Forwarding Address: OS X

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fulltext search in Tiger Mail?

So, does fulltext search in 2.0.5 (OS X 10.4.3) work for anybody else? Because it sure as hell doesn't work for me. Indexing Mail Messages is turned on in Spotlight prefs; I don't see any relevant options in Mail itself. From within Mail I can search for matches on From, To, Subject without difficult, but "Entire Message" mode yields nothing. Is this feature just broken?


  • Simple fix is to rebuild your mailbox(es) using the Rebuild option in the Mailbox menu.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:43 PM  

  • Sorry. Mine works fine.

    I use it all the time.

    Rebuild it.

    By Anonymous Nathan, at 2:23 PM  

  • This was happening to me too, and somehow magically got fixed. I remember rebuilding the inbox to try and fix it and it didn't at the time. It seemed after the 10.4.3 update that it suddenly started working again (a few people at my office were not having the problem; when I went to show one of them it of course was working for me)

    By Anonymous James, at 2:55 PM  

  • It seems to be quite fragile,
    mine ceased to work months ago.

    By Anonymous Ferdinand Svehla, at 4:20 PM  

  • Thanks for the suggestions. Sadly, rebuilding the Inbox does nothing to change the situation.

    By Blogger pbx, at 7:41 PM  

  • It does nothing to fix my problems either.

    I even retried re-importing mails into spotlight
    (mdimport ~/Library/Mail) - even forcefully so (-f).

    Does not change anything so far.
    Though, I got multiple messages like “Failed to decode 7-bit data, treating as binary”

    Maybe that our problem - some mails are corrupted, thus indexing ceases to work?

    By Anonymous Ferdinand Svehla, at 7:30 AM  

  • How many emails are in your inbox? I had some problems (in general with mail) when I had over 3000. Since I started keeping things in folders of 300-500, seems to function better.

    By Anonymous Ben Towbin, at 11:47 AM  

  • Over 1000 in each case, I think. But fulltext search doesn't work on *any* of my mailboxes, even small ones.

    Maybe I should try a dose of the GTD religion and clear them out anyway.

    By Blogger pbx, at 3:40 PM  

  • I get the same thing, no results when searching "Entire Message". Zero. And yes, I have rebuilt all my mail boxes.

    Anyone find a fix for this?

    Can you please let me know.
    timothybhewittesq at yahoo dot com

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:08 AM  

  • This fixed mine:
    Quit Mail
    Open Sytem Prefs
    Choose "Spotlight" (Top row)
    Click the +
    Choose your Harddrive (the one with your mail boxes)
    Click the -
    This makes spotlight re-index you drive.
    Wait for it to finish
    (You can see the progress if you single click on the Spotlight icon in your menu bar)
    Now it works!

    I heard this doesn't work for everyone (but it worked for me).

    By Anonymous Timothy Hewitt, at 11:24 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:47 PM  

  • I seem to have the same problem and rebuilding my mailbox did not solve it either.

    Interestingly, I observe that Spotlight (in the system menu bar) *can* find the message(s) I'm searching for in, so the problem's seemingly not related to the global index. It's's search context that's broken.

    But, yeah, it like doesn't work at all.

    By Blogger Derrell, at 12:38 PM  

  • Hello, and thank you for having me in blogger.

    By Blogger Ms. Jennifer Ann Williams, at 12:42 PM  

  • I just quit Mail and started it again and the search worked again

    By Blogger art gittleman, at 11:25 AM  

  • I also had this exact problem. Tried restarting mail no help. Tried rebooting Mac no luck. Considered making spotlight reindex drive and that seemed to scare it into working ;-). Don't know why but after restarted mail again all was working properly. Seems to be a fragile system.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:12 PM  

  • For large mailboxes, you have to wait a while after
    Mailbox->Rebuild finishes before search works
    correctly (perhaps Spotlight is somehow catching
    up with the rebuilt directory of messages?).

    For a mailbox with 22,387 messages, the rebuild took
    ~90sec, and after ~5min search worked perfectly. (My problem was such that Spotlight was not finding all messages containing the query string either.)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:01 PM  

  • This has been driving me crazy for a year, since I moved to Tiger. While I swear I've done this before, yesterday I did it ALL: I verified Spotlight and prefs as described. I selected each and every one (top level even if empty and all sub-folders) of my nearly 200 individual mailboxes and chose Rebuild. I forced Spotlight to reindex my harddrive. And today.... Entire Message searching is working across all mailboxes. Now if they could just get boolean working.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:10 AM  

  • Simple fix is to rebuild your mailbox(es) using the Rebuild option in the Mailbox menu.

    I selected each and every one (top level even if empty and all sub-folders) of my nearly 200 individual mailboxes and chose Rebuild.

    Are you guys using a different operating system than I am? My copy of Tiger Mail grays out the Rebuild menu choice unless exactly one mailbox is selected. I'm hanged if I'm going to sit there and rebuild 100 mailboxes manually, one at a time.

