How to Use Mac OS X Mail Search Operators to Find Mail

Mac Mail app shown running on macOS Sierra

Coyote Moon, Inc.

Add precision to your email search with macOS and OS X Mail search operators.

Search Results = A List Longer Than Your Inbox?

Archives grow, and so do search results. Even ranked with some intelligence, the mail you are looking for may bring up a long list of results.

Luckily, macOS and OS X Mail do not bombard you. Combining search operators ranging from sender to date to subject logically with "OR" and parentheses lets you zoom to the right result fast and precisely — and without much effort.

Use Mac OS X Mail Search Operators to Find Mail Precisely in Mail

To use search operators to limit search results in Mac OS X Mail:

  1. Press Command + Option + F in Mac OS X Mail's main window.

  2. Type the desired search terms, using the following operators if needed:

    • from: - find email senders; use quotation marks to specify names; see below for examples.
    • to: - find email recipients.
    • subject: - find email subjects.
    • date: - find emails by date (in "MM-DD-YYYY" format).
  3. That's it!

You can combine search operators (from:sender@example.com date:yesterday, for instance), but you cannot combine them using OR and NOT. For this, and more advanced searches, you can use Spotlight.

Use Mac OS X Mail Search Operators to Find Mail Precisely in Spotlight

To search mail using Spotlight, which affords you even more control:

  1. Press Command + Option + Space.

  1. Type kind:mail in the search field to find all email messages.

  2. Make sure This Mac and Contents are selected under Search.

  3. Use the following search operators to narrow results:

  • from: - find email senders.
    • kind:mail from:sender@example.com finds all mail from sender@example.com.
    • kind:mail from:"Michael Mountain" finds all mail from Michael Mountain.
  • to: - find email recipients.
    • kind:mail to:recipient@example.com finds all mail to recipient@example.com.
    • kind:mail to:"Desiderius Drimmelen finds all mail to Desiderius Drimmelen.
  • subject: - find email subjects.
    • kind:mail subject:recipe finds all mail with "recipe" in the Subject line.
    • kind:mail subject:"cookie recipe" finds all mail with "cookie recipe" in the Subject line.
    • kind:mail subject:cookie subject:recipe finds all mail with both "cookie" and "recipe" anywhere in the Subject line.
  • date: - find email by date received.
    • kind:mail date:today finds all mail received today.
    • kind:mail date:yesterday finds all mail received yesterday.
    • kind:mail date:"this week" finds all mail received in the last 7 days.
    • kind:mail date:"this month" finds all mail received this month.
    • kind:mail date:10/20/2010 finds all mail received on Oct. 10, 2010.
    • kind:mail date:>10/10/2010 finds all mail received since Oct. 10, 2010; make sure the date uses the format you've specified in System Preferences.
    • kind:mail date:<10/10/2010 finds all mail received before Oct. 10, 2010.
    • kind:mail date:05/05/2010-10/10/2010 finds all mail received between May 5, 2010, and Oct. 10, 2010.

    You can combine search operators and terms:

    • OR - find email that matches either search term or operator.
      • kind:mail from:me@example.com OR from:"Desiderius Drimmelen" finds all mail from Desiderius Drimmelen or me@example.com.
      • kind:mail from:"Desiderius Drimmelen" ("Moriae encomium" OR stulticiae) finds all mail from Desiderius Drimmelen that contains either "Moriae encomium" (as a phrase) or "stulticiae".
    • AND - find email that matches all search terms or criteria.
      • Spotlight automatically assumes AND combination, but you can make it explicit.
      • kind:mail from:"Desiderius Drimmelen" ("Moriae encomium" OR stulticiae) can also be kind:mail AND from:"Desiderius Drimmelen" AND ("Moriae encomium" OR stulticiae), for example.
    • NOT - find email that does not contain a term or does not match an operator.
      • kind:mail from:@example.com NOT from:"Michael Mountain" finds all mail from the example.com domain but not those from Michael Mountain, even if his email address contains "@example.com".
      • kind:mail from:"Michael Mountain" (Sebond OR NOT essai) finds all mail from Michael Mountain that contain either "Sebond" or do not contain "essai"; messages that include "Sebond" and "essai" will show up.
    • () - use parentheses to group search terms.
      • kind:mail (from:"Michael Mountain" OR from: ((Sebond AND NOT essai) OR NOT essai) finds all mail from Michael Mountain that contain either "Sebond" or do not contain "essai"; messages that include "Sebond" and "essai" will not show up.

    (Tested with OS X Mail 4 and macOS Mail 10)