the updated criteria for the filter in the appropriate fields, and click Continue.
  5. Update any actions and click Update Filter.

Advanced filters

Apps Mail's advanced operators will help you make your search and filter criteria more specific.

You can use one filter to manage messages from a number of different email addresses. For example, if you wanted to create a filter for all emails received from just math teachers or just one grade level of teachers, you could enter in the email addresses of those teachers into the filter.

To create a filter for categorizing emails from select email addresses, follow these steps:

  1. Find the Search box at the top of any Gmail page and select the down arrow.
  2. An advanced search menu will open up. Enter each email address in the From: field, separated by OR. Make sure to add parentheses around everything listed in the From: field.

  3. Enter all other message criteria in the appropriate fields, and click Create filter with this search.
  4. Check the box next to the action you'd like the messages to take.
  5. Click Create Filter.

For example, to create a filter for messages from '' and messages that contain the subject line 'Meeting Reminder,' you can enter ' OR subject:'meeting reminder' in the 'Has the words:' field.

To clarify your filter criteria with advanced operators, follow these steps:

  1. Find the Search box at the top of any Gmail page and select the down arrow.
  2. Enter your filter criteria. In the 'Has the words:' field, you can use any advanced operators to filter messages meeting various criteria. Please note that the 'or' function in Gmail is represented by 'OR,' and the 'not' function is represented by a minus (-). You also can use quotes (" ") to specify an exact phrase.
  3. Click 'Create filter from this search' and select the action you'd like these messages to take.
  4. Click 'Create Filter.'

You can check out a list of Gmail's advanced operators here.

* Check out search as you have never seen it before. Gmail Theater presents an ensemble cast of engineers in The Isle of Lost Emails. Watch the video on YouTube. *

Priority Inbox


Priority Inbox can help save you time if you’re overwhelmed with the amount of email you get. It attempts to automatically identify your important incoming messages and separates them out from everything else. Gmail uses a variety of signals to prioritize your incoming messages, including who you’ve emailed and chatted with most and which keywords appear frequently in the messages you opened recently.

When you click the Priority Inbox navigation link on the left-hand side of your mail, you’ll see messages grouped in three sections: Important and unread, Starred, and Everything else.

If Priority Inbox mistakes an email as important or doesn’t flag one that’s important to you, you can teach it to make better selections. Just select the message in question, and click the “mark as important” or “mark as not important” button; they’re the buttons with plus and minus icons just to the left of the Move to and Labels drop-down menus.

When you mark a message as not important, it will move out of the Important section. Over time Priority Inbox will learn what’s important to you and incorporate the feedback you give via these buttons.

Note: Priority Inbox is not fully available in Gmail on a mobile device. Learn more.

>> Learn more about Priority Inbox

How importance ranking works

To predict which of your incoming messages are important, Gmail automatically takes into account a number of signals, including:

Train your importance ranking

If a certain type of message isn’t getting classified correctly, help train Gmail to classify messages more accurately.

If a message has been incorrectly marked as important, click the yellow importance marker next to the sender's name in your message list. It will become an empty outline of a marker.

If a message has been incorrectly marked as unimportant, click the empty marker so it becomes yellow.

When you mark a message, it will move to the appropriate section. This will help Gmail learn what you care about most.

To change your inbox style:

  1. Click the gear icon  at the top of your Gmail page, and choose Mail settings.
  2. Select the Inbox tab.
  3. In the “Inbox type” section, select an inbox style in the drop-down menu.

You can also quickly change your inbox style by hovering over your Inbox label and clicking the down-arrow that appears

Forward mail to a different address

Automatically forward all messages

If you prefer, you can have Apps mail forward all the mail coming into your school Apps mail account to another email address. This can be useful if you maintain several email accounts and want to choose one where all your mail is delivered. You can also have the option to choose whether copies of your message will stay in your Apps Mail account or be deleted.

To have mail automatically sent to another email address you can set-up Forwarding in the Apps mail settings:

  1. Click the Settings icon (at the top-right of any Apps mail page) and select Mail settings.
  2. Open the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.
  3. Enter the email address to which you'd like your messages forwarded. Click Next.

  4. A confirmation email will be sent from Google to the email you provided. This is done to confirm permission to receive email forwarded from your Apps email account. Once verified, you can then select the address.
  5. Select the action you'd like your messages to take from the drop-down menu. You can choose to keep Apps Mail's copy of the message in your inbox, mark it as read, or you can send it automatically to archive (All Mail) or Trash.
  6. Click Save Changes.

Please note: The filter for forwarding messages to other email addresses doesn't work retroactively for messages you've already received in your inbox (i.e. the 'Apply filter to # conversations below' won't work for filter action).

