Gmail seems to have a flaw insofar as it acts as though tags apply only to the first email in a thread rather than to the whole thread (or to all emails in a thread).

This means that if I send an email, tag the thread "to-do" and then get a reply in the same thread, searching for in:inbox label:to-do won't show the thread in the results, despite the fact that the thread is in my inbox and is tagged "to-do".

Searching for in:sent label:to-do will show the thread, but if I'm only interested in finding threads that are in my inbox (rather than archived threads, or messages that I've sent but which haven't yet received replies), then this is no help.

So, is it possible to search by thread rather than by email in Gmail?

  • are you sure it is in your inbox? I have not been able to recreate the issue. Many people forget that inbox is just a label. Jul 2 '12 at 14:37
  • @mhoran_psprep Yes, I'm sure. And yes, the same result occurs with label:inbox ... as with in:inbox ...
    – user6757
    Jul 2 '12 at 16:06
  • @mhoran_psprep I now think there may be something subtler going on: productforums.google.com/d/topic/gmail/ip2APz_Kwlw/discussion
    – user6757
    Jul 2 '12 at 23:26

Tags are meant for individual messages not threads. The reply will not have the label on it because you have not labelled the message as such. You will want to apply a filter to grab any new messages.

Turn off conservation view and you will be able to search by individual message.

Conversation View in settings

Example filters that could work for your thread

Matches: from:(sender@gmail.com) to:(phwd@gmail.com) subject:(Blank Test) Do this: Apply label "To-Do"

Matches: from:(phwd@gmail.com) to:(sender@gmail.com) subject:(Blank Test) Do this: Apply label "To-Do"

With conversation view off, you should see both the sent message and received message using label:to-do and only the received items with label:to-do in:inbox

  • Thank you. This is somewhat helpful, but does not provide a solution to the more specific question How do I find every thread in a Gmail account matching both of the following conditions: (1) The thread is among the threads displayed in the "inbox" view. (2) The thread is labeled (or contains a message that is labeled) "To-do".
    – user6757
    Jul 11 '12 at 16:35
  • The solution may - if what you say about tags is correct - require invoking a mechanism to discover each of the other emails in a thread given one of the emails in the thread, and then checking each of those emails to see if any of them is in the inbox, and if so, adding that thread to the search results. So, does such a mechanism exist, or alternatively can one be created using some kind of API/plugin mechanism? If so, what/how? Thanks again.
    – user6757
    Jul 11 '12 at 16:40
  • @sampablokuper threads cannot be labelled. only messages. With conversation view on, what you are seeing in the search results are threads with message tagged. There is no mechanism you seek other than adding a filter with the subject and to field and the label so the incoming message gets added to the label.
    – phwd
    Jul 11 '12 at 16:42
  • I'm puzzled. You say, "There is no mechanism you seek other than adding a filter with the subject and to field and the label so the incoming message gets added to the label," but neither the subject field nor the to field are relevant to my questions.
    – user6757
    Jul 11 '12 at 16:48
  • 1
    I've pinged the Gmail Community Manager across at Google+ hopefully they will chime in when get a chance, other than that there is not much more I can do in terms of an end user non-programming solution, sorry about that.
    – phwd
    Jul 11 '12 at 18:26

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