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I entered promotions after: 2016/01/15 before: 2017/09/01 in the selection box and clicked the select icon. Gmail shows no messages. But if I display mails from the promotion tab with no selection, it shows mails from today (Sep 17) to August (and before). This is part of my 'clean mails' procedure, and it used to work about three months ago. This seems like a bug to me.

Am I doing anything wrong, or has something changed?

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The only thing you need to change is removing the spaces after the search operators. There shouldn't be a space between the colon and the date. Your search query should look like this:

promotions after:2016/01/15 before:2017/09/01

Gmail search queries have a lot of flexibility, but the rules can be strict. For more specifics, here's a link to the help page.

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Thanks for your answer, actually, the issue is that there was a missing text "category:" in front of "Promotions". Without it, it was looking for inbox mails with a text "promotions" and applying the dates correctly.

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