The instant search feature first came to Outlook in the 2007 release. Prior to this, each version of Outlook had a search feature but they didn’t support real-time search. The search pane is available from each Outlook view, and can be used to search for any Outlook items, including mail and contacts.
Sometimes you might not want Outlook to display results as you type, for example, if you’ve been using Outlook for a while and have a lot of Outlook data to search through. In this case, results might take some time to be displayed and it’s faster to be able to write out the complete search term before pressing Enter or clicking the Search button.
How to find a message in Outlook 2007
- In the Mail view, click the folder that you’d like to search (this can include All Mail Items)
- Click inside the Instant Search box, or press Ctrl+E
- Type your search term
- Results should start appearing as soon as you start typing
- The text you search for should be highlighted in the search results
Sometimes a search term returns too many results and you can’t find the item you need. In this case, try to use a more specific search term, or use Outlook search syntax to make your search more precise.
How to narrow down your search
Outlook 2007 offers several advanced search options that allow you to narrow down the scope of your search.
- Next to the Instant Search box, click the two downward facing arrows icon
- The default search criteria of From:, Body:, Subject:, and To:
- If you’d like to add further search options, click Add Criteria
- Select the additional search fields you’d like to use
- Enter your additional search terms in the new search fields
These tips should have you well on your way to finding everything you need in Outlook 2007. But what if you still can’t find the item you’re looking for?
It may be that the item is in a different folder, or you accidentally deleted that item, or it’s somehow landed in your Junk mail folder. If this is the case, here’s how you can include more folders in your search, including the Deleted Items folder:
How to include other folders in Instant Search
Outlook includes all indexed data files such as the .pst and .ost files connected to the Outlook client, and your default email account. To include subfolders of these files in your search, do the following:
- Click Tools and choose Instant Search then Search Options from the menu
- Under the Instant Search Pane click All folders
This should ensure that all subfolders within the indexed data files are included in your search. If you’d like to add more data files (eg. Archived folders, or another email account), here’s how:
- In the Mail view, click the arrow next to All Mail Items in the navigation pane
- Select the name of the data file you want to include (or exclude) in your searches
- If the data file name has a check mark next to it, it will be included in all future searches of all mail items.
The Deleted Items folder is not included in Instant Search by default, even when you’ve selected All Mail Items. Most people delete items for a reason, and don’t want them showing up in their search results!
Here’s how to manually include deleted items in your search:
- Navigate to Search Options (see above)
- Under Deleted Items, click the check box next to Include messages from the Deleted Items folder in each data file when searching in All Items
How to turn off Instant Search
If you don’t want Outlook to automatically index your Outlook data files, or don’t want to use Instant Search for some reason, you can turn it off using the following steps:
- Navigate to Search Options
- In the Indexing section, un-check the check boxes under the Index messages in these data files section
- This will stop Outlook from indexing those files, but won’t remove the Instant Search pane.
You can still search for items in Outlook, but your searches will be slower and less easy to change.
What to do if Instant Search isn’t working
Read here if you’re having problems using Instant Search in Outlook 2007.