Automatically forward some messages

If you want to send some mail to another email account - perhaps emails from friends you'd like to send to your a non school Apps email account - you can set-up a filter to forward only those messages.

As seen in the previous lesson, you can create custom filters with specific criteria for labeling, archiving, starring, and more. You can also use those filters to specify messages to be sent to another email address.

You can add forwarding to an existing filter or when you create a new filter.

For existing filters:

  1. Click the Settings icon (at the top-right of any Apps mail page) and select Mail settings.
  2. Click Filters.
  3. Find the filter you'd like to change and click its edit link
  4. Review the filter criteria, click the Continue button
  5. Select the checkbox next to "Forward it to:" and select the email address you would like the filtered messages forwarded to.
  6. Click the Update Filter button


If you selected to also apply the filter to the messages existing in the filter, all of those will be sent to your email address.

The next time an email matches that filter, Apps mail will handle the email as specified in the filter in addition to sending it to your email address.

Please note: Only 20 filters are allowed to use the Forward it to: function. If you have more than 20 filters, you will need to combine some so the total is less than 20.


If you had a separate, personal email account that you would like to have separate from your 'school/work' email address, you could set-up a filter for messages coming from specific people (social friends instead of others at school) to go to your personal email account. This way if information about events come to your work address, you can still have it available in your personal account to reference. You would create the filter using the '' format, then for messages matching the filter to be forwarded, and enter in your personal email account (e.g. Now, whenever you receive mail from one of your friends, you'll also get a copy sent to your personal account, where it will be included in any search results.

Search tips for finding email

Search overview

Now that you have 25GBs of email storage, you may need some help finding that one email message about that staff meeting sent 2 months ago. With labels and filters, you can set-up a system for categorizing, moving, and finding messages you have organized. With search, you can find messages wherever they may live in your inbox - labels, deep within your Inbox, or archived away in All Mail...

You can use search in Apps mail the same way you'd use Google Search, by entering a word (or multiple words) that appears anywhere within the message you want to locate. If you're looking for a message that contains the word testing schedule, simply type testing schedule in the search field and press the Search button. Your results will be displayed with your search terms highlighted in yellow.

Please note: Apps mail search doesn't recognize special search characters like square brackets, parentheses, currency symbols, the ampersand, the pound sign, and asterisks. It also doesn't recognize partial or similar matches, so a search for travel will find travel, but not travels, traveler, or travle.

Advanced search

While you can use any words in the search box on top of your inbox to find emails, you may have better luck using some of the 'Advanced Search' operators.

Advanced search operators are query words or symbols that perform special actions in Apps mail search. These operators allow you to find what you're looking for quickly and accurately. They can also be used to set up filters so you can organize your inbox automatically. For example, you could use the operators to find emails from specific people, with specific subjects. Some of the most useful operators are listed below.

You can use Advanced search operators in the regular search box on top of the inbox, or you can use the Show search options beside the Apps mail search box.

To construct a search using the search operators:

  1. Choose the operator(s) you would like to use
  2. Type the operator into the search box, for example, from:jennifer to search your inbox for emails where Jennifer is the sender.
  3. Click search

You can also click the drop down arrow in the search box to help construct a search query with the options to define who sent the message (From), who the message was addressed (To), the subject of the message - you can enter the full subject or just a few keywords (Subject), keywords that the email may have anywhere in the message content (Has the Words), and a date range if you have an idea of when the message was received (Date).


If you were looking for an email sent from the department head, John, in the past month about the testing schedule you type and select the following using the Advanced Search Options:

From: John

Has the words: testing schedule

Date within: 1 month of today

You could also do this using the regular search box with the search operators by typing:

testing schedule from:john after:2011/03/16 before:2011/04/18  

Here's a full list of all the operators you can use to construct a search:





Used to specify the sender

Example - from:amy

Meaning - Messages from Amy


Used to specify a recipient

Example - to:david

Meaning - All messages that were sent to David (by you or someone else)


Search for words in the subject line

Example - subject:dinner

Meaning - Messages that have the word "dinner" in the subject


Search for messages matching term A or term B*

*OR must be in all caps

Example - from:amy OR from:david

Meaning - Messages from Amy or from David



Used to exclude messages from your search

Example - dinner -movie

Meaning - Messages that contain the word "dinner" but do not contain the word "movie"


Search for messages by label*

*There isn't a search operator for unlabeled messages

Example - from:amy label:friends

Meaning - Messages from Amy that have the label "friends"

Example - from:david label:my-family

Meaning - Messages from David that have the label "My Family"


