5 Replies Latest reply: Mar 7, 2012 10:38 PM by Barney-15E
inte_moto Level 1 (0 points)

Is there a concise list anyplace that explains how to do boolean searches in Apple Mail, and all the various options?


Have found information scattered here & there, and help file offers general instructions but no information on how to actually make them work. Essentially says "you can do boolean searches".


Couple examples:


"If you began your search in the Spotlight menu in the upper-right corner of your screen, click Show All to switch to a search window."


Where is "Show All"?



Perform a Boolean query

A Boolean query uses AND, OR, and NOT (known as Boolean operators) to narrow the search results. You can also use a minus sign (-), meaning AND NOT, to exclude items when you search. Here are examples of what you might type in the search field when you use Boolean operators:

author:tom OR author:thom searches for items authored by Tom or Thom, if you don’t know the exact spelling of his name.

trip -france searches for items that contain the word “trip” but not “france,” so results might include photos from a trip to Spain but not to France.


Looking to search a message from person A, with the body or subject of the message containing text X. How do you type the second operator (above syntax doesn't seeem to work)? How does one even know what all the operators are without a list in a dialogue box like other email programs have?


Image below is an example of a search. Can't get a second operator to work:



MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.7.3)
  • Linc Davis Level 10 (192,275 points)
  • inte_moto Level 1 (0 points)

    Link above shows how to search "from" and on a particular date.


    I believe there is a way to perform useful boolean searches and/or/not etc in Mail, but it seems to be a hidden feature.


    Also wondering how to search for an exact phrase (example: search for the phrase "today's first project", not bring up all messages containing any of the words "today's", "first", or "project".

  • Barney-15E Level 8 (46,274 points)

    I don't know if the text changed to "Show all in Finder" but that is available here:

    Screen Shot 2012-03-07 at 6.55.45 AM.png

    I'm not sure how to build it in one string, but start with Person X, choose that person from the People. Select the search field after the blob and type project a (either allow it so search all or select project a from the Subject category).

  • inte_moto Level 1 (0 points)

    That the text changes at all is the problem. I simply want to type a word, and search for it. The drop downs limits the choices, apparently, to what Mail thinks you want. If it's not there, you simply can't search.


    Example below. I want to search for a message from "Roy". I type "Roy". Mail doesn't have an option to search the "from" field. Have seen that option other times, doesn't appear here for some reason.




    Second issue: you can't get any options at all for a second search term without choosing one of the "pre-filled" choices that appear. There were some pre-filled choices further down, none of which applied. Clicking "Message contains "project" leaves you with no choices (to search the subject field, for example).



  • Barney-15E Level 8 (46,274 points)

    It only presents catagories for things it finds. If it doesn't find "Roy" in the People catagory, it won't offer it to you.

    Message contains is the catch-all.


    If it should find a Roy, then you might try reindexing spotlight.