Outlook 2010: Searching Tips & Tricks

Have you ever known that you either sent or received and important email, but just can’t seem to find it in the daily onslaught of emails that parade through your email inbox? Another common problem with searching in the past was that Outlook would return too many results or not enough. Well, never fear Outlook 2010 has improved indexing and searching capabilities.

Search Tools Ribbon

If you have every faced the challenge of searching through emails sent by a co-worker, but when you initially searched the results returned too many to really narrow it down to find the one you want, then Search Tools Ribbon is for you.

The Search Tools Ribbon is available when you click in the Search Box.   You can narrow your search through setting specific parameters including:

  • Sender’s name
  • Subject keywords
  • Presence of attachments
  • Categories
  • Sent date
  • Flagged messages
  • The recipient’s name in the TO or CC fields
  • Importance
  • Read/unread status
  • … and many more!

As an example, let’s say that you are looking for a Best Practice that was sent out earlier in the year, but you are not sure where you filed it.

  • Click on in the Search box which will activate the Search Tools ribbon.
  • Click on From and type Deanna.
  • Then, click on Subject: type Best
  • Finally, Click on Has Attachment

As you add parameters, you will see the result instantly change and start narrowing the results list while highlighting in yellow the parameters that you have selected.  Don’t forget that if at first you don’t see what you are looking for, then you can click All Outlook Items to expand your search.


Search Folders

If you find yourself making the same search over on again then you may want to create a search folder. A search folder is a virtual folder that shows your results that match all parameters that you have selected all in one area even though may be in different folders. They only drawback is that it cannot return results from multiple .pst files. On the upside it will return results if the words have similar prefix or suffix. For example, if you search for learn, then results could contain learn, learning, or learned. Even though it is similar it would not return earned.

You can create a search folder for a predefined common search such as one for Unread messages.

  • On the Folder tab in the New group, Click on New Search Folder.
  • In the New Search Folder Dialog box click on Unread mail, then click Ok.

Now under Search Folders you will see Unread Mail’s virtual folder. Anytime you need to search for unread mail then just click on Unread Mail in the folder list and it will show the results just like any other folder.


If you have a specific search you do repetitive that is not listed you can create a customized search folder as well.

  • On the Folder tab in the New group, Click on New Search Folder.
  • In the New Search Folder Dialog box scroll down to find Create a custom Search Folder, then click Choose.
  • Click on the name box and Give it a name that describes the search folder.


  • Click on Criteria
    • The Messages tab contains criteria on the message content or properties, such as sender, keywords, or recipients.
    • The More Choices tab contains criteria on other message conditions, such as importance, flags, attachments, or categorization.
    • The Advanced tab enables you to make detailed criteria. Under Define more criteria, click Field, click the type of criterion that you want, and then click the specific criterion from the list. Then in the Condition box and the Value box, click the options that you want, and then click Add to List. Repeat for each criterion that you want to add to this search folder, and then click OK.
    • Click on Browse choose the folder to select which folder to search. This where you can create search folders to search through different PST files for common searches for you.