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Become an Outlook search champion

By Riaan Lombard - 20 May 2021


Users of the popular email client, Outlook as part of the Office 365 product stack, would have noticed a change in the location of the search bar some time ago. The main reason for this was to clear up clutter around the area used to sort and filter email. People often hit the search bar only to find their email rearranged by name or date, or some time consuming action to restore it to it’s previous appearance. This search bar is often underestimated and can be a very powerful tool that will change the way you use email. Here are some tips for navigating like a pro..

What's her name again? - In many cases it is easier to remember the name of the company someone work for rather than the name of the person. Navigate to your search bar, and type the following: from:companyname and hit enter. This will bring up all emails with the word companyname in either the email address, subject, body, or signature. You can narrow it down to only return emails with companyname in the email address. Modify your search criteria to look like this; from:”@companyname”. Remember the double quotes when doing this.


Just show me the mails from Debra with attachments - This is another great feature of Outlook search. When you do not want to search through all email sent from Debra to get a specific attachment, try using this search string; from:”debra” hasattachment:yes and hit enter. Note that there are no spaces between has and attachment. The result will show you all mail from Debra that had attachments. If you know the exact attachment name, for instance Annual Report.pptx, try using this search string; attachments:”Annual Report.pptx”.


I know I got it sometime in January - Instead of searching through multiple rows of email to find the one you are looking for, try searching per time period. Some of the options include; received:yesterday or received:”last month” or received:april. Note that the last option will show all email received up to the last day of April. The gold-en rule here is to remember the double quotes when the search criteria contains spaces: it will refine your search.


The subject was something about coffee - Forgot about your coffee date with a friend? Outlook can help you there too. You have two options in this case. No, it is not foam or cream. The keywords are “about” or “subject”. Navigate to the search bar and type; about:coffee and hit enter. This will return all email that contains the word coffee in any part of the email. If you use; subject:coffee and hit enter, it will return all emails with the word coffee somewhere in the subject line. You can also search phrases: subject:”Let’s have coffee”.


If all else fails - Fortunately there is a failsafe option too. If these search options did not make sense to you, there is another easy way to search your mailbox effectively. This option is located in the search bar itself, under the drop down arrow at the right. This function allows you to specify aspects such as where the email came from, during what time it was sent, what the subject line contained and details contained in the email body. Advanced features also include the option to filter on flagged email, size of the email, and even specifying the exact subfolder to search in your mailbox. This might seem like the easier way out, but search results returned when using this fea-ture are often very general and broad. Once you get to know the finer details, navigating the search bar becomes very powerful and will save you a lot of time.