How to Find All Unread Mail in Gmail

Easy ways to filter Gmail to show only unread messages

Portrait of man working on computer in office
Daniel Grill/Getty Images

Viewing unread mail only is the easiest way to tackle all of those emails you have yet to get to. Gmail makes it really easy to filter your mail to show you the unread messages only, hiding all the emails you've already opened.

There are two ways to see just the unread emails in Gmail, and the one you choose depends entirely on how you want to find them. However, no matter which method you go with, you'll not only see any emails you haven't opened but also the emails you have opened but then marked as unread.

How to Make Gmail Show Unread Emails First

Gmail has an entire section dedicated just to unread emails. You can open this area of your Gmail account to sift through all the emails you need to read. This is the best way to "permanently" keep unread emails at the top of Gmail.

Here's how:

  1. Next to Inbox type, make sure the Unread first option is chosen from the drop-down menu.

    Unread first Inbox option in Gmail Settings
  2. Below that, click/tap Options next to the Unread line.

    Options for Unread messages in Gmail settings
  3. In there are some options you can configure for your unread messages. You can force Gmail to show you up to 5, 10, 25, or 50 unread items at once. You can also hide the "Unread" section automatically when there aren't any unread messages left.

  4. Click or tap the Save Changes button at the bottom of that page to continue.

    Save changes button in Gmail settings
  5. Back in your Inbox folder is now an Unread section just below the menu buttons at the top of your messages. Click or tap that word to see or hide all your unread emails; all new emails will arrive there.

Everything else that's already been read will now automatically show up in the Everything else section below it.

You can reverse Step 2 and choose Default, Important first, Starred first, or Priority Inbox to undo these settings and quit showing unread emails first.

How to Search for Unread Messages

Unlike the method above, which only shows unread emails in your Inbox folder, Gmail also makes it simple to search for messages that are unread in any folder, and it works with Gmail's Inbox service, too.

  1. Open the folder you want to search for unread messages in.

  2. Using the search bar at the top of Gmail, type this after any text that's already prefilled there:

  3. Submit the search with the Enter key on your keyboard or by clicking/tapping the blue search button in Gmail.

    is:unread filter for searching Gmail unread messages
  4. You'll now see all the unread emails in that folder, and everything else will be temporarily hidden because of the search filter you just applied.

Here's one example of how to find unread emails in the Trash folder. After opening that folder, the search bar should read "in:trash," in which case you can add "is:unread" to the end to find only the unread emails in the Trash folder:

in:trash is:unread

You can only search for unread messages in one folder at a time. For example, you cannot modify the search to include both the Trash and Spam folder. Instead, you'd have to open the Spam folder, for example, and search in there if you're wanting to find unread spam messages.

You can even add other search operators to do things like finding unread emails between certain dates. In this example, Gmail will only show unread emails between December 28, 2017, and January 1, 2018:​

is:unread before:2018/01/01, after:2017/12/28

Here's another example of how to see unread messages from a certain email address only:


This one will show all the unread emails that came from any "" address:

is:unread from:* 

Another common one is to search Gmail for unread messages by name instead of email address:

is:unread from:Jon

Combining a few of these for a super-specific search for unread emails (from Bank of America) before a certain date (June 15, 2017) in a custom folder (called "bank") would look something like this:

label:bank is:unread before:2017/06/15 from:*