How To Search & Find Specific Text Messages In iMessage

Need to find an old message in iMessage? You’ll need to learn how to search inside your text messages to find it – here’s how it is done…

Finding a specific message inside Apple’s iMessage – on either you iPhone or iPad – is actually really simple. It is super-useful too. All you need to know or have is a specific “keyword” or “phrase” in mind.

If you know that, you can search your entire iMessage history. And, from iOS 16 onwards, you now also have the ability to Recently Deleted iPhone Messages inside the Messages app.

And there are a couple of ways to mine your text messages for information; the first uses iMessage’s built in search functionality, and the second uses iOS’ native Spotlight Search.

Let’s look at how you search for text messages with iMessage using iMessage’s built in search functionality first, as this is the easiest and most reliable method.

Method #1) How To Search For Specific Text Messages Inside iMessage

You’ll first need to open the iMessage app. Once you’ve done this, you’ll want to go to the main screen where all of your conversations are listed. From here, simply enter your search term in the search bar and hit enter.

Example: say you want to search for “thanksgiving”, enter the term thanksgiving into the search bar and hit enter on your keyboard. iMessage will now list all of conversations that mention thanksgiving.

How To Search & Find Specific Text Messages In iMessagePin

iMessage will automatically show the most recent first, but if you want to see ALL the messages that contain this phrase simply tap SEE ALL and it will display everything, going right back to when you first started using your iPhone.

Pretty simple, right? If you want to get more specific, you can – as I noted in the introduction, all you need is a phrase or a keyword. Just enter it and iOS will extract all of your text messages that contain that specific keyword or phrase.

Method #2) Using Spotlight To Search Inside Text Messages

iOS has a built in search engine; it’s called Spotlight and you can use it to find pretty much anything on your iPhone, including specific text messages and/or specific content from certain text messages.

How To Search & Find Specific Text Messages In iMessagePin

To access Spotlight on iPhone, go to your home screen and drag down with one finger from the middle of the screen.

This will open Spotlight, complete with a search box.

Enter the phrase you want to find, hit enter, and Spotlight will then pull up EVERYTHING on your phone that relates to that phrase, including text messages.

As I noted earlier, Spotlight is great for finding stuff on your phone, from files to downloads and media, but if you’re after specific text messages, I would use the iMessage method (method #1) as it is more focussed and it makes it easier to find what you’re looking for as you’re only dealing with text messages.

Text Messages Not Appearing in Spotlight?

This can happen. All it means is that Messages search functionality isn’t enabled. This is an easy fix though; just go to Settings > Siri & Search > Messages App > Turn on Show In Search.

Once this setting is switched on, you’ll be able to use Spotlight to search for text messages on your phone.

Spotlight is great for quickly finding old messages from specific contacts. For instance, say you have an old friend that you haven’t messaged for years. With Spotlight search on iPhone, all you’d have to do is enter his/her name and it will pull in all of their messages.

This saves you from opening iMessage and scrolling through endless conversations until you find your old conversation with them.

Searching inside iMessage itself, using its built in search functionality, is best for quickly finding text messages that mention certain phrases.

For instance, say you want to find a message that mentions something super-specific, or a tip you gave someone, just enter the main keyword and/or phrase and it will quickly find all the instances of where it is mentioned.

And because you can search through your entire text message history, you can effectively pull data and find things from years and years ago.

This is a super-handy feature to have at your disposal, and with the above-listed tips on how find specific text messages or topics in iMessage, you can quickly mine gigabytes of text messages in mere seconds.

Search Limitations & Things To Keep In Mind

Obviously, if you have deleted a message – or a message thread – the data will no longer be available. This is one of the reasons why you should never delete conversation threads. You never know when you might need to refer back to them.

How To Search iMessage Text Messages on iPad

Yes, if you have iMessage set up on iPad, your iPhone iMessage app will sync with your iPhone, so you can manage and respond to text messages that are sent to your iPhone on your iPad.

iMessage also runs on MacBooks and iMac, so you can do all of the above search and find functions on these two. Although you will need to have these set up properly using iCloud.

The process is exactly the same as well – just use the built-in search functionality of iMessage to isolate and find text messages and specific subject/topics/keywords that you have discussed with your contacts.

Richard Goodwin

Richard Goodwin is a leading UK technology journalist with a focus on consumer tech trends and data security. Renowned for his insightful analysis, Richard has contributed to Sky News, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 2, and CNBC, making complex tech issues accessible to a broad audience.

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