I have a 5-year conversation going on with my wife on iMessage.

Every once in a while I want to find something like a restaurant she messaged me about.

I want to search for the word "restaurant" and find ALL the times she used that word, meaning only within HER messages.

How can I do that?

I know about the universal iMessage search, but that's not what I'm after. It shows me only 1 instance of the word "restaurant," not all of them.

  • 1
    I wish.... I've sent that suggestion to apple.com/feedback before, you should also. – Tyson Feb 26 '17 at 1:01
  1. Open Messages on Mac
  2. Type term into search bar (also accessible using CMD+F)
  3. Click on the desired conversation you want to search in
  4. You'll see the first message (chronologically) that contained the word displayed in a faded color
  5. Press CMD+G to see the next occurrence and shift+CMD+G to see the previous one.


Keyboard shortcuts are shown in the menubar: Edit → Find

This functionality should work across most apps, not just Messages.

  • 1
    This search functionality is very hit or miss and generally not reliable or effective. Also I'm pretty sure the original poster said this wasn't effective. – Todd Dabney Mar 9 '18 at 20:22
  • I respectfully disagree with both of your statements. Can you expand on your perceived lack of reliability/effectiveness? – JBallin Mar 12 '18 at 2:51
  • I just tried searching for the words "Crash pad" that are in an iMessage from my dad dated 2 days ago. iMessage says "No results found" and a search for just the word "Crash" gives tons of results except for the message from my Dad. Not sure how much worse you can be at search than that. – Todd Dabney Apr 3 '18 at 18:25
  • is your Mac fully up to date? can you post screenshots? – JBallin Apr 3 '18 at 20:22
  • Yes, I'd rather not take the time due to all the PII I'd need to blur out, and why, do you not believe me? It's not a problem I need a solution to, just the reality of using iMessage. – Todd Dabney Apr 3 '18 at 20:57

The archive of all the messages is in ~/Library/Messages/chat.db. It's a SQLite database. There are some SQLite viewers that will make it fairly easy to sort this data and either allow you to search it or selectively export some of it to CSV. Alternately if you search for "sqlite to csv" you'll find some more information on exporting it. Unfortunately this is a big weakness of iMessage.

  • Should get more upvotes. This isn’t a bad solution, intact it’s a very good one. – JBis Jun 16 '18 at 20:25
  • I would just edit and add a viewer that does this. – JBis Jun 16 '18 at 20:26

Edit => Find => Find Next & Edit => Find => Find Previous are greyed out for me so those approaches aren't options.

I simply opened the conversation in a separate window and kept scrolling up rapidly to load all of the old chats.

You can press command + A to select the entire chat, press command + C to copy it to the clipboard, and then paste the chat in TextEdit (or another text editor). Any text editor will provide better search support than iMessage - just press command + F.

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