If you have an e-mail inbox that stretches back years and years, searching for a particular e-mail can be a challenge, particularly when using the iPhone Mail app. Many times, my search query returns dozens or hundreds of results, and I find it difficult to sift through them on the small screen of my iPhone 4S (and I don’t see it getting much easier next month when my current Verizon contract expires and I upgrade to an iPhone 5S and its slightly larger screen).
Thankfully, there is a handful of search parameters you can use to limit the number of results a search yields. David Chartier of the Finer Things in Tech found a most useful Apple Support page that contains four tips for using Spotlight Search with the iOS Mail app.
Spotlight understands sender vs. recipient, dates, and if a message has been read or flagged, so you can use these parameters to get targeted search results. It gives four examples:
Flagged june 2013
Searches for all flagged messages from june 2013, as well as for messages containing these words
Unread last week from:@icloud.com
Searches all unread messages from last week where the sender’s e-mail ends with @icloud.com, as well as messages containing these words
Vip read yesterday
Searches all read messages from contacts marked as VIPs, as well as messages containing these words
Searches all messages sent on Monday to a contact named “Appleseed,” or an e-mail address starting with appleseed, as well as messages containing these words
The phrase at the end of each of these four tips — “as well as messages containing these words” — is worth noting. I found that each of these tips helped narrow the number of search results, but I also found that the results often included many e-mails because they contained one or more of my search terms. Still, e-mails within the search parameters are listed at the top of the results, with e-mails only containing a word or two of your search terms listed below.