Search (advanced search)

ProtonMail provides several ways for you to search through your messages. This article describes how search in ProtonMail works.

ProtonMail can search by subject lines, sender, recipient, and the time of messages. Because ProtonMail uses end-to-end encryption, we cannot read any of your messages or attachments, and therefore we currently cannot search through the message body. However, you can search through message bodies if you use the ProtonMail Bridge.

What is currently searched when I type into the search box at the top of my page?

Advanced Search on ProtonMail

At this time this search returns results for:

  • Recipient email addresses
  • Sender email addresses
  • Subjects
  • Dates message was sent/received
  • Folder (Location)
  • Attachments (only yes/no, not the name of the attachment)

You can add search parameters for each of these fields individually by clicking the down arrow in the search box.

When you search in this box, the searching parameter is “and”. This means when you want to search for a message sent from xyz@xyz.com between the dates of x/y/z and y/x/z with attachments, you will select the option to do so.

This is in contrast to all messages from xyz@xyz.com *or* between the dates of x/y/z and y/x/z *or* with attachments.

Advanced Syntax Search

ProtonMail also supports complex searches using more advanced syntax for power users. Special characters can be used to execute complex logic when performing searches on your message metadata (the Subject, To/CC/BCC, and From fields).

Logical AND is implicit between any two search keywords (searching for ‘hello world’ means match ‘hello’ AND ‘world’). The other search operators are:

Advanced Search Syntax Table

Exact Match Searches

When you search for a keyword in ProtonMail, by default, we assume it is a wildcard search. In programmatic terms, when you are searching for ‘keyword’, you are actually searching for ‘*keyword*’. This means that if you are searching for emails from johnsmith@protonmail.com, typing in ‘john’ or ‘smith’ will both show results for ‘johnsmith@protonmail.com’. If you would like to disable this behavior and search for an exact string, you can uncheck the box for “Don’t require exact match”.

 

turn off wildcards. Similar to fuzzy search

If you prefer to always use the exact match mode, it is possible to make this the default setting for your account by going to Settings –> Account –> Search

 

require exact match protonmail search

ProtonMail also offers labels/folders and filters for organizing your inbox.

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40 comments

  1. ovisicnarf

    Obviously I would like to see Search in body of email. In fact that is a must to make this a viable email solution for me and stop using gmail for a lot of communication.
    Search within a certain label, or within a set of labels would be a preferred solution. In this way the search can made more contextual by the end user.
    Search in attachments (so provide an indexing capability for attachment).
    Thank you.

  2. Hal

    Yes +1,
    Search of the text in the body of an e-mail is a no-brainer. This really needs to be put in place.
    If you also take into consideration that there is no way to categorize e-mail apart from “dumb” labels, this situation really lowers the usage potential of protonmail. I frequently find myself in a situation where mail is “lost”, simply because I cannot search it (as I don’t remember who sent it or the subject).

  3. Anonymous

    Not being able to search is large issue. By when do you think your search feature might be running? Thanks for any response you may have.

  4. e

    1

  5. Henning

    Please add search in body, this is really a must have!!

  6. Henning

    Please add search in text body, this is a must have, not being able to search my mails is kinda a deal-breaker.

  7. Oscar Campbell

    Can only +1 here. It’s obviously possible to search the mails, but a lot trickier to code. Doing it on the client side is actually an option, albeit bandwidth consuming. In such a case it should fetch mails in batches and search and get older and older until user clicks on a result, and then pause/break fetching of material to search.

    I like working with a flat chronological inbox and use search to filter what I see, I never use “other boxes”. In gmail I’d do: “is:unread label:some-label”. Searching tags like this is essential in my workflow. “The search box and the list is everything”.

  8. BT

    Another vote for email body search.
    When this is in place I’ll gladly become a subscriber and switch more of my work to protonmail.

    I understand that you have security high on your priorities and this complicates matters.

    Thanks for the service.

  9. Peter Oruba

    I’d like to chime in to the importance of this feature. Manual sorting with folders and tags is just an unnecessary burden as it imposes a repeating effort and does not really replace an email body search function in my opinion.

  10. Shane

    It seems to me that one way to search the body of emails, and maintain security on the server in the short term would to implement IMAP support with (for instance) a Thunderbird extension to allow for decryption/encryption from the client (I picked Thunderbird because it’s cross platform and free).

  11. Anonymous

    Not beeing able to search in mail contents simply is a showstopper.
    I will not upgrade to a paid account until this feature is in place.

  12. Happy Protonmail user

    Search within email.

    Search within the email has got to be challenging. I personally see it as a nice to have versus must have. I can’t imagine how you can make it efficient without compromising security. Perhaps localized indexing per account? Anyway. I just wanted you to hear from someone who sees it as a really welcome feature, but who understands the challenge to implement it. I can live without it.

