Live search in Outlook

Usually we search for something when we need to…. ON Demand. This type of search works on the mails you already have in your mailbox.

However, in some cases you may want to know everything which is happening about a specific topic, specific person, an ongoing project or a specific type of work you do. The last one is called Color Categories… You can read about them in this article.

In this case, you want Outlook to automatically search for the area of interest on an ongoing basis.

This is called search folders. You specify what you want to search for and Outlook will create a special folder which contains the search results. When you receive more mails in future, Outlook will automatically search and update the folder.

This is called a Search Folder.

How to create a Search Folder?

Right click on the search folder…


It shows some common search conditions.


Scroll down and choose Custom to create a new type of search. Click Choose… button.


Now specify a name and click on Criteria… button.


Now the Advanced search dialog opens. This dialog has lots of options.. it looks inundating.

But don’t worry… it is very powerful.


In this case I want to search for any mail where the subject contains the word “Demo” and my name is in the TO line (no CC or BCC)

Explore the More Choices tab to understand all available options.


For illustration purpose, I have chosen many options here.

Don’t get put off by the Advanced tab.

Remember: Advanced = Very Powerful


This dialog gives you access to all fields. And trust me.. there are many many fields. Open the Field dropdown to see for yourself.

Here are the fields available in a Contact – for example…


I know this is a bit inundating… but look at it from another point of view… Microsoft has thought of even the smallest possible needs which we may have. You need not use all these fields. But now you KNOW that if you need them they are available!

Finally, click OK to create the search Folder.


Now you can just click on the Demo folder to see all the mails which satisfy the search criteria. Clicking on the folder is as good as going to Search textbox and adding all those criteria. Now it has become much simpler for you… just ONE click.

Of course the same message may be in Inbox or other folders. Search folder just DISPLAYS the message which meet the search criteria. It does not make a copy of these messages.

Therefore, you don’t have to worry about the Search folders consuming space in your mailbox.

The search results are segregated by folder location for your convenience. Of course you can customize the view to suit your needs.

What type of searches are good candidates for Search Folders?

Of course it depends upon your work and individual needs… but here are some common examples:

Search folders based upon color categories are a good idea.

Filtering on mails related to a specific customer, project or topic is another common usage scenario.

Sometimes just searching on a particular word may be useful. For example, you want to search for all resumes – Search on the word Resume and add one more condition – Has an attachment.

This is a very useful features. Go ahead and refine your search. Do let me know if you create some interesting search folders you create in your work context.

Happy Searching!

Smart Searching in Outlook

This is a continuation of the previous article about Outlook Search.

The mistake

We usually type just the search text and hope to get precise, few results. This is never going to happen. Without any additional information, Outlook is forced to search the word in every area of the mail including sender / recipients, subject, body, attachments, properties and so on.

In this article we will see WHERE to search and WHAT to search for. The WHAT part first.

The solution: Give more information about what you want

Click inside the Search box.

DO NOT type what you want to search.

First look at the Search toolbar and then decide what you want. Click on the required button first, then type the search word.

For example, if you want to search in subject only, this how it happens:



Now type the search word or words.

This is how you can choose multiple search conditions to narrow down the search.

There are many useful conditions. Try all the buttons shown there.

Notice and learn the commands

Even if you choose the options from the Search toolbar, the commands are automatically shown in the Search box. Initially you should use the menus but also start noticing the way it translates into text commands.

After a while you can directly type the search commands and be more efficient.

Search in Body text

contents: search text

Searching by dates

Some generic searching can be performed using the Search Toolbar itself…


The text becomes Received:this week

Searching with more specific dates

received:may 2013

received:11 dec 2013

received:>27 dec 2013 <=30 dec 2013

Searching within attachments

Click on More dropdown and choose Attachment Contains.

Type the search text.

The syntax becomes attachment: search text

Type of attachment

Search by extension

ext: ppt*

This will search for all mails containing PowerPoint attachments.

Learn Detailed syntax

Here is the link which shows all the powerful options available for searching.

Remember that many of these options work with Windows search as well.

Where to search?

Local or global

By default, search happens in the current folder. Of course you can change that to all subfolders, current mailbox or all mailboxes. Default setting can also be changed from File – Options – Search.

Which type of items?

If you search in Inbox, only mail items are searched. If you are in calendar, only those items are searched whether it is for local folder or all mailboxes.

All types of items

If you want to search across mails, tasks, calendar and contacts, choose this option.


In the next article, we will discuss more powerful search and automatic search

Outlook not searching all mails?

Prerequisites: Windows 7 or above and Outlook 2010 or above.

Things you should know

  1. Outlook search is very powerful – even if your experience says otherwise!
  2. It searches across all mailboxes and PST files included in the profile
  3. Search is done in all contact fields, subject, body and attachments
  4. Search can be done across all types of folders – Inbox, Calendar, Tasks and Contacts
  5. It is extremely fast

Search toolbar

The search shortcut is CTRL E. When you click inside the Search box, the Search toolbar appears automatically. Please explore every option here. Each one of them is useful and powerful.



Common issues

  1. Search results are not complete (I know that mail exists, but search is not able to find it)
  2. Too many search results are appearing – I need to narrow it down
  3. Deciding where exactly the search is going to work

Solution: Search results not complete

This happens because Outlook has not got enough time to go through all your mails and keep them ready for fast search.

Check the status

Click inside the Search box (CTRL E), open Search Tools – Choose Indexing Status


It should show zero or very few items pending.

If you see more items there, keep your PC on overnight. Check the status in the morning.

Once you do this, the search results will be accurate.

If some messages are not found due to incomplete indexing, Outlook does show a warning. If you see the warning you must follow the process above.

We will consider other issues in the next article…