Searching emails is one of the routine tasks almost all of us do. Microsoft Outlook offers a search function which relies on Windows Search service to find emails from your accounts. Many times, you may not find the correct emails and need to fine-tune the keywords for getting accurate results. In this article, we will explain how to effectively search emails in Outlook using search operators and the search menu.
Using Email Search in Outlook
Outlook has separate searching feature for emails, contacts and calendar items. In this article, we focus on email search and not contacts/ calendar search. In our earlier article, we have explained how to fix the issues when Outlook email search not working properly. Besides those glitches, the email search in Outlook has the following limitations.
- Any numbers less than 5 digits are ignored in Outlook email search. If you want to search an email containing 12345, searching 1234 will not return any relevant results. However, searching only with keyword will show results including all variations – for example, searching tom will show results of tommy. Outlook will check the keyword in subject, address field and message body.
- Punctuation marks in the keywords are ignored while searching. However, keywords within quotes will results in exact matches.
- Outlook will restrict the results to show 250 emails to avoid performance problems.
- Results will be inaccurate when you search with multiple languages.
At any case, using proper keywords in email search will considerably improve the accuracy of search results.
Complete List of Outlook Search Operators
Besides simply typing the name or keyword and searching, Outlook also has huge list of search operators and shortcuts to filter search results. You can understand these shortcuts to make use of them while searching and get accurate results. Make sure to use capital letters and quotes as exactly shown in the first column. Also, you do not need to use the mouse to go to search Box. Simply, press “Control + E” shortcut keys to move the focus to search box and start typing your query.
|Search Operator||Expected Result|
|jhon AND doe||Shows emails having both Jhon and Doe. It includes all the variations like Jhony.|
|john OR doe||Items with Jhon, Doe or both.|
|john NOT doe||Shows only Jhon and all variations excluding Doe.|
|from:”jhon”||Shows items received from Jhon.|
|from:”jhon” about:”presentation”||All emails from Jhon containing the word presentation in subject, body or in attachment content.|
|hasattachment:yes||Search emails containing attachments.|
|hasattachment: true||Search emails containing attachments.|
|attachment:filename||Show emails with the attachment name as filename or attachments containing the word filename.|
|subject:”report”||All emails containing the word report in the subject line.|
|cc:”jhon doe”||Searches emails marked Jhon Doe in CC.|
|cc:”firstname.lastname@example.org”||Searches emails marked email@example.com in CC.|
|category:name||Show results with the specified category name.|
|messagesize:<1 MB||Filter emails with less than 1 MB in size.|
|messagesize:>1 MB||Filter emails with greater than 1 MB in size.|
|messagesize:tiny||Shows less than 10 KB emails.|
|messagesize:small||Shows emails between 10 to 25 KB in size.|
|messagesize:medium||Result shows emails between 25 to 100 KB in size.|
|messagesize:large||Shows emails between 100 to 500 KB in size.|
|messagesize:verylarge||Shows emails between 500 KB to 1 MB in size.|
|messagesize:enormous||Result shows emails larger than 5 MB in size.|
|due:last week||Emails flagged and due last week.|
|hasflag:true||Items having follow up flag.|
|received:date||Emails received on that date. The date format should be same as your system date format which you can see in the taskbar tray on lower left corner. For example – 9/12/2022 for 12 Sep 2022.|
|received:”this week”||Shows emails received on this week. You can use the date formats like this month, last month, last week, today, yesterday or exact date. Make sure to use quotes when using phrase like “this week” and there are no quotes required for single word search like yesterday.|
|read:no||View unread emails.|
Examples of Using Email Search Operator in Outlook
Below are some of the examples of combining and using multiple search operators in Outlook email search.
1. Find Received Emails
To find emails from Jhon Doe received in this week containing the word report in the subject and has attachment.
from:"Jhon Doe" received:"this week" has attachment:yes subject:"report"
2. Find Sent Emails
Search emails sent to Jhon with attachments and size more than 5 MB. In this case, make sure to select “Sent Items” or “All Mailboxes“ or “All Outlook Items” for viewing sent emails. Otherwise, searching for to: with the current folder as “Inbox” will not show any result as to: is only relevant for “Sent Items” folder.
to:"Jhon" hasattaachment:yes messagesize:enormous
Note: Outlook will show a suggestion after you type from: and to: operators so that you can easily select the sender/receiver from the list.
3. Filter Unread with Conditions
When you have thousands of unread emails, you can use the unread operator along with other conditions to get accurate results. For example, below query will result in all unread emails received from Jhon Doe either on 22 Aug 2022 or on 23 Aug 2022 with the message size between 500 KB to 1 MB.
from:"Jhon Doe" (received:8/22/2022 OR 8/23/2022) messagesize:verylarge
Using Search Menu in Outlook
If you are not able to remember the search operators, then the alternate option is to use the Search menu in Outlook. By default, Outlook does not show the Search menu. It will automatically appear when you click inside the search box. Alternatively, first press “Control + E” and if you see the suggestions then press “Alt” key or click on the title bar to close the suggestions and view Search menu.
Using the menu will add exactly the same search operators in the search box. However, you do not need to worry about that and simply press the menu items and get the results. You can use the filters like from, to, subject, has attachments, unread, categories, flagged, etc.
If you want to do the advanced search, click on the horizontal dots icon showing as “More commands” at the end of the toolbar. Go to “Search Tools > Advanced Find” menu from the list. Alternatively, you can press “Control + Shift + F” shortcut keys to open the advanced email search dialog box in Outlook.
Since “Advanced Find” is a common feature in Outlook, make sure to select “Messages” against “Look for:” dropdown to only filter emails in the result. You can also select “Any type of Outlook item and select the email account for searching. There are three tabs available to add filters:
- Any Items – here you can type the keyword, select from or to address and restrict the search based on created/sent/received/modified time.
- More Choices – here you can filter for items based on categories, read/unread, flagged, size, importance and has attachment or not.
- Advanced – if you are not able to find filters under the above two tabs, then it is possible to create a custom filter under this section. Click on the “Field” dropdown and select “All Mail fields”. You will see a huge list of mail fields available in Outlook and select the one you want to use the search query. After that, select the condition and set the value from the corresponding dropdowns. Finally, click on the “Add to List” button to include the criteria in the search list.
You can use the options in the tabs combinedly to create complex query and click on “Find Now” button get the results. The advanced find tool will show the found results as a list. You can double click on the email to open it in a new window and read the content. This is the only problem as you can’t see the preview like when using Outlook search box.