Open Bug 63573 (mailsearchengine) Opened 20 years ago Updated 10 months ago

have a google-like "search engine like" interface for searching mail news


(MailNews Core :: Search, enhancement)

Not set


(Not tracked)

Thunderbird 3.0b2


(Reporter: sspitzer, Unassigned)




most people (I'm guessing) are getting pretty familiar with search engine notation.

by that I mean people know that

foo bar
means "anything with foo or bar, but items with foo and bar first"

+foo -bar
means "things with foo, but not bar.

"foo bar"
means "things with exact match 'foo bar'"


looking at some common search engines, they have simple interfaces on the first
page you see ( and

by simple interfaces I mean just a text field, maybe with some simple
explanatory text under it.  for example, alta vista has:

Example: +"natural disasters" -earthquake

then, from that page they have a link to an advanced search page.
( and

I'd like to see us have something similar.  we'd keep our advanced search ui,
but the thing users would see first would be much simpler and more like the
search engine ui that most people are used to.

here's an example of what I mean:

we have just one text area and a folder picker.  the folder picker defaults to
the currently selected folder.

what ever you type in the text area will do a "contains" search on "subject",
"sender" and "body".  if you use the + - "" notation I described above, we do
the right thing and construct the right search.


assigning to jglick for now.
updating summary.
Summary: RFE: have a "search engine" interface for searching mail news → RFE: have a "search engine like" interface for searching mail news
QA Contact: esther → laurel
I like this idea so so much! But I think it should be achieved.
Let's get rid of the advanced dialog pop-up!
What about substituting the advanced search panel for the simple panel when
clicking on Advanced?

It could look like:
 |                   +---+ +---+ +----+                            |
 | Find message for: | |v| | |v| |_   |  (Search) (Clear) (Basic)  |
 |                   +---+ +---+ +----+                            |
 |                   More   Less                                   |
 | that match: o Allofthepreceding *Any [...]ing x includesubfolder|
 |                                                                 |
 : Mail header panel                                               :
 |                                                                 |
 |                                                                 |
 : Message panel                                                   :
 |                                                                 |

- no more need of droplist widget to select the directory. Selecting one in the
folder panel can do it, as it does for the simple search.
- no duplicate work
- easy viewing of the messages   (see also bug 44578)
- easy drop&drag of the messages (bug 66955)
- I think that the simple search panel should also have a clear button to
quickly redisplay all the messages in a folder.
- ^-^ when clicked on close the search panel
- for consistency with the addressbook search, see bug 83023
- for consistency with Find in page, see bug 97023
As far as I understand, there are two issues here:

1. How to specify, what to search. This bug proposes a shorthand syntax usable
   for most searching needs. I like that.

2. How to present the results.

   Currently they are shown in the search dialog, which has a lot of problems:
   the dialog needs to implement all the message handling functions already
   present in the mail window, it needs to provide a couple of new functions
   too e.g. to point to the message in the mail window (currently missing I
   think, but was in NS 4), etc.

   The spec for Search in Main Mail Window specifies how to show the results
   in the mail window. This is a great improvement.

   I see at least one problem there, though. I understand, that only matching
   messages are shown. What I frequently do is to search for a message and then
   want to see that message in its thread, so I can read it in the right context 
   (what it is commenting, its replies etc.) I would have to select a message,
   clear the search, then enter the search again, select next match, clear the
   search and so on.

   It would be nice, if you could mark selected (in this case found) messages.
   Then you would be able to "zoom in" to show only marked messages, or "zoom
   out" to show all. Then it would be easy to switch between matches and the
   complete threaded view.

   If these "marks" were implemented, you could easily do more complicated
   searches by either marking more messages with additional searches (an
   implicit OR search) or constraining the search only to the marked (zoomed)
   messages (an implicit AND search), or clear some already marked messages
   (an implicit AND NOT search), etc.

   Btw. something like this is implemented in Pine.

   The current proposal combines searching, marking and zooming into one
   unseparable function, thus limiting its potential considerably. If the
   sub-features were available separately, even if the default operation would
   automatically zoom in, this would be a much more powerful feature without
   making it complicated to use.
Assigning back to Seth for implementation (please reassign as nec). There is now 
a spec avail.
Assignee: jglick → sspitzer
Keywords: nsbeta1
marking nsbeta1-.  Quick Search is what we have for now.  
Keywords: nsbeta1nsbeta1-
Target Milestone: --- → Future
Seth, can this bug be closed (we have Quick Search) or did you have something
else in mind?
Yes please insert the panel you now see when making a filter, want to search or 
make a view inside the normal window.. Of course this panel should be optional.

If you want to see a great searcher or view maker see:
They even have searching by query string, that is great if you have learned the 
(pretty simple) syntax.

If you have that search view inside the normal window than you should be able 
to make views or filters for the current search criteria of course. Then you 
don't have to have so many dialogs that do essentially the same thing.

Can we have QuickSearch to search in body too?
that's called type-ahead-find wrote:
> that's called type-ahead-find

That's called misunderstanding.

I was talking about simplify searching email-bodies instead of bringing up the
unfriendly "Search Messages"-dialog.
ah, quicksearching bodies across multiple messages.. I get what you mean.
See Lookout ( for a great implementation of this
idea in MS Outlook. They have now been bought by Microsoft, so I'm guessing this
will become a standard feature in Outlook soon.
Product: Browser → Seamonkey
Assignee: sspitzer → mail
Severity: normal → enhancement
Hardware: PC → All
Summary: RFE: have a "search engine like" interface for searching mail news → have a "search engine like" interface for searching mail news
(In reply to comment #7)
> Seth, can this bug be closed (we have Quick Search) or did you have something
> else in mind?

Paraphrasing seth, the answer is no.  Seth's idea is embodied in comment 0.  

QA Contact: laurel → search
Summary: have a "search engine like" interface for searching mail news → have a google-like "search engine like" interface for searching mail news
Component: MailNews: Search → MailNews: Message Display
Assignee: mail → nobody
Component: MailNews: Message Display → Search
Product: SeaMonkey → MailNews Core
Target Milestone: Future → ---
This is closely tied to what we're calling the 'thunderbar' -- see bug 452281.
Alias: mailsearchengine
Flags: wanted-thunderbird3+
Flags: blocking-thunderbird3?
Target Milestone: --- → Thunderbird 3.0b2
In what way does it significantly differ from bug 452281? (thunderbar)
marking blocking - since I think we're covering what we're going to do in bug 452281 - Bryan, DavidA, please correct if I'm wrong.
Flags: blocking-thunderbird3? → blocking-thunderbird3-
the thunderbar is by far a google like search bar.. I am testing that now for a while but i find it an annoying search bar.. It matches somehow directly on contacts and so on, it shouldnt do that.

A really good search bar would exactly be what google does. 

just an empty textfield that doesnt assume anything. So if i type a string it will search through everything. But tags to say what i want:

"from: aname"  -> shows only messages with aname in the from
"from: aname text" -> shows only messages with aname in the from and the text in anything else.

"from: aname subject: text" -> only from aname and in the subject the text.

i can go on an on but thats how google works and that is very easy to use, searching in thunderbird would really be way easier to use this way.
any progress or external plugin that could make something like this?

This could for me be the killer feature of Thunderbird 3..
See Also: → 667246
See Also: → 537915
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