If you use Google's webmail service, Gmail, you can now search attachments in your e-mail messages that are in formats from popular programs, such as Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Office, and others.
To perform an attachment search, you need to type into the search bar the statement has:attachment and your search terms. For example, a search through all your attachments for the word Obama would look like this: has:attachment Obama. If you wanted to limit the search to just PDF files that contained the word Obama, the search would look like this: has:attachment filename:PDF Obama.
Previously, Gmail allowed you to search inside attachments that are text files or HTML documents, but not in other file formats such as Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, Alex Chitu explains in his Google Operating System blog.
The new Gmail search feature may not have been rolled out globally yet, as some Gmail users note in comments to Chitu's posting.
Another commenter, Stephen Bailey, needled Google for taking so long to implement such a basic feature: "I was bitten by this issue a few years back doing a Google Apps migration," he says. "Users were able to search attachments on their previous mail system very easily (even if the attachment was zipped), then on moving to the new shiny cloud-based system, this and other missing functionality really cause a storm of negative feedback to the project."
"I saw recently that Gmail is able to report search results on text displayed in images stored within emails—now that's impressive—but surely it would have been better to get the basics right first, by being able to search an Office file," Bailey adds.
Google also recently started experimenting with displaying links to Gmail messages inside search results. Users who volunteer to use the feature will see snippets of messages from their webmail account appear in a sidebar beside their search results. Clicking on the snippet will display the whole message.