How to search Primary Inbox Tab in Gmail

Gmail-Inbox-Tabs

Inbox Tabs are a new feature of Gmail introduced this July (See the image above for a screenshot (Aug 5, 2013) of the Gmail Inbox Tabs). It is based on the Category labels added to Gmail earlier (in May). This post is about how to search within each Inbox Tab.

§ 1. Searching Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums tabs

The names of the default categories are the same as the Inbox Tabs: Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. Thus, we can use the category names to the search the Inbox Tabs by prepending or appending your search term with this:

category:<"category names">

For example, searching all emails that have attachments in the Social or Updates tabs:

category:(social OR updates) has:attachment

§ 2. Searching Primary Inbox Tab

How about the Inbox Tab named Primary? There is no category named Primary, so using category:primary doesn’t work.

However, I found that the emails in the Primary tab are just inbox emails that are not in any of those named categories. Hence, we can search all unread emails in the Primary Inbox Tab with this:

is:inbox -category:(updates OR promotions OR social OR forums) is:unread

where is:inbox ensures that only the inbox is searched, and -category:(updates OR promotions OR social OR forums) excludes emails belonging to those name categories. Here is another example that allows one to search all emails in the Primary tab that contain the words “essay” and “deadline”:

is:inbox -category:(updates OR promotions OR social OR forums) essay deadline

One can also choose to display starred emails in Primary Inbox Tab (more details here). For the sake of completeness, to search Primary Inbox Tab with starred emails from named categories:

is:inbox -category:(updates OR promotions OR social OR forums) OR is:(starred inbox)

where OR is:(starred inbox) includes all starred emails in the inbox in the search.

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