macOS High Sierra

Search for messages

You can search for messages in any or all mailboxes by using your own words—such as “emails from John sent yesterday”—or by using Mail suggestions and search filters. Mail shows the most relevant results first in Top Hits. Top Hits reflects the messages you’ve read and replied to recently, your VIP senders and contacts, and other factors.

The mailbox being searched is highlighted in the search bar. To search a different mailbox, click its name. You can type or paste text into the search field, or drag an email address from a message. As you type, suggestions appear below the search field. They are organized into categories, such as Subject or Attachments, depending on your search text. Top Hits puts the most relevant results first.

Open Mail for me

Tip: If you know you want to search in specific mailboxes, select them in the Mail sidebar before you start.

Search using your own words

  • Enter your search phrase, then press Return.

    Type what you’re looking for the same way you’d say it (this is called natural language search).

    Here are some examples of natural language search phrases:

    • from kelly

    • to kelly

    • from kelly yesterday

    • from kelly 9/24/17

    • to kelly about remodel

    • flagged emails

    • PDF attachments

    • Numbers file

If you don’t see the message you’re looking for, try clicking a different mailbox in the Favorites bar. If you selected specific mailboxes in the sidebar before you started, click Selected Mailboxes.

Search using Mail suggestions and filters

  1. Start typing your search phrase, then choose one of the suggestions Mail provides.

    Mail creates a search filter in the search field and lists the matching messages it found in the selected mailbox.

  2. To refine the results, do any of the following:

    • Change search filters: If a search filter contains an arrow, you can click it to change the filter. For example, you can change a filter to search for messages to or from a certain person, or search subject lines or entire messages.

      Click the arrow in a search filter to change the filter.
    • Use multiple search filters: Place the pointer after the first filter, start typing search text, then choose a suggestion. Repeat as needed; the search field scrolls as you add more filters.

      Mail looks for messages that match all of the filters; the more you use, the more focused the search. If you don’t get expected results, remove some of the filters.

    • Search message headers: Type the name of a message header field, followed by a colon and the value you’re searching for—for example, “from: susan park” or “priority: high”—then choose a suggestion.

    • Search a mailbox that’s not in the Favorites bar: Type the name of the mailbox, choose the Mailbox suggestion, then type what you’re looking for after the Mailbox filter.

    • Search a range of dates: Type “date” followed by a colon and a date range, such as “date: 9/05/17-10/05/17.”

    • Search using AND, OR, NOT (Boolean operators): Type your search text using the operators (in uppercase).

      For example, to search for messages that contain “yellowstone” and “cascades” but not “teton,” type “yellowstone AND cascades NOT teton” or “cascade AND yellowstone -teton.”

Save a search

If you think you’ll search for a particular set of messages again, you can save your search to make it easier to find the messages next time.

  1. Click Save below the search field.

  2. Change the name (and other settings), if you want.

  3. Click OK.

Your search is saved as a Smart Mailbox; when you receive new messages that match the search filters, they’re automatically included in the Smart Mailbox. For more information, see Use Smart Mailboxes to organize messages.

When Mail searches all mailboxes, it searches in the Trash mailbox, but not the Junk mailbox; it doesn’t search encrypted messages, either. To change these options, choose Mail > Preferences, then click General.

When you search with Spotlight, email messages are included in the results. To exclude email from Spotlight searches, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Spotlight, click Search Results, then deselect the Mail & Messages checkbox in the list of categories.

Open Spotlight preferences for me