5 advanced tips to quickly search Gmail for invoices (and a bonus tip from your future self)

Gmail users love the fact that they can recall emails and attachments from any time. Still, the longer we trust Gmail with our files and attachments, the more data there is to sort through to find exactly the file we’re looking for.

For example, when you’re working on your business’s finances, tracking down invoices with specific criteria can really be a pain. File names are never what you want them to be, and search can turn up tens or hundreds of irrelevant results.

Learn to be a power user with these 5 tips for using advanced search in Gmail. Find exactly the file you need in a fraction of the time.

Use these Gmail search tricks to find precisely what you’re looking for

The Gmail search box is very powerful(it is from Google, after all), but unless you’re using these tricks, you’re significantly underutilizing its power. This article will walk you through the 5 most valuable tips, but you can find the exhaustive list from Google here.

Now focus. Think about every detail you can remember about the invoices you want. With these tips, you can use that information to quickly find just what you need.

Tip 1: Use the attachment type or file name

First thing’s first. We’re looking for invoices, so let’s quickly narrow down our search to just those emails that have PDF attachments.

To find just emails with attached PDFs, include the search criteria filename:pdf

If we include the term ‘has:attachment’, Gmail will return only messages with attachments. It’s worth noting, however, that when searching for a specific file type, this is assumed by Google and doesn’t need to be included.

Take this one step further by using whatever you might know about the file name or file size.

Messages that have an attachment:


Search for a specific attachment name or file type/file extension


Search for a specific message size


Messages larger or smaller than a certain size in bytes


Tip 2: Use the “To” and “From” terms to show only results from those involved

Do you remember who sent you the invoice? Or did it come into a standard inbox like accounting@acme.com?

Use whatever you know about the to and from of the email message to further narrow your search with search terms to: from: cc: and bcc:

Specify the sender


Specify a recipient


Specify a recipient who received a copy


Tip 3: Use date filtering to narrow your results

Do you remember when the invoice was received?

Use date operators to find emails that meet a specific time period, use after: before: older: newer: older_than: and newer_than:

Search for messages sent during a certain time period


Search for messages older or newer than a time period using d (day), m (month), and y (year)


Tip 4: Narrow results with the message content

Whatever you remember about the email can help you further narrow down your results to find exactly the invoice you need. Gmail search operators let you be as specific or general as you want. Search the subject, email contents, look for exact phrasing, and even find words near one another.

Narrow your search down to a subject line, or message content, with exact or loose phrase matching

Words in the subject line


Remove messages from your results

drinks -dancing

Messages that have a certain label


Find messages with words near each other. Use the number to say how many words apart the words can be

break AROUND 10 summer

Add quotes to find messages in which the word you put first stays first.

"surprise AROUND 3 party"

Search for an exact word or phrase

"drinks and dancing tonight"

Group multiple search terms together

subject:(drinks dancing)

Results that match a word exactly


Tip 5: Use operators to combine search parameters

Any of these tips can be combined to form a super search!

Create an AND relationship with curly braces, and use the OR operator to search for multiple terms at once

Messages that match multiple terms

to:alex OR to:dan
{from:alex to:dan}

Be kind to your future self

I spoke with future you- they asked me to tell you about one last tip. For each of the searches you just used to track down an invoice, configure Gmail to automatically apply labels to better organize your inbox. You said you’d thank them later. I’m confused too, don’t worry about it, just give this a try.

Try searching for emails with PDF attachments, containing the word invoice, sent from a specific contract or vendor. Something like:

from:billing@acme.com filename:pdf invoice

On the Gmail search box, click the carrot to expand and select ‘Create Filter’.

Check the box to ‘Apply Label’, and use whatever labels make sense for your business.

Apply two labels: The first is to flag it with something like ‘Accounts Payable’, so you know it includes an invoice.

The second label will flag it with the vendor’s name, so you can quickly find either all accounts payable emails, or all emails pertaining to that particular contract.

Install Invoice to Sheet today

Wildcard Gmail search can be frustrating- using these tips, you can drastically improve the quality of your results with just a bit more information. Find exactly the invoice you need, without the hassle.

Now that you’ve mastered the Gmail search box and found the invoices you need, it’s time to liberate the data in your invoices with Invoice to Sheet. Extract structured data into a spreadsheet in just a few clicks. Install Invoice to Sheet

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