Efficient Searching Using Outlook 2013

We all strive to be efficient at work and make better use of our time. A large amount of business takes place over e-mail and every user soon inevitably finds their inbox overflowing, making finding the e-mail you want and sorting through messages in your inbox a time consuming task. Having dealt this ourselves, we are pleased to share with you some time saving features and e-mail search techniques we have found useful in Outlook.

For this we are going to look mainly at Outlook 2013, although most of these handy time saving search methods also work on Outlook 2010 as well. Some some features may not be available on the web app and online versions of Outlook.

Instant Search and the Search Bar...

Instant Search allows us to quickly search through past messages within a mailbox. We have all seen and used the Search Bar, but when the Search Bar is selected, a Search Tab appears on the ribbon which allows for extra options to help us build a more detailed search.

The buttons on this ribbon add special syntax to the search bar, which can be typed manually if preferred or can be modified to suit your needs. The picture below outlines the options available on the ribbon, notice the syntax highlighted in the search bar that appears when a button is clicked.

Search Tools...

On the Instant Search ribbon you can find the drop down Search Tools. It contains some very helpful tools for refining or de-limiting your searches.

The tool Locations to Search is fairly self-explanatory, it helps us select only specific areas for Outlook to search in, the options available may vary depending on the set-up of your outlook and exchange servers.

Another tool in the list is the Search Options, which is a quick way of accessing the options menu. This options menu has two particularly useful settings we have outlined in the image below.

Include results only from: allows you to change it so that when you conduct a search, only results from the current folder or mailbox you are in are included, which can quicken the process by not searching other unnecessary folders and mailboxes every time you use the search bar. It can also be changed to extend the search to All mailboxes and can be of great help when trying to locate a message and you are unsure where it is being kept. 

The next highlighted option, can help if you are only receiving a subset of the full amount of results you expect to find, by un-ticking the Improve search speed by limiting the number of results shown box we can retrieve a complete list of every result found with no cut off (usually at around 250 retrieved messages by default).

Advanced Find...

Instant search is a convenient way of searching a lot of emails quickly, but if it often comes back with far too many results, meaning it can still be a difficult task to find the emails you need. This is where Advanced Find comes into play. Using the Search Tab, go to the Search Tools drop down and select Advanced Find. From here we have a more advanced version of the Search Tab, which can be used to set multiple parameters for your search and greatly refine the results. A picture of the Advanced Find box can be seen below. 

One thing to note when using the Advanced Find tool is the ability to Define more criteria to search with. Selecting the Advanced tab and clicking the Field drop down menu allows you to select more search parameters than you could ever think of, so many in fact, that we couldn't possibly show them using images, so you will have to go look through these yourselves.

Fields can be added for any details you know or can remember about the email you are looking for, making this a great way to narrow down results or look for specific single emails. 

Custom Search folders...

If you find yourself repeating the same searches often enough, then a great way to save time is to create custom search folders. Some suggested search folders might have been created for you, but you can make your own by right clicking Search Folders in the navigation pane and clicking New search folder, then selecting either a pre-set option, or creating a custom search folder by clicking Create a custom search folder at the bottom of the list of pre-sets before setting the criteria for the search up as you would in Advanced Find

Cached Exchange Mode...

If you are using Outlook 2013 that is connected to an exchange server, by default only 12 months of your email will be shown, this is part of Cached Exchange Mode. If older items appear to be missing from your mailbox, it may be because these are stored on the exchange server and have not been brought down to your PC in order to increase performance and decrease search times. 

In order to see all your mail, click File (when in file you need to be on the Info pane), select Account, then choose Account Settings. In the Account Settings dialogue box use the slider to set it to All as shown in the picture below. You will now be able to view and search your entire mailbox. Older versions (Outlook 2010 and earlier) will only give the option to turn this feature on and off, but it is not generally needed in this respect as previous versions cache All anyway. 

Another way of gathering mail from the exchange server is to click the Link as shown on the right that appears after the oldest message in your inbox.


Keeping your inbox clean, organised and free of spam messages is the best way of cutting down time when searching. Netpoint Solutions offer businesses Managed Email and Spam Filtering as part of our Managed IT Service Packages and offer support and guidance to make sure your company always runs at maximum efficiency.