I heavily rely on Gmail's category organization. Lately I've started archiving emails that I've looked at already to avoid clutter in my "primary" category.

However I've run into a problem. If I want to look at a recent "primary" email, I can go to All Mail and look through them, but then it's totally cluttered up with all the other emails.

Is there any way to go to All Mail and then filter by category? Or is this just not possible because the categorization is destroyed by the archiving operation?

What I've tried:

  • If I click on All Mail I see all archived messages. If I then use category:primary in the search bar, it resets and only shows me the un-archived primary emails.
  • I've reviewed Gmail's search operators (https://support.google.com/mail/answer/7190?hl=en), but could not find an appropriate entry.
  • what is the result if you go into your category and then you search NOT label:inbox ? or else category:primary AND NOT label:inbox
    – boly38
    Jun 20, 2021 at 20:17
  • 1
    Thanks @boly38 for the response. category:primary AND NOT label:inbox returns no results. But NOT label:inbox seems promising! I think it's doing what I wanted! If I search from my primary section of my inbox with NOT label:inbox it seems to include things that I've archived, but doesn't include spam/updates, etc. Thanks I think that's it! PS it's very curious to me that it doesn't work unless NOT is in all caps.
    – William
    Jun 23, 2021 at 19:41
  • How did you think of that?!
    – William
    Jun 23, 2021 at 19:42
  • 1
    @boly38 I've checked a few times and I think that's exactly the behavior I was describing. If you post that as an answer I think I can accept and call this one closed!
    – William
    Jun 23, 2021 at 19:43

1 Answer 1


you must use NOT label:inbox to get entries that are non more in inbox (ex. archived entries)

it seems that google support search operator page just missed NOT keyword 😅

  • Yea no kidding! And the fact that the NOT has to be in all caps is thoroughly baffling.
    – William
    Jun 23, 2021 at 21:46

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