Tips to use the most important Outlook search commands

If you’re anything like me, chances are high that you experience the overwhelming feeling of thousands of emails flooding your inbox on a regular basis. Want to remind yourself of what was said in a previous thread? Are you frantically looking for details you need for an important meeting that your boss sent earlier this week? Good luck scrolling through all the spam and newsletters to finally find those emails…

Wouldn’t some simple outlook search commands to help narrow your search criteria and find messages in seconds just be a dream?


Simplify your life by adding an Outlook search tool to your collection

You’ll be glad to know, there’s a way out of the chaos! These Microsoft Outlook search tips will help you to find exactly what you were looking for, using the most important commands. Perfect for less time-consuming and less frustrating everyday work.

How do you use the Outlook search field?

The instant search field in Outlook is what you’re probably used to using to enter simple terms to find an old message. You can improve that by using defined combinations of parameters for a more precise outcome. With the help of short commands, it is possible to narrow your search query to an area defined by you; like a period of time, a certain person, a defined file size, or even a combination of these elements.

The search bar is located at the top of your mailbox. Click on the search box to take full advantage of the built-in filters Outlook provides.

The most important Outlook search commands

The Outlook search commands are, amongst others, a combination of rather logical operators like AND, NOT and OR. It is important to note that they should not be typed in lowercase letters. The following table shows the most important parameters to help you simplify your email search:

Type… …to find the items that…
max …contain max, MAX, max, mAx, etc. As Instant search is not case sensitive, you can use a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters.
max smith …contain max and smith, regardless of the order.
max AND smith …contain both max and smith, regardless of the order.
max NOT smith …contain max, but not smith.
max OR smith …contain max, smith, or both.
“max smith” …contain the exact phrase in between the quotation marks, not variations.
from: “max smith” …are sent by max smith.
hasattachment:true …contain attachments.
subject:”max smith” …have a subject including the exact phrase max smith.
subject:max smith …have max in the subject and smith is included anywhere in the item
cc:”max smith” …have a CC line including max smith. …have a CC line including the email address
bcc:”max smith” …have a BCC line including max smith.
category:blue …contain a word with the term blue in it.
sent:yesterday …you sent or that were sent to you yesterday.
to:sam …contain emails you sent to sam (sent items folder).
read:false …you have not read, yet.

Outlook Search Syntax for Dates

If you are looking for a message from a certain date, the commands before and after can be quite helpful. Behind the chosen command follows the date statement you are searching for. Be careful to use the date format configured in Windows (e.g. mm/dd/yyy or


In addition to the date format it is also possible to specify a date or month using words:

  • Direct searches: yesterday, today, tomorrow
  • Searches for a specific day of the week: Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
  • Searches for a specific month of the year: January, February, March, April. May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Outlook search syntax for sizes

Another important Outlook Search command is the size command, so you can find items with the specific size you are looking for.

Specific size ranges
• Empty: 0KB
• Tiny: 0 to 10KB
• Small: 10 to 100KB
• Medium: 100KB to 1MB
• Large: 1 to 16MB
• Huge: 16 to 128MB
• Gigantic: >128MB
size:medium - to find all items between 100KB to 1MB

Combination of Outlook search parameters

What also may be interesting is that it is possible to combine single Outlook search parameters. This way, you can narrow your search even more. To do this, you just have to separate the commands with a blank space. In doing so, you can find an email that is not only written by a specific person, for example, but you can also select a specific date.

sent:yesterday  from:max

Outlook search tip – use smart subject headings

If it is part of your usual routine to attend several meetings, it may be difficult to find the message you are looking for when searching for the subject heading meeting. Therefore, choosing the right subject heading can be crucial for simplifying your Outlook search. It is as simple as this – if you think, you will ever need an email again, just use the opportunity to rename other peoples subject heading while responding to it.

Sam sent you an email with the subject heading "meeting". When replying, simply change the heading using specific keywords like "meeting marketing November 2021"

Simplify your Outlook by adding a search tool to your collection

Simplify your Outlook search

If you only have to narrow your search down roughly, then you can focus on the more simple search parameters like today, tomorrow, this year, next year, Monday…Sunday, January…December. But even these simple terms have to manually be typed into the Outlook search field. On the other hand, there are professional search solutions like Lookeen, which generates a graphical timeline to simplify your Outlook search even more. In Lookeen, you can see the corresponding period and narrow your search down with just one simple click.

Now that you know the most important Outlook search commands, like in most areas of life: only practice makes perfect. Train regularly and you will quickly reach the point at which you don’t have to think too much about the right syntaxes to find what you need.

These Outlook tips should not only help you to find your messages faster but hopefully will make your life easier as well. Good luck!

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