    By Blogger Larry, at 5:29 PM  

  • Ok, I dunno if it was a combo of steps or just the final one, but here's generally what worked for me.

    - I had the same prob of not being able to search "Entire Message" in (but subject, from, to all work fine).
    - Past steps of reinstalling from the original DVD that came with my MBP 2.0Ghz didn't do the trick.
    - I even created a new user account and fired up mail and checked an old pop address and that didn't work either!
    - Final steps that seemed to work: 1st broke up messages into smaller folders (by year). Most were a few hundred, largest folder has 1250 messages. 2nd, I rebuilt each folder, and combed through cleaning things up (marking read/deleting duplicates, etc.). Still didn't work (after quitting/restarting, so 3rd, I forced the reindex of the whole drive as described (in Spotlight system pref's, privacy tab, adding the root hard drive, then removing it, thereby forcing a reindex of the whole drive). After this step, it works again! YES! Again, I'm not sure if the breaking up of mailboxes and rebuilding of mailboxes was necessary or not.

    By Blogger Benjamin Yu, at 12:28 PM  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:44 AM  

  • Apple can make beautiful hardware and slick looking UI, but can't seem to make a straightforward search that works - that goes for Spotlight and

    Spotlight can't even find files on the desktop and can't find messages with subjects or from fields that I can confirm by looking manually.

    There was a time when things like this worked - pre OS-X!!

    Apple, this isn't rocket science. please fix your sh*t.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:58 AM  

  • Try Spotless

    You can easily rebuild your spotlight index file, which, to be sure, is a good idea every once in while. This worked immediately and you do not have to rebuild (on rebuilding, it is possible to rebuild multiple mailboxes at the same time so even if there is a bunch of clicking for hundereds of boxes, the entire rebuild process can happen pretty fast.)

    FYI, the pay features don't seem to be of much use.


    By Anonymous jonna, at 12:01 PM  

  • Mail search was working. Now it is not. Spotlight can search and find messages by content externally but using the internal "Entire Contents" search does not even attempt... no spinny thing at all. I tried rebuilding indexes (even assigned a key to it), tried rebuilding spotlight indexes on the system via command line and via Spot Preferences, tried force importing mail (binary blah blah errors), tried to tell the spotlight plugin to reimport UITs claimed by the mail plugin, nothing worked, nada, zip.

    I commonly have tens of thousands of emails unread alone in various email boxes and have not suffered any issue since 10.3. My mail system has fewer than 100 mail boxes and over 200,000 messages. I am going to trim messages to see if I have reached some limit.

    Very frustrating. No error message, nothing. It is as if a GUI is making a command line call and getting back an unexpected error string it cannot process... not like real code which gets an error code back and performs a 'throw' to at least show the goofy error code returned from the function...

    By Anonymous Wm. Cerniuk, at 5:24 PM  

  • I'm with w.m. cerniuk... after rebuilding mailboxes and rebuilding spotlight, nothing whatsoever in "All Mailboxes" "Entire Message". is definately broken.

    I get an amount of mail, maybe 100/day, which means any kind of filing system beyond putting them in a searchable archive is not practical for me - and I figure if the archive is searchable, who needs folders?

    Not being able to search means I am going back to my stored copy of all my messages in gmail to find things - which is ridiculous as they're all on mt hard drive!

    Sort it out, Apple! Does anyone know how we can log a ticket with them?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:07 AM  

  • Ok, found the solution

    The fix is to clean out the garbage in the SQL database. This requires some command line work but after executing, all works well and works much faster!

    The fix is this:
    cd ~/Library/Mail
    sqlite3 Envelope\ Index vacuum

    It is designed to make it go faster but as a side effect, it repairs the problem (HOOAH!)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:08 PM  

  • BTW, I tried to publish that solution several times here using my Google account and no go.

    Wm. Cerniuk

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:09 PM  

  • Last comment (jez I wish my Google login would work). The "ticket" was entered into Apple's radar as:
    Problem ID: 4956827
    Mail No Longer Searches 'Entire Contents'

    Wm. Cerniuk

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:12 PM  

  • Well, after all this time I finally stumbled across this web page which indicates that I'm not the only one experiencing this total grief. I can't even use rgrep because of course the content is not ASCII and grep does not understand it.

    By Anonymous Luc Beaudoin, at 8:09 PM  

  • Oh, and I tried several tricks such as the ones listed on this document. NB: I have had so many serious problems with "rebuild mailbox" (which is IMHO really means "destroy mailbox") that I don't dare try it again. Besides, it didn't help the search issue to the extent that I did apply it.

