Mac Mail advanced searches in Leopard

General Information

Apple's Mac Mail's search feature is limited in it's default view. You can only search for one criteria at a time. This article shows you how to make use of it's more advanced search features. This article only applies to OS X 10.5 Leopard.

Searching with the Search bar

Using Keywords

Mac Mail has a search bar built into the Email client. Doing searches here only searches for mail in your client. The default search is only for one criteria at a time. When you type in a word in the search bar, a menu appears allowing you to refine your search. The options are:

All Mailboxes: Searches through all of your mailboxes
Inbox: Only searches in the Inbox
Entire Message: Searches all fields in the email including Sender, Subject, and Message body.
From: Only searches for senders.
To: Only searches for message recipients.
Subject: Only searches the subject line.
Filename: Searches for specific filename within an email

To use a more advanced search you can structure searches using fields using the following syntax:

keyword1 from:some_user subject:some_word


agenda from:teresa subject:meeting

This search would filter Email based on the word agenda in the body of the message that is from user teresa with the subject including the word meeting.

Another Example:

To:deannacp From:teresa

This search would look for Emails to deannacp that are from teresa.

Keywords that can be used:

From: Only searches from field, you can use from:firstname, from:lastname
Email: Only searches for Email address for this search you can use it in the form of  email:teresa or
To: Only searches the to field for who the message was sent too.
Subject: Only searches the subject field
Filename: Searches for specific filename within an email

Note: When searching Mac Mail does not use some frequently used wildcard searches. Use of  the asterisk * or the syntax teresa@somewhere returns no matches.

Using Boolean Searches

You can also use boolean operators to create even more advanced searches.

The three boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT.


cat AND dog  This will search Mac Mail for all instances of both words cat and dog.

cat OR dog  This search will retrieve any record that contains either (or both) of the terms, thus broadening your search results.

cat NOT dog This will search Mac Mail for the words cat but will exclude the results that include the word dog.

To make these searches more advanced you can combine keywords and boolean operators.


To:deannacp AND To: Teresa will search mail sent to both deannacp and teresa

You can also combine these with parenthesis:


spam AND (cats NOT dogs) This search will find all messages that contain both spam and cats, but also contains spam but not dogs.

You can also use boolean expressions in the search box:
A & B yields A AND B
A | B yields A OR B
A ! B yields A NOT B.

Searching Mail with Spotlight

You can do all of the same searches and more with Spotlight in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. See Ask Us article for more information.
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Article ID: 879
Created: Thu, 24 Jan 2008 12:40pm
Modified: Mon, 31 Mar 2008 3:41pm