Home > Mac administration, Office 2011 > Finding the hidden Search options in Outlook 2011

Finding the hidden Search options in Outlook 2011

One thing in Outlook 2011 that can be surprisingly hard to find for new users is the Search function. There’s a search field readily visible, but it only searches the currently selected folder. Why Microsoft made the user interface choice to hide the ability to search is somewhat of a mystery to me, but here’s how you access all of the other search options in Outlook 2011.

To search the current folder in Outlook 2011, you click in the Search This Folder blank and type in what you’re looking for.

Screen shot 2011-04-25 at 4.27.34 PM

Outlook will then give you selectable search options for what you typed in.

Screen shot 2011-04-25 at 4.44.16 PM

To do a more complex search, click in the Search blank and don’t type anything.

Screen shot 2011-04-25 at 4.30.49 PM

Once you click in the Search blank, a new Search tab will appear next to the Tools tab.

Screen shot 2011-04-25 at 4.49.45 PM

In the Search tab, you’ll have the option of searching:

Screen shot 2011-04-25 at 4.32.18 PM


Folder – Search within the current folder

Subfolders – Search within the current folder and all subfolders beneath it

All Mail – Search all email available to your Outlook email client

All Items – Search all items in Outlook, including email, calendar entries, to-do entries, address book contacts, etc.

For the searching, you’ll have a number of additional options available.

Screen shot 2011-04-25 at 4.34.11 PM

Screen shot 2011-04-25 at 4.34.32 PM

Screen shot 2011-04-25 at 4.35.07 PM

Screen shot 2011-04-25 at 4.35.35 PM

  1. MM
    September 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm | #1

    That’s what I needed. Thanks!

  2. guest
    November 8, 2011 at 6:28 pm | #2

    I was looking for a way to search “all mail” and couldn’t figure it out. Thanks!

  3. November 16, 2011 at 8:58 am | #3

    Hi,

    Have you found a way to search all mail or all items activated through a keyboard shortcut?? It freaks me out that something as common as doing searches requires me to use the touchpad every time.

    Alternatively, do you know of a good source for scripts for doing shortcuts in outlook 2011.

    Regards, Richard

    • LomaxFairchild
      April 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm | #4

      CMD-SHIFT-F invokes the search toolbar.

      • JGRU
        September 7, 2012 at 5:09 am | #5

        Is there a way so that you automatically search all folders? Using the CMD-SHIFT-F shortcut but then having to change the setting each time is super annoying.

  4. December 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm | #6

    I had figured this much out already but it’s still useful info, thanks for posting.
    A related question I’m hoping you might be able to help me with;
    Once you find an email using search in Outlook, how the hell are you supposed to find the folder that contains it? I had the same problem when i used Entourage but was able to find a script that would show the source folder. However I haven’t figured out a solution for Outlook yet. Perhaps there is an easy built-in solution I am over-looking? Any help would be apprecaited! Cheers, Patrick. Email: patrick@fallon.co.nz

    • AlliOop
      February 7, 2013 at 10:02 pm | #7

      Your post is old and you may have found the answer, but for others, would Arrange by Folder help? It seems to be a good solution.

  5. BillR
    January 25, 2012 at 10:19 am | #8

    Bingo!!

  6. hansdrenth
    March 27, 2012 at 10:45 am | #9

    Same here: how can I determine in which folder a found e-mail is placed?

    Hans

    • March 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm | #10

      To determine which folder the email item is in, right/option-click the top of the search column, where it lists “subject”, “date”, etc, and select “folder” from the context menu.

      • Richard Noël
        April 3, 2012 at 4:08 pm | #11

        That only shows you which folder the item is in, not the parent (or path) to the folder.

      • egravenb
        April 26, 2012 at 7:37 am | #12

        Thanks!!

      • Ed
        July 20, 2012 at 9:29 pm | #13

        This doesn’t seem to work on a Mac. Unless I’m not understanding you correctly. I right click on the heading and nothing happens. No option to add columns. Frustrating that the functionality on Mac is not equivalent to what’s on Windows.

      • Jonathan Dallwitz
        April 8, 2013 at 5:50 am | #14

        This doesn’t work for me on my Mac.. when I choose to sort by folder, it doesn’t show any folder information anywhere?

  7. Richard Noël
    April 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm | #15

    What this article does not address and which seems to be driving a lot of us crazy, is the change in Advanced Search functionality where now you can either search ‘a’ subfolder or ‘all’ subfolders within the mailbox but nothing in between. Meaning, if you have subfolder xyz and a subfolder heirarchy below it, you can no longer search only xyz and its heirarchy. As soon as you enable ‘Search subfolders’ from the ‘Browse’ window, it defaults to searching ‘all’ subfolders within the mailbox. It’s maddening !

