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October 1, 2012

Search Inside Gmail Attachments

Gmail has constantly improved its search technology, but there's something you couldn't do until recently: search inside attachments. Sure, you could find an attachment if you knew the filename or some keywords from the message. If someone sent you a text file or an HTML file, Gmail indexed its content, but Gmail couldn't index PDF files, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and other popular attachment formats.

The good news is that Gmail has finally added support for searching inside attachments. I've just tested this feature for .pdf files, .doc documents, .ppt presentations and it works, even though some old attachments may not be indexed yet.

To find messages that have attachments, search for has:attachment and add some keywords to your query. To restrict your search to PDF files, search for has:attachment filename:pdf.


As you can see from the screenshot, Gmail found a message with no text in the body and no subject. Obviously, Gmail indexed the PowerPoint attachment.

{ Thanks, Kenny. }

21 comments:

  1. Is it amazing that Google took SOOOOO long add such a basic feature of any email system - corporate or public?

    I was bitten by this issue a few years back during a Google Apps migration. Users were able to search attachments on their previous mail system very easily (even if the attachment was zipped), then on moving to the new shiny cloud-based system, this and other missing functionality really caused a storm of negative feedback to the project.

    I saw recently that GMail is able to report search results on text displayed in images stored within emails - now THAT'S IMPRESSIVE - but surely it would have been better to get the basics right first, by being able to search an Office file?

    Now... when are Google going to fix the other missing feature... sortable columns? :)

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  2. Did not work for me. But I do hope that they deploy Goggles to index attachments in Gmail as well!

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  3. Not working for me yet on Google apps but is on personal Gmail...

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  4. Yay! Now if only it would find emails containing the word "vacations" when I search for "vacation", I'd be a happy camper. :P That hasn't ever worked, as far as I remember.

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    1. Yeah, that one really bugs me.
      Is it possible they've finally fixed it? I couldn't reproduce it just now.

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  5. Nice - but attachments belong to Google Drive/Docs, it's never a good habit to save them for long time in mail archive.

    I'd much more like to see wildcard/pattern search feature, been waiting for that for years.

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  6. CloudMagic does a better job, it can search the PDF documents and find it instantly. I wish Google would purchase it, great tool to have alongside Gmail.

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  7. What I want to know is, why can't Gmail scan attachments before I open the email to view them? Does it really have to be scanned every time I open it and not before? It seems like this would be a related capability.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe because the virus database is constantly updated and it's not possible to check billions of attachments every hour. It's also not efficient because old attachments are rarely accessed.

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  8. Thanks for this info....seacrhing from a long time and just found it.....

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  9. According to my test result, currently it works with English keywords, but not with non-Latin character sets of keywords,such as Korean, Chinese,Japanese etc.

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  10. Gmail has been surfacing matches from attachments for some time for me. Are you sure this is new?

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  11. Double-tap nor two-finger-zoom work here, Android much???

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  12. This is fascinating, considering Autonomy IDOL has been able to do this for some time now!!

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  13. Engrossing substance I haven't been finished specified info in a lasting time.
    android rooted device

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  14. Question: Can I NOT search the attachment content now? How do I do that?

    It is annoying because now I cannot find any email that I want!!

    This is due to the fact that everyday my company send a database update in Excel format to us that contains a list of ALL the PRODUCT name. Now it is not possible for me to search for an email containing ONE PRODUCT name in the body of the email because the search results is just EVERY SINGLE EMAIL that has the attachment containing the same PRODUCT name!!!

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  15. Tell me about it it was a complete nightmare, you had to know the exact file name and where it was before you could attach it. It did my head in so this is a really good improvement. Not so time consuming.

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  16. Just had a staffer in my office complaining about this, too. I'm hoping Google will add a switch or advanced search option to control this behavior.

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  17. How can i retrieve gmail attachments from my website?
    Is there any possible?

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  18. Thank you Very Much For Your Kind Information......

    Keep on Sharing.....

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