  13. Happy Protonmail user

    Show only unread email.

    Simply search flags like the above really need to be added. Both in the desktop version and especially the mobile version.

  14. WW

    Agreed. Unread email search.

  15. ProtonMail Support

    This is already possible via the More button (next to the Move to and Apply label buttons) in the action bar.

  16. Looker for search

    Extremely need in search in body of latter.

  17. ProtonMail Support

    The body of the message is encrypted and we don’t have access to it. We are working on options about this.

  18. AndrewK

    Any improvements? This is from 2016! Body search is crucial, (unless you are a VERY organized person and you don’t receive a large number of email) it is impossible to find something. A lot of messages have bad subjects or in a year or two you don’t remember who sent what …

    I want to look again @pm as an e-mail replacement but …
    Also, lack of contacts sync with the iPhone is a deal breaker.

  19. Aravindh

    +1 for importance of search. One of the things stopping me from using PM.

  20. Joe Potts

    I keep getting the message “incorrect login credentials” as a new user.

  21. ProtonMail Support

    Please contact us via the Report bug button or on contact@protonmail.ch

  22. Anonymous

    Yes definitely, search in text body must be put in your top priority list, this is a must have. Please do your best as soon as possible. Thank you!

  23. MB

    Il will upgrade to a paid version once a search mode is implemented and working. Hoping that will be soon,

  24. Jess

    Is there any update on when a search in body feature will be developed?

  25. ProtonMail Support

    It’s a hard problem to solve, but we have a solution coming soon.

  26. Robert

    Is there an update on this? Search in body is really something I would need…

  27. Luke

    Great!! I totally understand that it’s a difficult thing to do — given that emails are totally encrypted and only decrypted on the client’s device! 🙂 However, let’s find a way to make this happen please! Glad you’re working on something. Even if it’s incremental and returns results gradually… Thanks guys!! Love protonmail. 🙂

  28. Anonymous

    You replied “coming soon” yet it is a year later and no solution as been implemented. As another user said, I will also not upgrade to a paid plan if I can’t find my information by searching for keyword(s) in the e-mails body.

  29. Vincent Delft

    I understand that, on the server side, you cannot perform a search because it’s encrypted. But why not allowing a text search from the browser ? In javascript for example. There this is not crypted. There is still the fact that the search will only cover a subset of 20 or 50 emails. But if the users are well informed.
    If the user do not find what he is looking for, he can load the next 20 or 50 emails and re-run the search.
    This is at least a text search !!!. Today we have nothing 🙁

    After a bit more than 1 year of use, I must say that this is the most annoying missing feature. This could force me to leave protonmail.

  30. Smu

    At least in body content of emails I have opened before in my app that I can view even offline (so it is stored on my phone somewhere) should be made searchable.
    Another way would be a decrypted index inside the app that ads all email content that was opened onece.

  31. DG

    Not being able to search the body of a text message is a massive problem. It makes the system nearly useless. Please prioritize this issue.

  32. jollege

    Did you solve the body search issue? It seems to work now, albeit not very well.

  33. Tim

    It has been over a year since support said that a solution to allow searching the body of a message was in the works. What’s the status?

  34. Anonymous

    Was going to purchase proton mail until I found out I cannot search through the BODY of an email.

  35. Dan Schwietert

    I use Protonmail Bridge which is great. Thank you! It allows me to keep an archive copy of all mail on my own PC, as well as search the body of downloaded messages.

  36. Frequent user

    Hi Protonmail, I join the many voices who ask for the option of searching through the body of the e-mail. I really need this daily, the absence of this option is giving me a very hard time. Thanks for considering our request!

  37. Jim Hendee

    Using the Protonmail Bridge (you have to pay upgrade from Free) with Thunderbird I am able to search the body of all my emails. Using Thunderbird as the front end also allows me to use rich text and emoticons, which I can not easily do in the native PM application (i.e., I can compose in Thunderbird and cut and paste into PM effectively).

  38. Enterprise User (for now)

    The bridge is not always an option, and I don’t see the problem for indexing content in an encrypted index allowing search. So please take this issue seriously and put it on the roadmap.

    Thank you.

  39. jrsv

    The “No body-text search is a dealbreaker!” comments are amusing. Protonmail is about privacy and security, which require certain inconveniences. Email is decrypted only on the client, but fast and easy searching would require Protonmail to decrypt on the server, which kind of defeats the whole point. Maybe some client-side text search function would be workable, but honestly I won’t use it much if it does roll out.

    If convenience is everything to you, why are you here? Go enjoy life in the Google fishbowl!

    Nice work, Protonmail. Your product is well worth the money. I will keep subscribing indefinitely.

  40. Alan Johnson

    Well said, @jrsv!

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