Okay, if you’re here, then you’re probably trying to find an unread email which has gotten buried under a mountain of read emails.
Does that sound about right? If so, then this article is for you.
Here’s how to find unread emails in Gmail and in Outlook.
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How to Find Unread Emails in Gmail
In Gmail, a message is considered “unread” if it has never been opened. It’s also considered “unread” if the message has been opened, then manually marked as unread.
Either way, you can search for unread emails by looking for bold messages. If you’re looking for a more advanced way to view your unread messages, there are two main ways to do it:
- Sorting by unread. In this view, all your unread messages will appear at the top of your inbox, regardless of when they were sent. Note that in this mode, “unread” messages appear in a separate section, which you can minimize.
- Searching for unread messages. With this approach, you’ll conduct a custom search that excludes any “read” emails, and only shows “unread” emails.
Let’s examine how to do this in the desktop version of Gmail, as well as in the mobile app.
Find Unread Emails in Gmail: Desktop
Let’s start by sorting by unread messages. In the desktop app, head to the gear icon in the top-right corner of the screen. Then, head to the Settings menu.
There, select the Inbox tab. From there, look at the drop-down menu for “Inbox type” and choose “Unread first.” Make sure you click “Save Changes” before exiting.
Now, your inbox will look something like this, with unread emails at the top of your inbox, and “everything else” below:
If you’d prefer, you can conduct a search for unread messages. To do so, click on the search bar and type “is:unread.”
Submit the search with the enter key and you’ll see all your unread messages. Note that you can also add other search refining parameters to narrow down the scope of your search; for more information, check out our guide on filters and searches.
Find Unread Emails in Gmail: Mobile App
Finding unread emails in Gmail in the iOS and Android mobile apps is very similar.
In iOS (iPhone and iPad):
- Tap the hamburger icon in the top left corner
- Select “Unread” – this will show only unread emails in your inbox.
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- Tap on the gear icon and tap Settings.
- Head to the Inbox section and select “Unread first” from the Inbox type menu.
- Scroll down and tap Save Changes.
If you want to conduct a search, scroll to the top of the app to access the search bar (Android), or tap the search icon in the top right corner (iOS).
How to find Unread Emails in Gmail App (Using Search)
In the mobile app, the search parameters are the same as on the desktop app. Tap on the search bar and type “is:unread,” and add other parameters as you see fit. Be sure to see our list of Gmail search operators to see what types of searches you can perform!
If you’re still having trouble finding the specific email you’re looking for, you may need to refine your search.
If you’re conducting a search for unread message, you can add other modifiers, like the size of the email or the date it was sent.
How to Find Unread Emails in Outlook
In Outlook, which utilizes a folder system, you can choose to display only unread messages either across your entire inbox, or within one specific folder. By default, your unread messages will appear bold.
Find Unread Emails in Outlook: Desktop
In the desktop Outlook app, click on the dropdown menu at the top of the message list, which probably says “All” currently. There, you’ll be able to select “Unread Mail.” You can do this for your Inbox, or any specific folder.
In older versions of Outlook, this menu may appear within the “Filter Email” dropdown menu.
You can also create an Unread Mail search folder, which is essentially a predefined set of search criteria. To do this, click on the Folder tab and click “New Search Folder.” Select the “Unread mail” option from the Reading Mail group, and select OK. You can now access this folder at any time to view only your unread messages.
Find Unread Emails in Outlook: Mobile App
The Outlook mobile app works similarly, on both iOS and Android devices. Here, you’ll click on the Filters drop-down menu, which should appear at the top of your inbox, and select “Unread Mail.”
You can also create an Unread Mail search folder using your mobile app, starting with “Folder,” then tapping “New Search Folder.”
Note that you should be able to access your Unread search folder on both desktop and mobile devices once it’s created, regardless of where you originally created it. There are also a variety of search parameters and advanced options you can use to find the exact email you want—though these are not as robust as the search features you’ll find in Gmail.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.