How to perform an advanced search

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

ProtonMail allows you to search by:

  • Keyword (in the subject line only)
  • Location (Inbox, Drafts, Sent, Archive, Spam, Trash, or custom folder)
  • Email address
  • Date message was sent or received
  • Attachments (only if a message has an attachment or not, not the name of the attachment)

You cannot search the contents of messages because all emails are stored on our servers using zero-knowledge encryption that prevents us from reading message contents. 

If you do need to search message contents, you can use ProtonMail Bridge. This downloads and decrypts your messages to any third-party email client, where you can then search message contents locally using your client’s built-in search functions. 

How to perform an advanced search

You can perform an advanced search using the ProtonMail web interface. Log in to and click the arrow to the right of the Search messages field. 

mage showing Advanced search

How search using advanced syntax

ProtonMail also supports complex searches using advanced syntax for power users. Advanced search syntax works in the web app and in our Android and iOS apps. 

Special characters can be used to execute complex logic when performing searches on your message metadata (the Subject, To/CC/BCC, and From fields). The logical AND is implicit between any two search keywords (searching for ‘hello world’ means match ‘hello’ AND ‘world’). The other search operators are:

Image showing advanced search syntax

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  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


  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

  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!

  41. ProtonMail Paid User

    I don’t see how this isn’t possible if you index and store the index encrypted on the client side. The client can decrypt and index the data in an encrypted data object. Modern hardware can perform this encryption/decryption very fast and I don’t see how this possibly could be a problem. Maybe on mobile, but worse case limit the body keyword search to desktop only?

  42. ProtonMail Support

    We’re actually working on this:

  43. Emmy

    Cool. As soon as this is done, I’m a paid user, and Gnail is in the ash heap of history.

  44. Mr mr

    Still no ability to search within the email body

  45. ProtonMail Support

    This is coming after the redesign of our client apps.

  46. I Love Proton

    I’ve been a paying user since 2017, but in the last year not being able to body-text search has made using protonmail more and more difficult.
    I am really sad to say, going back to gmail will be my ONLY option in the near future, unless body-text search is enabled.

  47. ProtonMail Support

    This is currently being worked on. Thank you for your patience.

  48. Mathieu

    Hi there, how do you delete a Label created?
    Also, why can’t you create a label AND a folder of the same name?

  49. ProtonMail Support

    There’s a DELETE option on the right side of the Settings > Folders/Lables page.
    Folders and labels share the same filing logic and therefore cannot share the same name.

  50. Cristina Spoiala

    Please let us know protonmail, when this feature will be enabled since now I can only scroll up to a point and now in no way can I find important emails

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