Search by Date in Gmail

Many of us have had our Gmail accounts for a lot of years now, and in many cases for over a decade. Considering the average person receives thousands of emails per year, many of us have a huge backlog of emails in our inbox or various folders. But what happens when we need to find one of these old emails? The problem gets even harder when the email isn't properly labeled, has no unique keywords to search for, or can't remember the sender/receiver.

As you'd expect from any reasonable email client, Gmail allows you to search for emails by date, although doing it is not quite as obvious as it could be. There are two ways to search by date, via the Search Options menu, and using a certain syntax in the search bar. We'll go over both here.

Search by Date using Search Options

The first option is probably more intuitive for many users since it uses a GUI of options. To access these options, click on the icon to the right of the search bar:

Once clicked, the menu will open and present you with a number of different filtering options, one of them being "Date within". This option will help you find all emails within X number of days or months of the chosen date.

So, for example, if you knew that you received the email right around Jan. 5th, 2022, then you'd choose "1 day" and then choose "2022/01/05" in the date picker.

After clicking "Search", Gmail will use your parameters to fill in the search query for you and return only emails within the date range you chose.

But what about the first email at the top, received Jan. 7th? This example shows that the query isn't perfectly strict. It returned this email because it contains the word "before". So while Gmail does restrict the emails by date, it will still search your emails with the actual words from the query in the search bar.

Search by Date using Advanced Syntax

The more advanced way to search emails is actually similar to above, but skips the step in which you use the GUI to pick dates. Here we'll show you how to use the date syntax for more options on restricting by date.

This can be achieved by entering a query in the search bar with the following format:

before:YYYY/MM/DD

or

after:YYYY/MM/DD

Gmail will then show you emails received before/after the date specified. For example:

This query was ran on Jan. 7th, 2022. Notice that all (but one!) email returned was received before Jan. 1st, so the query worked!

Note that this search is less restrictive than the GUI method since it only places an upper or lower bound date. So both bounds aren't required for the query. We'll take a closer look at that in the next section.

Searching Between Dates

You can be even more restrictive in your search query and set a before and after date. To do this, simply use both versions of the query above in the search bar. For example:

after:2021/12/27 before:2021/12/28

This query will only return emails between Dec. 27th, 2021 and Dec. 28th, 2021:

Again, you'll notice that 1 email is returned outside of these dates. This was because the email contains the word "after". Otherwise, all returned emails are within the date bounds we set.

Conclusion

Gmail's search bar can be used for some pretty advanced searching, more than just searching keywords within an email or for email addresses. Take some time to learn the various advanced syntax and you'll find that you're much more productive when working with your email!

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