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Does anyone know how to search within Apple Mail (on MacOS, or iOS) for emails containing a specific text string (e.g. MacBook).

It used to do this by default, but it seems that more recently it is only possible to search headers, sender, etc. ;but not the body of the text. Unless I'm missing something?

This is extremely inconvenient as I used to use the emails as a sort of filing system and now this doesn't seem to be possible. the result is that now I can't find important emails. For example, and most frustratingly, I'd search for invoices from apple when I purchased hardware (like a MacBook). However the name of the item purchased in not in the header, but in the body text. Now I can't find invoices without a huge amount of work.

I can't be the only one who used emails like this, yet I can find no mention of this issue anywhere. Does anyone know of a workaround? Or is there another mail client, app or software that can search my email body text and identify the requisite emails?

As an aside; does anyone know when this change occurred. I suspect it was with the introduction of Catalina, but I can find no reference to this change being made.

Any help much appreciated.

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  • Are you sure about this - search does only show headers subject etc under the search field but the messages filtered do include where word is in text
    – mmmmmm
    Feb 24, 2021 at 17:00
  • To be honest I've looked at this again and I'm not sure. You used (up to about 18months? ago) be able to put in a term like "MacBook" and find invoices for purchases. Not any more. Perhaps something has changed with the algorithm for prioritisation of results? Feb 24, 2021 at 20:12
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    I just type in what I want and hit return - searches body, subject, everything. What version of macOS are you using?
    – Gilby
    Feb 25, 2021 at 6:55

2 Answers 2

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Searching is performed in whole messages but one can do it explicitly as well.

There is drop-down list of options from which one can select 'Entire Message':

enter image description here

There can be several reasons why mail is not found. One of them could be indexing failure on Mac side and another is IMAP settings of mail provider (there can be limit set for number of mails in local machine)

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  • I have changed mail providers, so that could be a clue. I've now found a way to search entire message using the drop down menu you mention. This was something I was familiar with but disappeared. However it's a bit cryptic. There is no drop down menu in the search window. I have to enter the search term, then select the option starting "subject:". Only then does the drop down menu appear that allows me to change to searching the "entire message". This is progress as I can now search the entire message for multiple terms. Thanks. Feb 24, 2021 at 20:43
  • I agree that this is cryptic. But by default it do search whole message. And it works also following way: write into search field from:apple, then select from appearing drop-down menu with arrow movement Sender contains Apple. This will make display of search box as on screenshot above. Now enter search keyword(s) for message body after that and search will be performed on mail content. This delivers search result of mails sent by Apple which have keyword in mail content (there is also has attachment search option if you are looking for invoice). Feb 24, 2021 at 20:57
  • Thanks. It is a bit cryptic and clumsy, but a big improvement. Feb 24, 2021 at 21:12
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I recently had the same question regarding being able to search Apple mail message content. I've been having the same issue and I suspect the reason you've not gotten an effective answer to your question is you mentioned 'invoices' and were likely getting disappointed that queries for amounts just never returned anything.

To get Apple mail to return the emails containing numeric values in the message body you need to put the amount or number in double quotes. Then it works just great!

Hope this was the answer for you.

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  • double quotes works with words with some unusual punctuations too.
    – sleetdrop
    Feb 15, 2023 at 5:57

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