For Microsoft Outlook users, one quick and easy way to find your stored Email messages is by using Outlook Search Terms.  It is a simple, fast, and powerful way to find your messages!

Have you ever needed to find a message stored in your Inbox.. hmmmm….  well…. somewhere?

Luckily, Email clients have several features that give you the ability to quickly find exactly what you are looking for.

For Microsoft Outlook® users, you can use the little known but simple, flexible and powerful “Outlook Search Terms”.

An Email processing best practice is to use only a few, high-level folders to store your Email messages.

Then, when you need to find a message, use the power of your system’s Email Search feature.

Don’t waste time storing messages in complex folders:

  • Email research has found that most Emails stored in folders are never referenced again.
  • It takes a large amount of time and effort to create and maintain complex folder structures.
  • For every message, you need to decide exactly in which folder to store it… hmmm…where should I put it?
  • Then you need to find that specific folder in your labyrinth of folders… click.. click.. click.
  • Sometimes, you may also need to create a new folder that doesn’t exist yet… more wasted time.
  • And some messages can potentially be classified to fit into multiple possible folders… so which one do you choose… even more wasted time.

Instead, make just a few high-level folders for all of your messages.

Then, rely on the power of Outlook Search to locate messages when you (very rarely!) need to find them again.

Most people are familiar with the Search Box at the top off the Inbox.

Outlook Search Terms Screenshot1

But not everyone is aware that by using a few, simple Outlook Search Terms, you can increase the power of that simple-looking Search box.

Outlook Search Terms use the following format:

Keyword: <Searchterm>

So what Outlook Search Terms can you use?

Here are some commonly used search terms:

from:n/amessages from a specific name or email address
to:n/amessages to a specific name or email address
cc:n/amessages that cc a specific name or email address
subject:n/amessages containing the search term in the subject
about:n/amessages with the term anywhere in the subject, body, or attachment
hasattachment:“yes” or “no”messages that have/do not have a file attachment
received:datemessages received on a specific date
attachments:filenamemessages with specific filename attachment

There are even more terms then these available, but the above are some of the most common and useful.

Now, let’s look at a few examples…

Examples using some of the basic keywords:

from: PatrickAny messages that have the word “Patrick” in the from name or Email address
to: @acme.comAny message with “” in the to field
cc: jane smithAny message where “jane smith” was on the cc list
subject: AcmeAny message with the word “Acme” anywhere in the subject
about: OrionAny message with the word “Orion” in the subject, body, or attachment
hasattachment: yesAny message that has an attachment
received: 01/01/2014Any message that was received on 1/1/2014

And here is something important to know…

Outlook Search is not case sensitive, so it doesn’t matter if you type in Johnor JOHN or John or JoHn… they all return the same results!

In addition, by default it treats two words as if an “AND” is applied.

So, if you type in “Subject: John Smith“, then it will find messages that contain “John” AND “Smith”, in any order that they may appear in the Subject.

But you can make Outlook Search Terms even more flexible and powerful by adding “Boolean Operators” and “Inequality Operators”.

Outlook Search Terms Boolean Operators:

ANDContain both terms
ORContain either terms
NOTDoes not contain that term
“phrase”Exact phrase match of exactly what is inside the quotes, in that order
>Greater Than
<Less Than
+Exactly Equal to

And an important rule for Boolean Operators…

The “AND“, “OR” and “NOT” boolean operators must be CAPITALIZED to work!

Otherwise, Outlook will think they are just another word to search for!

Now, lets look at a few examples using Outlook Search with Boolean Operators and Inequalities.

Boolean and Inequality Examples:

subject:Paris AND CollageAny messages with the word “Paris” AND the word “Collage” in the subject, in any order
subject: Paris OR CollageAny messages with the words “Paris”OR the word “Collage”, or both, in the subject, in any order
subject: “Paris Collage”Any messages with the exact phrase “Paris Collage” anywhere in the subject line
subject: Paris NOT CollageAny messages with the word “Paris” but NOT the word “Collage” anywhere in the subject line
Sent: > 1/1/2015Greater Than

And for your date formatted fields, Outlook is pretty “smart”.  It can even understand some common “english-like” terms concerning dates.

Extended date term options:

  • today / tomorrow / yesterday
  • this week / next week / last week
  • this month / next month / last month
  • this year / next year / last year
  • Monday, Tuesday… Sunday
  • January, February…December

And now a few examples…

Examples using the extended date terms:

received: YesterdayMessages received yesterday
sent: last monthMessages sent last month
received: JanuaryMessages received in January of any year
sent: FridayMessages sent on this Friday

As I mentioned earlier, there are actually many more terms that can be used to search things such as message size, flags, categories, and even calendar and contact information.

If interested, you can review the complete list from the Microsoft Web Site.

So, there you have it – a quick overview of Outlook Search Terms.

There are even more ways to search for messages in Microsoft Outlook®, including the Outlook Instant Search Tool and the Advanced Find feature, which I will cover in upcoming posts.

But Outlook Search Terms is quick, easy to use, intuitive, and very powerful, so make sure to try it out.  I use it all the time and it saves me a lot of time in finding messages!