I have a massive Gmail message archive and search through it frequently. I have read that there are now AI powered suggestions in search. How can I use them to help find specific email in Gmail?
With over 1.5 billion active users, Gmail sees a lot of searches on any given day. If the average user has 1,000 emails in their archive, that’s a collective database of well over one trillion email messages which is a lot of data. Sure it’s siloed so you can’t see my email and vice versa, but still, we’re talking a mind-boggling amount of data. Add to that the predilection of Google folk to make things super complex and powerful, and it’s no wonder that the company keeps fiddling with its search tools to improve our results in Gmail.
Though I suspect most people just type in a word or two and wade through the results, Gmail has always offered a rich search language and an Advanced Search Window where you can fill in specific fields to constrain by sender, attachment, date, etc. But even that gets confusing, so what Google added a few months ago is an AI-powered set of search refinement suggestions. You have probably seen them but been so busy look at the results you didn’t notice the suggestions. So let’s have another look…
First off, a typical search in Gmail for the phrase “new life jacket“:
Those of you that are savvy to the nuances of a Google search know I just misspoke: This isn’t a search for the phrase but rather all three words appearing the message. An email with the sentence “Love your new nehru jacket, reflects your new outlook on life!” matches even though it’s not about a life jacket at all. To fix that, quote the search phrase like this: “new life jacket” or, perhaps new “life jacket”.
Once I submit this search, with or without the quotes, Gmail shows the matching email messages and it’s easy for that to draw your attention, but look just a bit higher, because this is what you’ll see:
Those are the advanced search suggestions and they do make it really easy to narrow down the results. Maybe I’m looking for an email about life jackets that has an attachment. A click on “Has attachment” and it changes to offer yet more contextual filters:
If I look for email messages from my archive that match the search and have image attachments, here’s what I see:
That’s a pretty sophisticated search, no question. But what does it look like in search query language? What about that Advanced Search window? A click on the tiny downward triangle adjacent to the “X” in the search box reveals:
Notice the nuance of the search: has:image OR has:drive. This means if someone sent me a link to an image on Google Drive that’ll match too. Smart.
From this point it’s easy to add more filters too, including from / to / subject patterns to match and, of course, date sent.
There’s one more cool trick while we’re chatting about Gmail, though. Submit another search and, unsurprisingly, suggestions appear:
Again, click on the downward triangle (or the barely legible “Advanced search” text) and you’ll be looking at the advanced search window again:
But this time click on the “Create filter” link on the lower right.
Yes, you can refine a search then create a filter so that new email messages that match those criteria are automatically acted upon. Acted upon how? That’s what you get to determine in the next window:
Pretty darn cool. I have a lot of filters helping manage my incoming email and this is one smart way to create quite sophisticated filters for yourself. Check it out!
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing about Gmail since you needed an invitation to get an account set up. Please do check out my extensive Gmail help area for lots more tutorials while you’re here!