Searching Apple Mail in Catalina

I finding that Search in Apple Mail in Catalina (first non-beta release) is not locating any matching messages. I’ve rebuilt the Spotlight index on the machine, but I’m not able to get any search hits for email messages in Mail or in Spotlight. (And Houdah Spot apparently is now prevented from searching Mail’s Spotlight index.)


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:astonished: didn’t realize this! Apple blocked the ability to access mail. Wow

Aaaannnd… they just made it explicit with the new version:

Oh interesting. I use Infoclick for extended mail search which claims to be Catalina compatible.

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Hmm. And interestingly Foxtrot, which is probably the closest competitor to HoudahSpot, says it’s Catalina-compatible, but doesn’t note any Mail search restrictions.

Thanks for the tip on Foxtrot. I”ll check that out. It looks like Foxtrot is creating its own index of Mail messages, perhaps instead of using the Apple Mail Spotlight index – at least that’s how I read this page from the Foxtrot dev.

Blocking access to the Spotlight index for Mail is strange and “un-Apple”.


Edit: I had Foxtrot reindex the computer and so far all the mail-searches I’ve done are as successful as doing them in Mail, without the annoying search box in Mail. Again, thanks for the tip.

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Sorry to do a ‘me too’ post - but I’ve also had no luck with searching within on Catalina. I don’t use any of these other search engines (HoudahSpot etc.) just straight into the search box in

Anyone else finding the same thing - and even better, got a solution? (Fortunately my mail accounts are with google and zoho, so I can always go to the web interface to search.)

There’s some ideas on this thread in the Apple Support forums. I’ll give the kb article on rebuilding the spotlight index a go first.

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I did end up rebuilding the Spotlight index, and Mail search is working for now.


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I rebuilt the Spotlight index and it worked for about 5 mins, and now I am back to square one! I’ve trawled the various different forums and tried the various solutions like Shift-starting Mail twice, and clearing the Spotlight index either with Terminal commands or by adding, and then subtracting the entire drive to ‘Private’. So far no effect. Anyone got any inspiration?

No inspiration…except to add that I updated my wife’s Mac to Catalina over the weekend…and searching isn’t working for her either!

@KVZ - what process did you follow to “rebuild the Spotlight index”?

One (simple method is close mail/shift open mail/close mail/shift open mail/close mail/reboot. This gave me the search function back for a short while.

The more complicated one is using terminal commands. This is from:

To fix that issue.

  1. Quit

  2. Stop, Clear, and Restart your Spotlight indexation. To do so : OR

  • Open
  • Stop and Flush Indexation
  • sudo mdutil -i off -E /
  • verify the status
  • sudo mdutil -s /
  • Restart it
  • sudo mdutil -i on /
  • verify the status again
  • sudo mdutil -s /
  1. Clear the indexes. You will find some “Envelope Index*” files in your ~/Library/Mail/V7/MailData folder. Trash them and empty the Trash. (They will be rebuild after relaunching, don’t worry).

To do so:

  • From the Finder > Goto Menu > Go to folder: “~/Library/Mail/V7/MailData”.
  • From the “open ~/Library/Mail/V7/MailData” (then Enter)

Restart your Mac. Re-open, and all we be fine again.

PS: You need all those steps, and in this order :wink:

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Thanks @PeterOConnor - so far, so good!

Just for others…I don’t think you need the forward slashes / in those commands (unless you’re wanting to run them all from a single command prompt).

I used CleanMyMac X, in the “Maintenance” tab. The “Reindex Spotlight” command. It takes a while, and CleanMyMac X indicates when the job is still running. (It’s a front end for the standard mdutil process described by @PeterOConnor.)


After using CleanMyMac, can you search in Mail?

Yes, I used CleanMyMac X to “Reindex Spotlight” (same thing as using mdutil) and I can search Apple Mail. I did this about 2-3 weeks ago and so far no further issues.


Well, I think I spoke too soon, as search was dead not long afterwards…though I’ll give it another try over the next few days.

Actually, now I realise why the / is part of the commands - it specifies the filesystem for the commands to run on (I was confusing it with \, which is used to tell the shell that you’re entering a multi-line command). :flushed::woozy_face:

For info I have been having some degree of success with the Shift-Open method described above. It is aukward as you have to rebook each time, but sometimes I get half a day before it stops working again.