Find a email or item with Outlook Instant Search

Applies To: Outlook 2016 Outlook 2013 Outlook 2010 Outlook 2007 Office 2007

Need to find an important message in your crowded Inbox or folder? Outlook Instant Search helps you to quickly find items in Outlook. The Outlook Instant Search pane is always available in all of your Outlook folders, such as Mail, Calendar, and Tasks.

How to do Outlook Instant Search?

Here we go!

      1. In the navigation bar, near the bottom of the screen, click Mail.
        Outlook Instant Search
        Outlook Navigation Option

        If you don’t see this, “Compact Navigation” might be turned on, so you’ll see icons instead, like this:

        Outlook Instant Search
        Outlook Navigation Option
      2. Find the search box. It’s at the top of your messages, as shown here:

        Outlook Instant Search
        Outlook Instant Search
      3. To find a word that you know is in a message, or a message from a particular person, type the word or person’s name (you can use first, last, and partial names) in the search box. Messages that contain the word or name you specified appear with the search text highlighted in the results.

        Outlook Instant Search
        Outlook Instant Search Results
      4. You can narrow your results even further by changing your search. Here are some common examples:
        • Type “expense reports” (including the quotes) to find messages containing the exact phrase “expense reports.”
        • Type expense AND report (“AND” needs to be in all caps) to find messages containing both the word expense and the word report, but not necessarily in that order. You can also use “OR.””
        • Type expense NOT report (“NOT” needs to be in all caps) to find messages containing the word expense but not the word report.
      5. When you’re finished, you can clear the Outlook instant search by clicking the “X” in the search box.

Narrow your search result

Lets see:

If you can’t find what you’re looking for, use the search tools on the ribbon to narrow down your search. When you click the Outlook Instant search box, you can select a scope option on the left side of the ribbon. Once you decide your scope, you can then refine your search further by selecting an option such as the subject line or the sender.

Scope (where to search): Here you can choose to search in specific folders, such as all your mailboxes, or just the current folder you’ve selected, which is your Inbox most of the time.
Outlook Instant Search
Refine (what to search for): When you’ve selected your scope, you can add other criteria in the Refine group. When you select an option, Outlook adds a special script to the search box to limit its search.

Outlook Instant Search
Outlook Instant Search Tool

Let me explain the options.

  • From: filters your search results to only show messages sent by a specific person. For example, you can search for all the messages sent by Sara.
  • Subject: filters your search results based on the subject line of the email. For example, you can search for all the messages that have the keyword “report” in the subject line.

  • Has Attachments: gives you all the messages that contain an attachment.
  • Categorized: choose a category to see all the messages that you’ve flagged with a specific category.
  • This Week: on the drop-down menu, choose a time frame to narrow your search results based on the time you received a message.
  • Sent To: on the drop-down menu, choose an option to filter the results based on the email recipients. For example the messages that you were CCed on, or the ones that were sent to a specific person.
  • Unread: brings up all the unread messages in the folder that you’ve selected.
  • Flagged: brings up messages that you flagged to follow up.
  • Important: shows all the messages that were marked with high importance.
  • More: choose an option on the menu to further narrow down your search results. For example you can filter by sensitivity or message size.

Remember that you can mix and match these options.

Here is an example: You can search for all the messages from Sara that you received last month, with the keyword “report” in the subject line.

To set up a search for this example:

  1. Make sure Inbox is selected, then click in the Search box.
  2. Select Subfolders in the Scope group.
  3. Click From and type Sara to replace the highlighted text in the search box.
  4. Click Subject and type report to replace the highlighted text in the search box.
  5. From the drop-down menu next to This Week, select Last Month.

Outlook Instant Search
Example of search tool options

Leave a Reply

Close