Buffy/Mozilla: Mail & News: Search

UI Specification

Mail Search

Last Modification: 

Author: Jennifer Glick 
Creation Date: 6 November  2000

Status: Implementable 


Design Details
Mail Specific Search
Find in Message
Context Menus
Customize Headers

Feature Team


 Scott Putterman, David Bienvenu, Seth Spitzer 




 Laurel Carlson


 Robin Foster

Mail UE

 Jennifer Glick



  1. 44348 - "Clear" should clear the criteria AND the results (currently only the criteria are cleared). 
  2. 59049 - Suggestions for the "Search subfolders" check box in search.
  3. 66970 - Search messages: context menu for search results pane.
  4. 82015 - Search/Filters UI: AND/OR text not always appearing until AND/OR toggled
  5. Show busy icon when search in progress.
  6. Criteria field.  Selecting "Enter" or "Tab" on the keyboard should add another criteria row and move the give focus to new row.
  7. Drag n Drop messages from Results to 3 Pane Mail Folders.
  8. Search on Server vs. Search Locally only.





The Search feature provides a method for users to find and act on mail and news messages that have already been received.



Searching mail messages, similar to creating filters, is aimed at more intermediate users.  

User Tasks

Fundamental Tasks


Intermediate Tasks

  • Search in a particular folder with one criteria
  • Search an account with one criteria
  • Open messages from a search result
  • Delete messages from a search result
  • Move/copy messages from a search result

Advanced Tasks

  • Complex searches with multiple criteria 
  • Define and use custom headers 


Search Access

Access to the Search Dialog from the Main Mail window or Standalone Message window:

Edit Menu

Tools Menu

Find in This Message...  Ctrl+F
Find Again   Ctrl+G

Search Messages...   Ctrl+Shift+F

"Find in Message..." and "Find Again", are used to search a specific message that is currently open or has focus. "Search Messages" opens the "Search Messages" dialog used to search a specific Mail or News account or Mail folders for messages.



Design Details

1. Mail Specific Search

The Search window is resizable.

This dialog is context sensitive.  If a specific Mail folder or Mail/News account within Mail had focus when the user selected "Search Mail/News Messages", the dialog should open with the mail folder or account already selected.

A. Criteria

The search conditions widgets should work similar to the Mail Addressing widgets.

Light colored lines should appear between the rows and columns.  The text fields should outline themselves when they have focus.

There is always at least one available search criteria row. When creating a new search, only one search row with widgets is displayed.  When focus leaves the last criteria row (clicking Enter, clicking out of row, tabbing out, etc.) and the row is not empty, a new search criteria row with widgets is created.  This area will scroll when more than 5 criteria rows are needed.  The number of potential search criteria rows is unlimited. When the user clicks anywhere in a particular row, that row is highlighted.  Highlighting will be very light so that the text is still very readable.  Clicking the Delete button or Delete key will removed the row (and move the next row up, if there is one). 


B. Search in Progress

When a search is currently in progress, the progress icon in the statusbar should be animated and the cursor (when over the Search Dialog) should be an hourglass. The text in the status bar should indicate what action is currently occurring ("Opening Folder X", "Searching Folder X", etc.). As mentioned above, the "Search" button changes to "Stop" when a search is in progress so that a user can stop the current search if they want.


C. Results

Once the search has completed, the results of the search are displayed in the lower half of the dialog.  The Results Thread Pane works identical to the Mail Thread Pane. Header columns can be added/removed.  Results can be sorted by header columns. The default sort order is Subject (A's at the top), but the dialog should remember the user's last settings. Ctrl and Shift keyboard commands are available to select multiple messages.

Column Headers - The default columns (and order) in the Results area should be: Subject, Sender, Date, Location, Column Widget. The "Location" column header displays the parent folder (of the message) only, not the path. 

Note: the thread column, unread total in thread column, and total in thread column, are not available using the Column Widget.  They are thread specific and have no value outside of thread mode.  The unread and flag column are also not available (because any changes to their state would need to be tracked to the other mail windows as well).

No Results Found -  If no matching search results are found:

  1. The statusbar should display the text "No matches found".
  2. The Results Thread Pane should display the text: "No results matching your criteria were found." 


2. Context Menus


3. Customize Headers

Users can create and use their own custom headers by selecting "Customize..." from the header drop down list.


The "Customize Headers" dialog opens.

There are no limits to what or how many headers the user can enter. 

Once a custom header has been added, it appears in the header drop down list.  Customized headers are also available anywhere else in the product were headers can be selected from, such as Filters.


4. Criteria

Conditions should be the same for Search and for Filters, with the following exceptions:


Of the Message

3rd Field

To or CC
Customized Headers
Body (Search only).  (Some servers will allow this, other won't)

Doesn't Contain
Begins With
Ends With

Text Field

Age in Days

Is Greater Than
Is Less Than

Text Field


Is Before
Is After

Current date with Increase/Decrease controls


Is Higher Than
Is Lower Than







5. Find in Message

From the Main Mail window or Standalone Message window, "Search" menu, "Find in This Message" menu item opens the Find in This Message dialog.



Future Enhancements

Ideas that were brought up as potential enhancements to the Search feature for future releases. 



Results Pane - Drag n Drop from results area.


Search Local vs. Search Server


Save a search ("Save as...")


Global Search - across all accounts.


A "re-filter" button that would apply to the search results. It would only operate on the messages matched by the search (the button would be disabled until the search is completed or stopped). Regardless of where the messages are currently filed, it would be run through the filter rules as if it were a new message. jharding@cig.mot.com (Josh Harding)