When trying to to search for such emails so I can delete them, I've tried

-in:inbox -in:sent

and also

-in:inbox -from:me

These queries look to be right from what I've read online, but they both return only 25 emails when there should be thousands that match these criteria.

I have checked to make sure conversation view is off, and the maximum page size is set to 50.

  • Test with Conversation view off and also make sure Maximum page size is not set to 20. Both settings can be found under Settings > General and then edit the question with the results.
    – Blindspots
    Commented Feb 12 at 17:35
  • Thanks, I checked these. Conversation view is already off and the max page size is 50. I updated the question with this and also the exact number of emails that show up in my attempted search: 25.
    – ludog
    Commented Feb 13 at 10:13
  • oops actually I think somehow these emails already got deleted but still showed up yesterday in my ''all mail'' page. Anyway, they're gone this morning so now the results of the searches in my question make sense. Should I delete this question?
    – ludog
    Commented Feb 13 at 10:40
  • Ludog, I noticed your comment after I posted my answer. I think that you posted it while I was writing my answer. As an answer was posted first, you should look at it. You might post a self-answer or delete the question (it would not be very nice, but it's up to you). As a new user, you might not know yet that once a question gets an answer with an upvote, it can't be deleted by the question creator directly. Commented Feb 13 at 11:12
  • @Rubén-VolunteerModerator- Thanks for your answer, it has useful information even though I kinda made a mistake asking this question.
    – ludog
    Commented Feb 13 at 14:49

2 Answers 2


The problem was that the emails I wanted to delete had already been deleted but still were showing up in my 'all mail' page (but not in the search results for some reason). After 24hrs, they were gone from 'all mail', and then the 25-emails in search results makes sense.

Thank you to Rubén-VolunteerModerator- for pointing out the delay in bulk operations.


You might have to get into a "systematic" trial-and-error method.

Below, there are some things that might be helpful to know you know about Gmail and about using it on a web browser.

  1. Bulk operations might take some time to update your mailbox index and/or your web browser cache. After deleting a large number of messages, wait at least 24 hours.
  2. Filters don't work with messages already stored in the Gmail mailbox. The Filter creation workflow might make people think it should work, but that is a wrong conclusion. The UI applies the filter query as a regular search for user convenience for basic verification, but in some circumstances, it will not show the expected results.
  3. in: operator
    • in:inbox might be replaced by label:inbox
    • Regarding in:sent: don't use it. Contrary to other user interface built-in left panel links, Sent is not a label. Messages on this view are retrieved by an internal query, not by a search query for the content of a folder / for labeled messages.
  4. Negative operator (-)
    • Ensure you use the required character, the hyphen / minus character, ASCII code 45. If you have copy pasted it from content rendered on a web browser, it might not be the correct character. Try using a local text editor that does not have rich text / text format features, i.e., in Windows, it might be Notepad.
      You might try to get the required character using a web engine search query, but you might not be really sure that there isn't something on the browser causing problems until you get into a deep analysis.


  • Option 0: Try a different search query crafting approach, i.e., instead of a "negative approach", even if it might look to be the more efficient way to get the expected results, try a "positive approach". Before going into this, ensure that you have waited enough time for the index and cache update due to the previous attempts. Changing from a negative to a positive approach might imply that you might have to craft multiple search queries. I can't tell you the feasibility of this because I do not know about your mailbox content.

  • Option 1: Use another email client / Gmail apps for iOS and Android

    • If the normal use of the search doesn't work, remember that you might use other email clients. It might require some work, but modern email clients make the setup process very easy for computer users having basic computer literacy.
    • Nowadays a large number of Gmail users have a smartphone. The Gmail iOS and Android apps are limited and might not be the best to handle massive message deletions. If you decide to go through this path, use a Wi-Fi connection and be prepared to have to wait until the app tell you and the task is done and to do the operation multiple times.
  • Option 2: Use Google Apps Script.

  • Option 3: Use a the Gmail API.

  • Option 4: Use a third-party service.


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