Smart Searching in Microsoft 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:

smart searching in outlook


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

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