How to search by date in Gmail to find older messages

Woman using laptop and phone at home
Searching by date is just one of Gmail’s many search tools. Westend61/Getty Images
  • Gmail’s search by date feature lets you track down emails that you sent or received during a specific day, month, or year.
  • You can search by date on Gmail with the advanced search options menu, or by typing special keywords in the search bar.
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Gmail is designed to make digital communication seamless with features like online chatting, video calls, and Google Drive integration. But being the center of your online universe also means that your inbox can fill up very easily.

That’s why Gmail has a variety of tools you can use to organize your emails. If you’re looking for a specific email, especially if you received it a long time ago, try using the search by date functions. This will let you see every email you received on a certain date, or between two different dates.

Here’s how to use it on Gmail’s desktop website.

How to search through Gmail by date

If you know generally when the email you’re trying to find was sent, there are a couple of ways to find it.

Using he search options menu

First, you can use the search options menu. Clicking the icon that looks like a series of switches in Gmail’s search bar will open a menu that you can use to specify what kind of emails you want to see.

One of these options, Date within, lets you pick a date and see every email you received within a day, week, month, or year of that date. This is great for finding a wide range of emails during a longer time period. And you can use the menu’s other options to narrow your search even more.

Gmail's advanced search options menu, with the Date During option highlighted.
Pick a date that you want to see emails you received near. Gmail; William Antonelli/Insider

But if you want more control over the dates you see, try using the search by date keywords.

Using keywords

Just like with normal Google searches, typing certain keywords into Gmail’s search bar will let you see results you wouldn’t get otherwise. All of these work in both the mobile app and desktop site.

If you’re searching for emails from before a specific date, use the Before:YYYY/MM/DD format. To find emails from after a specific date, use After:YYYY/MM/DD.

So for example, if you’re trying to find emails from before or after September 1st, 2021, type either Before:2021/09/01 or After:2021/09/01 into the search bar and hit Enter.

You can combine both keywords to find emails between two dates. Just give the latest possible date the Before prefix, and the earliest possible date the After prefix.

A Gmail page, where the user has searched for all emails between two specific dates.
A selection of emails will appear right away, and you can press Enter to see them all. Gmail; William Antonelli/Insider

Additionally, if you’re not sure of specific dates, you can use the Older_than and Newer_than keywords to search for emails older or newer than a certain time. Use the letters d (day), m (month), and y (year) to specify your parameters.

For example, to find an email older than five months, type Older_than:5m and press Enter. For an email received within the last three years, type Newer_than:3y and press Enter.

A Gmail page where the user is searching for all emails older than two years.
Here, we’ve searched for all emails older than two years. Gmail; William Antonelli/Insider

You can combine all these keywords together for an ultra-focused search. For example – use After:2020/01/01 and Older_than:3m to find emails that you received between the start of 2020 and three months ago.

And of course, adding words that you know are in the email’s body or subject will make for an even better search.

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