lots of email[OUTLOOK/GMAIL] I was looking for a specific email and didn’t remember if it was in my Inbox, a folder, or perhaps it had been deleted. I could spend a lot of time scrolling, clicking and looking for the message, or I could use some of the Advanced Search features to find the particular email quickly.

If you’re like me, you may receive hundreds of messages and file them in different folders… so it can feel like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack when you need a particular one.

Good news! Whether you use desktop Outlook, Outlook online or Gmail, there’s a way to refine your search to find a specific email that you need instantly.

Desktop Outlook 365 or Outlook.live.com

When you can’t remember where you saved an email, in the Search box at the top of the window, start typing some key words: the sender’s email address, a word that may be in the subject line… something recognizable from that particular email.

In Desktop Outlook 365 and Outlook online, as soon as you type something in the Search window, the Search Tab is activated. Displayed in it are more advanced options to help you narrow the results considerably. Click on one or more of the choices to refine the search by:

  • Senders Name
  • Words in the Subject line
  • If it has an Attachment
  • Category
  • And more…


TIP: You can even use quotation marks around words or a phrase. This tells the search tool that it must find the words together as they appear in the quotes.

For example, I was searching for an email: 1) from Linda Keefe, 2) that had an attachment, and 3) contained the words “Teams article” in it. We had exchanged many emails for several months on this topic, so I was having problems finding it.

  1. I first typed her Name in the Search box.
  2. I clicked the Subject icon and typed in “teams article”
  3. And clicked the Has Attachments

This narrowed my search to two emails, and I found the one I was looking for.

narrow search

If you are using Outlook online, the process is the same. However, when you type something in the Search bar, if the Search ribbon does not appear, use the drop-down icon in the left of the Search bar to add the refining search options.

search on Outlook online

Find What You’re Looking for in Gmail

The search option works very much the same in Gmail. Think of it as if you are doing a Google search for information. The more specific you can be, the more likelihood you can narrow it to the content you need.

  • Start by typing a few keywords, or an email address in the top Search bar and press Enter.
  • If you don’t find the email you’re looking for, click the Advanced Search icon in the right of the bar.

search in Gmail

A window will open where you can refine your search further by:

  • Who the email is from
  • Words in the Subject line
  • Date ranges
  • If it has an attachment

The more specific you are with items the email contains, the faster you can zero in on the message that you need. Click the blue Search button when the criteria is updated.

advanced search