  8. Frank
    June 4, 2012 at 11:32 am | #16

    I’ve spent hours trying to figure out how to search for multiple things with an OR type statement such as a search for email from Young OR Smith.

    Can anyone help me with this?

    • June 4, 2012 at 12:49 pm | #17

      Frank,

      To the best of my knowledge, Outlook 2011′s search blank doesn’t support Boolean searching. Using AND or OR in the search criteria does not work. However, you can use the Advanced Find for this. That can be found under Edit -> Find.

  9. Charles Krutsinger
    July 12, 2012 at 4:16 pm | #18

    I never would have found this hidden feature. What are they thinking hiding such a useful feature?

  10. Jon
    July 16, 2012 at 2:59 pm | #19

    My Outlook 2011 for mac is searching all of my mail (all folders) all of the time, regardless of what I select under the search area. this started about 2 weeks ago.

  11. Ben
    September 4, 2012 at 6:47 am | #20

    shit… i’ve been battling for this for ages… thanks!

  12. Murtaza
    September 30, 2012 at 12:09 am | #21

    Right Click suggestion works only for “All Items” search, somehow does not work for “All Folders” search.

  13. Susie
    October 12, 2012 at 10:36 am | #22

    I can’t get outlook to search for anything from more than a week ago. The search function was working OK (but I could only search within the year) and then I had to rebuild my database. After I rebuilt it the perameters have changed and I can only search for very recent mail. I have tried changing the dates and it make no difference. This is driving me nut nut! Can anyone help?

    • AlliOop
      February 7, 2013 at 10:10 pm | #23

      Susie :
      I can’t get outlook to search for anything from more than a week ago. The search function was working OK (but I could only search within the year) and then I had to rebuild my database. After I rebuilt it the perameters have changed and I can only search for very recent mail. I have tried changing the dates and it make no difference. This is driving me nut nut! Can anyone help?

      You and MJ may need to rebuild your Spotlight Index http://www.macinstruct.com/node/504 since this is what Outlook uses to search with. Hope it helps if still needed. :)

  14. MJ
    January 22, 2013 at 5:16 am | #24

    I’m having a similar problem, will only search far back as one month. Any ideas? Thanks!

  15. January 29, 2013 at 7:07 pm | #25

    Thanks so much for putting this together

  16. AlliOop
    February 7, 2013 at 9:59 pm | #26

    Finally! Entourage was much easier to choose All Messages, and I wondered why I couldn’t find it in Outlook. I’ve even been in the Search tab many times, and hadn’t paid attention to those options on the left. Many thanks!

  17. February 7, 2013 at 10:22 pm | #27

    Personal Moniker (@personalmoniker) :
    To determine which folder the email item is in, right/option-click the top of the search column, where it lists “subject”, “date”, etc, and select “folder” from the context menu.

    The easiest way to find the folder containing a search result message is to mark it is unread (Message/Mark as Unread or hotkeys: shift + command + T). This will highlight the message and every folder and sub-folder in it’s path/containing it in bold. Makes it very easy to find.

    • Jonathan Dallwitz
      April 8, 2013 at 5:57 am | #28

      @fallonphoto, thanks, this does actually work but it’s about as clunky as a workaround gets! (have to mark as unread, then go look at folders, search in that folder to find it, then mark it as read again once found.) Incredible that there is no way to find what folder a mail is in, but obviously MS haven’t built this feature in.

  18. Jed
    April 17, 2013 at 1:41 pm | #29

    JGRU :
    Is there a way so that you automatically search all folders? Using the CMD-SHIFT-F shortcut but then having to change the setting each time is super annoying.

    I completely agree. How idiotic.

  19. June 18, 2013 at 5:40 am | #30

    I use a quick Command-Space to bring up a spotlight seach. I have my Spotlight configured to produce email, then docs, the sheets etc etc. When I do the search the emails which contain my text are there regardless of which folder they were saved into. There have been times when I thought the content was in an email when in fact spotlight brought up a .doc.
    It works well and is the best work around.
    Be aware that the indexing for spotlight / outlook is not flash – it takes a while. Those getting partial results should try leaving thier MAC on and powered up for a day or so to be sure. Ive had bad results when trying to reindex in the past. – just saying – and hope it helps :o)

    http://www.boybucket.blogspot.com.au <- Read my book

  20. CR
    November 3, 2013 at 8:25 pm | #31

    The main “Search This Folder” is omitting the From field in emails. I don’t know how long this has been going on, since most of the people sign their names within the body of the emails. I just discovered that in order to search for a last name of the sender if it’s only in the “from” field, I have to go to the Search toolbar and then click “From.” Now I’m wondering if I’ve been missing some emails for a while…

    Is there a fix for this? When I type something in the “Search This Folder,” the drop down shows that it should be searching the From field, but it is not.

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