Searching for and finding emails in Outlook


sharyn baines Searching in Outlook has improved greatly over the years as newer versions of the ubiquitous email software have been released. But there’s more to searching than just typing something in the Search Box at the top of your messages list. Use these tips to dive deeper into your Inbox and email folders to quickly find those hard to locate messages.

Filter your messages using the Search Tab Ribbon

There’s a bunch of handy filter options on the Search tab that often go unnoticed and therefore unused, with many only requiring one extra click to refine your search to see immediate results.

Firstly, you might like to make use of the Scope options to exclude or include additional folders and mailboxes. This is really important if you don’t want to see the ‘whirly wheel’ on your screen for several minutes as Outlook searches through emails you archived years ago.

I use the Has Attachments button to refine my search to only emails that contain an attachment and the From button is definitely useful.

Searching in Outlook by date

I also use the date filter options a lot.  Just click on the drop-down arrow on the This Week button to refine the time period of your search. To search for a specific day or date range, from the More button select Received. Then in the Received box either type the date (be sure to format it as dd/mm/yyyy) or type a date range with the beginning and end date separated by two dots, e.g. 23/06/2107..28/06/2017, and Outlook will do the rest.

You can add as many filters as you like. The more you apply the quicker you will find that elusive message.

Use Advanced Find to perform a one-off search

This is a useful way to customise your own search criteria all at once, including setting a date range. Once you have entered a search term in the Search box, go to the Search tab and click Search Tools > select Advanced Find from the menu options > Browse > select the mailbox, folder or folders you want to search.  If required include subfolders > select the options you require from the tabs. On the Advanced tab create additional search criteria using fields.  To add a search criteria click the Field button and then select the field you want to search.  Add the condition and value (if applicable) > Add to List > add further search criteria (if required) > click Find Now.

Save your Search criteria for reuse

If you find yourself searching in Outlook for the same type of message again and again, you’ll see benefit in using Search Folders. You can save the search criteria as a Search Folder, and any emails that meet that criteria will be automatically ‘filed’ in that Search Folder. It then becomes a doddle to click on the Search Folder (displayed at the bottom of your list of folders on the Navigation Pane) anytime you want to look for something that meets that specific criteria.

Unlike normal folders search folders work as “virtual” folders –they scan your mailbox for items that match the set criteria and then display a list of found items for you.  The items are not moved to the search folder – the items displayed in a search folder are in fact a link to where the items are stored in your mailbox.  To create, Folder tab > New Search Folder > select the appropriate folder type > if required click the Choose button to set additional criteria and then click OK and OK again.

Use Conditional Formatting to change the colour of certain emails

This tip uses your visual abilities to quickly see emails and help you find something by colour or boldness. I use conditional formats to make emails from the boss or from priority clients stand out, simply by allocating a colour to their messages. From the View tab, go to View Settings > Conditional Formatting. Click Add to set up a new rule and give it a meaningful name e.g. Boss messages. Click the Font… button and change the font colour and boldness (you could also change the size and font type). Click OK and then click the Condition … button. Click From… and select your boss’ name from the contact list. After that, just click OK a few times to get out of the pop up screen, and you should notice any emails from your boss change to Bold Blue (or whatever colour you’ve chosen). To remove the formatting just make your way back to the Conditional Formatting dialogue box and delete the condition from the list.

Group your messages in a customised view

Go to the View tab and click on any of the options that appear in the Arrangement section. This is a great way to quickly change the view and group messages how you need them. Perhaps you want to see things grouped by the folk you’ve received messages from, so click the From option. Or, if you want to group your emails by size (a handy way to delete those ridiculously large emails that hang around your inbox), click the Size option. To see more arrangement options for grouping, click on the down arrow at the bottom right of the Arrangement section. Remember to return the view back to Date after you’ve found what you need, this will set the default view back to displaying the latest emails at the top, and older messages underneath.

We cover these and other time saving tips in our Outlook – Managing your Mailbox course.
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