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Outlook - Search Folders to the Rescue

outlook2013iconDid you forget to check your subfolders, after making all those fabulous rules?

Many Outlook users don't want to move email from their Inbox to another folder, only to go back into those same folders later to delete or archive the contents.  We've had clients who have asked for help with creating Rules, who then forgot to review the subfolders to see if there are any unread messages.  Imagine their dismay when they realized the client they had been calling sent that email a week ago!

Sound familiar?  We have an answer that may suit you better. 

Some of us prefer to use the Search Folders tool.  This method will create a subfolder under the Search Folders heading, displaying only those messages that satisfy the criteria you define, much like the Rules criteria we described in the previous Outlook article. 

This list of emails may be copied, moved, deleted, and operated on in any way you choose, but note that anything you do is permanent. 

Search Folders contents are not "copies" of your email, they are the original emails.  Think of the last time you searched for a file or folder using Windows Explorer/File Explorer or Mac's Spotlight/Finder.  The list of files and folders are the actual items culled from the entire list based on the criteria you set. If you delete a folder or file from this "Search" list, you are deleting the actual item.

We're using Outlook 2010 in the steps presented in this article, but this feature is available in older and newer versions of Outlook.

1. Click Search Folder, then New Search Folder…

New Search Folder

The New Search Folder dialog opens, offering many options for you to choose from. The full list is shown here (two screenshots) with the first pre-set option listed as "Unread Mail."  This pre-set option will draw ALL unread items into this Search Folder, eliminating your need to dig through subfolders and possibly overlooking that item you've been waiting for.

To take this to the next step, we'll explore the last option on the list, "Create a custom Search Folder".

New Search Folder Options 1 New Search Folder Options 2

2. Select or click Create a custom Search Folder.  Notice that the reference to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has disappeared.

New Search Folder Custom

3. Click the Choose… button.

4. Name the Custom Search Folder.

New Search Folder Custom Name

5. Click the Criteria… button.

New Search Folder Custom Criteria

If you've been following our series on Outlook, you may recognize this Criteria window, it looks just like the dialog you see using one of the versions for creating Rules and works the same way.

Type the partial or full email address, or enter the full or partial "Display As" data in the From: area.

The "Display As" field is usually defined by you when you add an email address to an Outlook contact, or alternatively, when you create a new Contact, presuming you include the email address.  

New Search Folder Custom Display As

6. Click OK twice.

The newly populated Search Folder, named ESS Direct holds all emails sent from our friends at ESS Direct.  Note that in the pictures below the left one shows the contents of the Search Folder while the one on the right displays the contents of my Inbox subfolder ESS Direct.

Search Folder Sample Subfolder Sample

Caution:  If you delete, move or in any other way alter an email while working in the Search Folder, remember this is the original email, not a copy or duplicate.

Next time we'll chat about best practices incorporating the 4D's: Do, Defer, Delegate and Delete.

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Outlook - Organizing Your Inbox with Rules

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Tuesday, 18 February 2020

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