Search for messages with an attachment

Example - from:david has:attachment

Meaning - Messages from David that have an attachment


Search for messages on mailing lists

Example -

Meaning - Messages with the words in the headers, sent to or from this list


Search for an attachment by name or type

Example - filename:physicshomework.txt

Meaning - Messages with an attachment named "physicshomework.txt"

Example - label:work filename:pdf

Meaning - Messages labeled "work" that also have a PDF file as an attachment

" "


Used to search for an exact phrase*

*Capitalization isn't taken into consideration

Example - "i'm feeling lucky"

Meaning - Messages containing the phrase "i'm feeling lucky" or "I'm feeling lucky"

Example - subject:"dinner and a movie"

Meaning - Messages containing the phrase "dinner and a movie" in the subject

( )

Used to group words

Used to specify terms that shouldn't be excluded

Example - from:amy(dinner OR movie)

Meaning - Messages from Amy that contain either the word "dinner" or the word "movie"

Example - subject:(dinner movie)

Meaning - Messages in which the subject contains both the word "dinner" and the word "movie"


Search for messages anywhere in Gmail*

*Messages in Spam and Trash are excluded from searches by default

Example - in:anywhere movie

Meaning - Messages in All Mail, Spam, and Trash that contain the word "movie"




Search for messages in Inbox, Trash, orSpam

Example - in:trash from:amy

Meaning - Messages from Amy that are in Trash




Search for messages that are starred, unread or read

Example - is:read is:starred from:David

Meaning - Messages from David that have been read and are marked with a star



Used to specify recipients in the cc: orbcc: fields*

*Search on bcc: cannot retrieve messages on which you were blind carbon copied

Example - cc:david

Meaning - Messages that were cc-ed to David



Search for messages sent during a certain period of time*

*Dates must be in yyyy/mm/dd format.

Example - after:2004/04/16 before:2004/04/18

Meaning - Messages sent between April 16, 2004 and April 18, 2004.*

*More precisely: Messages sent after 12:00 AM (or 00:00) April 16, 2004 and before April 18, 2004.


Search for chat messages

Example - is:chat monkey

Meaning - Any chat message including the word "monkey".


Search for messages within a particular email address in the Delivered-To line of the message header

Example -

Meaning - Any message with in the Delivered-To: field of the message header (which can help you find messages forwarded from another account or ones sent to an alias).

Search within a Label

If you know your message is in one of your labels, you can do a specific search within a label.

Using the search box: enter 'label:,' an advanced operator, followed by the label's name, in the search field.

If the label name has more than one word, you'll need to connect the words with dashes.

For example, if you want to search for all messages from Bob in the label 'Math Teachers', enter the following in the 'Search Mail' field:

from:Bob label:math-teachers

Find a missing message

If you conducted a search and did not find the message you were looking for, it may have ended up in Spam or you may have deleted it and the message now sits within the Trash label. Apps mail doesn't search for messages in Spam or Trash unless you explicitly tell it to.

Here's how you can include spam and trash in your search results:

  1. Click the dropdown arrow in the search box.
  2. Fill in the search fields with the details you remember confidently. If you're not certain about any field, leave it blank.
  3. Select Mail & Spam & Trash from the Search: drop-down menu.
  4. Enter all other criteria for your search in the appropriate fields.
  5. Click Search

You can also use the search operator 'in:anywhere' to search for messages in the trash.

Search autofill

The engineers at Google have made an effort to making search in Apps mail easier by developing a new built-in feature: Search Autocomplete. With Search Autocomplete, you'll get suggestions as you type in the search box of popular searches such as names or email addresses.  

Some names are not easy to remember — with the built-in 'Search autocomplete' feature you can just type a couple letters and select the desired contact from the drop down list. Easy and quick as that.

You can also take advantage of the advanced search operators and Apps mail can help autocomplete those as well. With the search operators, you can search in specific places (e.g. in chats, labels, or sent items), or search for messages with attachments of a certain type (e.g. docs or photos).


Suppose you want to search for photos from a recent school event that were sent to you by the Photography teacher, Chris. Normally, you would have to enter Chris' email address followed by filename:(jpg OR png) which is a bit cumbersome and difficult to remember.

With Search Autocomplete, I can just type "photos" or "pictures," select "has photos" from the drop down list (as in the screenshot below), and the search query (filename:(jpg OR png)) gets inserted for me. Similarly, you can type in the word "attachment" and Search Autocomplete will list the most common attachment types for you.

You don't need to really understand the technical search query, but it is shown so that you can adapt it to your needs. For example, if you'd like to include tiff files in your search result, you can adapt the query manually to filename:(jpg OR png OR tiff).