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Can’t find that email message? These three tips can help.

(This post was first published in 2010.  It’s obvious from the number of hits this page gets that people’s inboxes are still overflowing. We thought we’d share it again to help you out.)

Hi, I am Roby Kurian, Product Manager for Outlook. How often do you ask yourself, “Where’s that message?”

Whether you are a filer (you keep messages carefully organized in folders) or a piler (you keep all of your messages in your Inbox), these three tips can help you find that elusive message.

Personally, I am more of a piler — I have created folders and use Outlook rules to direct some messages automatically to those folders. But most of my work messages stay in my Inbox. Leave a comment below and let us know if you are a filer or piler.

Now let’s talk about the main topic of this blog — search. We made great improvements to search performance in Outlook 2010. Here are three scenarios and strategies to find the email you are searching for.

1. Use Instant Search

Instant Search is always a great place to start. If you’re looking for a message from Dan Wilson about some TPS Reports, just type “Dan Wilson TPS Reports” into the Instant Search box. The message from Dan appears.


2. Use the Search Tools ribbon to refine your search

Sometimes, there might be too many results matching your Instant Search criteria. For example, you’re looking for a message from your manager, and you have 200 messages from him or her in your Inbox (or 2000, if you’re a piler like me and your manager sends as many messages as mine does). In this case, the Search Tools ribbon comes to the rescue. As soon as you click in the Instant Search box, the Search Tools ribbon automatically appears.


Fine tune the search with any additional information you have about the message you’re looking for. If you know part of the subject, click Subject, and type the subject. If you know the message had an attachment, click Has Attachments. There are many ways to refine your search by clicking More in the Refine group.

If you are a filer and can’t remember which folder a message is in, don’t forget to select a folder scope in the Scope group on the ribbon. Click All Outlook Items to expand your search to more mail folders or to include all folders including your calendar, contacts, and tasks.


3. Create a Search Folder for repeated searches

If you find yourself repeating the same search over and over, you might want to create a Search Folder. A Search Folder is a virtual folder that provides a view of all email items that match specific search criteria. For example, if you regularly search for emails that are more than 1 MB, you can create a Search Folder. Then, the next time you want to find those large messages, just open the Search Folder you created. It’s always up-to-date with the items that match that Search Folder’s criteria.


You can learn more about Search Folders at

If you’re using Outlook 2010, leave a comment about your experience with search compared to previous versions of Outlook.

Roby Kurian
Senior Product Manager, Microsoft Outlook

More info on Outlook Search:

Better Searching in Outlook 2010

Outlook Best Practices: Search folders

Find a message or item with Instant Search

Best Practices for Outlook 2010