    By Anonymous Luc Beaudoin, at 8:11 PM  

  • Debugging this on my wife's 10.4.9 system drove me nuts tonight. I tried the following things, which didn't work:

    1. Rebuilt Spotlight index from scratch
    2. Rebuilt Spotlight index using Spotless (removing VT100 subdir)
    3. Running mdimport manually
    4. Vacuuming sqlite3 indices

    Hours into this process, I realized that Spotlight wasn't indexing newly-created files either. For example, if I created a text file called "Jabberwocky" using TextEdit, Spotlight wouldn't find it.

    Finally, I realized that I'd done something that was, in retrospect, stupid at the time we first configured her new Macbook Pro many months ago. We had set her short name to "diane". She didn't like the lowercase form showing up in Finder, so I used Finder > Get Info on her home directory to change it to "Diane".

    Remembering this, I went back into Finder, changed her home directory back to "diane" and rebuilt her Spotlight index by dragging her HD into and out of Spotlight's Privacy dialog.

    This worked. All email messages can now be searched via the "Entire Message" option, and newly-created files are also indexed in Spotlight automatically.

    Now I have to break it to her that her home directory must stay lower-cased... :-(

    Hope this helps someone else.


    By Blogger Steven, at 1:37 AM  

  • I just used a program called Spotlightindexer.
    This is the only thing that was able to allow me to have full searching capabilities. I had to re-index the "~/Library/Mail" and now everything works the way it did before I had to reimport my mail files.

    By Blogger Jason, at 6:32 PM  

  • I've got the same "mail-can't-search-entire-message-but-spotlight-in-finder-can" problem. I've done all the rebuilds, SQLite vacuums, reboots, re-index, re-import, and even voodoo. No luck.

    This feels like a permission thing to me.... I just know it is. But I don't know enough about that to monkey around. Anyone?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:03 PM  

  • I rebuilt spotlight and everything is working now. I'm curious... has anyone upgraded from a previous version or used backup (part of .Mac) to transfer data over? I did this and I'm wondering if it caused the problem to start.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:39 AM  

  • Jason's suggestion (see above) worked for me.
    Russ P.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:17 AM  

  • this terminal lines helped me:

    The fix is this:
    cd ~/Library/Mail
    sqlite3 Envelope\ Index vacuum

    It is designed to make it go faster but as a side effect, it repairs the problem (HOOAH!)


    By Blogger maximilian, at 3:00 PM  

  • Jason's comment above worked for me too! Thank you Jason!

    I had this problem forever...tried every single solution everyone has stated but NONE have ever worked. Then I try Jason's suggestion about the lowercased name and again reindexed spotlight and now my "entire message" search in Mail if finally working!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:28 AM  

  • Whoops, I meant Steven's suggestion, not Jason's. Thank you Steven!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:29 AM  

  • My find in mail didn't work either so I split my mailboxes to less than 800 emails and it works. However I can not figure out how to split my "sent" mail box. Any suggestions?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:28 PM  

  • I solved this by re-indexing my home Library folder, which contains the Mail files.
    Drag this folder into the Spotlight Privacy box and then out again to get Spotlight to re-index the Mail files

    Cheers, Brandon Teo

    By Blogger Brandon Teo, at 6:56 PM  

  • I did this and it worked instantly: You might need to synchronize the mailboxes on your computer with those on your mail server. To synchronize mailboxes for all mail accounts, choose Mailbox > Synchronize All Accounts. To synchronize mailboxes for a specific account, choose Mailbox > Synchronize and then select the account.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:28 PM  

  • After applying solutions below, my problems are mostly gone.
    One feature is still broken but has a workaround.
    If you have a solution for that one, please let us know.

    ====== DETAILS ======
    Never broken: Search on "From/To/Subject"
    *FIXED NOW*: Search on "All Mailboxes" AND "Entire Message" returns no results.
    *FIXED NOW*: "Entire Message" search button disabled (grayed out).
    *FIXED NOW*: Spotlight (Mac's whole computer) does not search contents of entire mail messages.
    STILL BROKEN: search on any individual mailbox AND "Entire Message" does not return any results.

    To narrow down the search on individual mailbox,
    search "All Mailboxes" then sort on "Mailbox" (can also sort on "Date Received" etc).

    1) Removed duplicates. Splited huge mail box into two.

    2)Add /Mail to privacy list
    sudo mdutil -E "/Volumes/Macintosh HD"
    restart computer
    remove /Mail from privacy list
    sudo mdutil -E "/Volumes/Macintosh HD"
    restart computer

    3) cd ~/Library/Mail
    sqlite3 Envelope\ Index vacuum

    4) Re-index "~/Library/Mail" using Spotlightindexer.

    By Blogger Giovanni, at 7:24 AM  

  • I also tried:
    "SOLUTIONS 5: Rebuild all mail boxes."

    By Blogger Giovanni, at 7:32 AM  

  • Mine was working until I chose to exclude ~/Library/ from being indexed in the spotlight privacy preferences. Then I got exactly the behavior described here--Mail search turns up results in subject and to/from, but none in "entire message". Remove that folder from the exclusions and rebuilding mboxes worked for me.

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