How to Easily Search Microsoft Outlook

Search your Outlook Email like a pro with our quick guide on how to track down those missing messages.

11 January 2016 How to...  E-mail, Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook - Article

With the introduction of Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft changed the way searching worked by bringing both of their search mechanisms together into Windows Search. This new facility makes it possible to quickly and easily search for E-mails, documents, music, pictures wherever they are stored on your PC.

Although Windows Search (Instant Search in Outlook) is very powerful there can be occasions when you want to search for a very specific item and so short guide explains the various ways to search for E-mails in Outlook or when using the Outlook Web App..

Instant Search

One of the limitations of the Windows Search is that it cannot be fully utilised until every item has been catalogued (indexed) and as a result the Instant Search box at the top of your list of E-mails may not work as you would usually expect it to. However that doesn't mean it should not be used - the following explains how to get started with Instant Search, customise the search options and what to do if items you were expecting to find are not located.

To use Instant Search

  1. Click the Search box at the top of your message list (or press CTRL+E).
  2. Type the name of the sender, a word or words you want to search for and press the ENTER key.
  3. Outlook will now search the folder for matching messages (looking in the sender's name, subject and message content).
  4. The list of matches will increase as more items are found - this will take a while to complete.

If what you are looking for isn't found

If a search fails to find what you are looking for there are a few things you can try:

  1. Ensure Outlook is showing you all the results
    Outlook is preconfigured to only show you the first 200 matches that it finds and it is possible that what you were searching for was in the remaining items that have not been displayed. Outlook will warn you that the search results have been limited.
  2. Expand your search to include all folders
    Outlook is preconfigured to only show you results from the folder that you initiated your search in. It will not search any sub-folders or any other folders in your mail box unless told to do so. Once a search has been completed you can click the "Try searching again in All Mail Items" link at the bottom of the Search results. This will extend your search to all your Mail folders. You can also make searching all of your mail folders the default by changing the Instant Search options (see below).
  3. Re-order your message list by sender or subject
    It is often quicker to simply re-order your list of messages by the name of the sender or the subject - this quickly brings together all related items and may be easier if you are looking for various items. You can re-order the messages by clicking the "Arrange By" heading at the top of your list of messages and choosing how to re-order the list. Or, if you have column headers, click the "From" or "Subject" headings to re-order the list. Click Received to return the list to Date order and clicking a heading again will sort the list in the opposite direction.
  4. Use the Advance Find or Outlook Web Search options
    In addition to the Instant Search feature, Outlook also offers an Advanced Find feature which allows you to specify various criteria for your search including date ranges, subjects, whether there were attachments etc. See Advanced Find later in this guide. There is also the option of the Outlook Web Access Search.

Configuring Instant Search Options

There are a few options which you can change that may help you when are using Instant Search. You should be aware that by changing these options you may find searches run more slowly.

To have Instant Search show all results

  1. Click in the Search box at the top of your message list (or press CTRL+E).
  2. The Ribbon now changes to show the Search Tab.
  3. Click the Search Tools button and choose Search Options.
  4. Under the Results section, remove the tick from the "Improve search speed by limiting the number of results shown" option.
  5. Click the OK button.

To have instant Search always search all folders

  1. Click the Search box at the top of your message list (or press CTRL+E).
  2. The Ribbon now changes to show the Search Tab.
  3. Click the Search Tools button and choose Search Options.
  4. Under the Results section, ensure the "All folders" option is selected from "Include results only from".
  5. Click the OK button to close the Search Options.

Advanced Find

Outlook also provides an Advanced Find feature that allows you to specify various criteria to be applied to your search. For example, you could search for all messages from a particular individual, in a particular year, that have attachments and are related to a particular subject.

To use Advanced Find

  1. The easiest way to start an Advanced Find is to press the CTRL+SHIFT+F keys together.
  2. You also start an Advanced Find by clicking the Search box at the top of your message list (or press CTRL+E).
  3. The Ribbon now changes to show the Search Tab.
  4. Click the Search Tools button and choose Advanced Find...
  5. The Advanced Find window will appear (see below)

    Outlook 2010 - Advanced Find

    In the example above we are looking for E-mails in our Inbox received from anne.other@holdenwhite.com that have been received in the last month and have the words "plate tectonics" in either the subject or the message body.
  6. Once you have provided the criteria for your search, click the Find Now button to begin.
  7. Matches will be listed in the Advance Find box and you can double-click an entry to view the message.

Outlook 2010 - Advanced Find - Select FoldersIf what you are looking for isn't found

Should the Advanced Find not locate the items you are looking for, the first thing to check is that you are searching in the right place. The Advanced Find will start by only searching the folder from which it is initiated. If you want to also search sub-folders, selected folders or your entire mailbox, click the Browse button (top right of the Advance Find) and tick the folders you would like to search and to include sub-folders, click the Search subfolders box.

If a search fails to find what you are looking for and you have tried the suggestions given for Instant Searches, then you should try searching using the Outlook Web Search. This searches all your folders (not PSTs) and produces results very quickly.

Outlook Web Search

Outlook via the Web provides a search service that although not offering as many features as Advanced Find in Outlook, does produce results very quickly and is free of some of the limitations of Instant Search. Outlook Web Search also has the advantage of searching all your folders at the outset - something which neither the Instant Search or Advanced Find do.

To use Outlook Web Search

  1. Log in to the Outlook Web App (via the Gateway).
  2. Click in the Search box at the top of your message list.
  3. Type the search word(s) to search the message subject and content for.
  4. Press ENTER to start the search.
  5. After a few moments the results will be shown.

    Outlook 2010 - OWA Search

If what you are looking for isn't found

If you have tried an Instant Search, an Advanced Search and an Outlook Web Search and what you were looking for still hasn't been located then contact us for further assistance.

Tags  search

Corrections or suggestions

Black & White Printer (Standard)

HP LaserJet Pro M401DN

HP Lserjet M401DN

Cloud Backup

LiveDrive Essentials Cloud Backup (1 year)

Cloud Backup

Secure USB Flash Drive

Kingston DataTraveler Locker+ 16GB USB Flash Drive

Kingston DataTraveler Locker+ G2