Software

Find Outlook messages quickly with an All Mail search folder

Storing messages in folders makes email easy to organize and manage, but it can hamper searching. To search all your messages at once, create a custom search folder.
Most of us sort email into a number or folders and subfolders, where the structure represents purpose or level of importance. Doing so makes all that information a bit easier to organize and manage. However, occasionally, you need an overall view -- perhaps you're searching for email from a specific person or company, but you can't remember where you stored it. Numerous folders inhibit the ability to view all of your mail, as a whole. When you need to work with all of your messages, without stepping through folders, create a special search folder as follows:

  1. In the Mail window, select New from the File menu. Then select Search Folder. Or press [Ctrl]+[Shift]+P.
  2. In the resulting New Search Folder dialog box, double-click Create A Custom Search Folder in the Custom section (at the bottom of the list).
  3. Give the new search folder an appropriate name, such as All Mail.

  4. Click Browse.
  5. By default, Outlook will include Personal Folder and all its subfolders.(If necessary, check Personal Folder and the Search Subfolders option at the bottom of the list.) To omit the Junk E-mail folder, uncheck it. You might want to uncheck more than just the Junk E-mail folder. Sometimes, it's easier to start with all mail and uncheck a few specific folders to exclude.
  6. Click OK twice. When Outlook warns you that it will include all mail in all selected folders, click Yes. That's exactly what you want.
  7. Click OK to return to the Mail window.

Depending on the amount of mail you have, the process of creating this new search folder could take a few minutes. When Outlook is done, the All Mail search folder will contain a shortcut to every message in your Personal Folders (or the folders you selected). Use this search folder for global searches rather than repeating the same search task on individual folders. By default, Outlook sorts the new search folder by the In Folder field, not by folder structure. This process won't include messages in the Inbox, Sent, or Deleted folders, but you can include them by checking them in step 5.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

25 comments
murdoc2k
murdoc2k

Thank you! This is just what I was looking for!

bwhiting
bwhiting

Did anyone else notice that the screen shots in this article do not match what actually happens in Outlook? These screen shots here look like an Excel Query

Marshwiggle
Marshwiggle

I don't get this one. Any mail I store goes in sub folders of a custom Stored Mail folder. If I want to find something, I just right-click that folder, click Advanced Find ..., set up my criteria, and go. (Search subfolders is selected by default.) If I want to include the Inbox, Delete, Drafts, etc. I just start w/ the top level, in my case Personal Folders. Creating another folder full of shortcuts seems like an unnecessary step that would just add more clutter to my .pst file. Am I missing something here?

rhmassenberg
rhmassenberg

When I completed the search, all of my messages were moved from their respective folders to the All Mail search folder. It took hours to correct.

DevryGuy74
DevryGuy74

I just implemented this and am hoping for good results.

kstair
kstair

I use the old MS addon called Lookout. Works great and searches all of my PST files in seconds. I have Outlook 2003 but I don't know if it works on 2007 yet as I have not upgraded yet.

mirossmac2
mirossmac2

... from Neosoft. It maintains an index of every word in every email, including archives, so you can search on email address, person's name, date, date range, attachments, or any remembered bit of content, outgoing mails, incoming mails ... and there's a whole slew of features for big companies that a soloist like me doesn't need. And it assembles hits into ad-hoc folders (ghost folders? Pseudofolders? One-time folders?) that make navigation easy. I've retrieved, e.g., an archived email from a customer who, five years back, bought "A Brief History of the Concrete Roofing Tile" from me when I had another equally exciting book to offer him.

jlabreche
jlabreche

You must check the folders you want to search in Step 5.

dan
dan

At the risk acknowledging I missed something - why not just use the "search all mail items" in the outlook search function?

John Noises
John Noises

I personally find it easier to use the Windows Search facility (V4.0), which nicely indexes all emails and all your documents as well. It's really quick and powerful for finding emails. IMHO searching desktop contents is one thing that M$ has done a better job on than Google.

lou
lou

Fantastic - what a boon. Now all I have to do is discover how I can search this folder in Outlook to find the mail or folder required...? Goodness me, I have been using Outlook for more than 10 years now, and when that elusive email thing happens, I can spend hours sometimes searching, but not always finding the item that I'm looking for...! Another global Microsoft Secret uncovered at last...? Thanks TR And may I wish you; Good Luck & Bon Chance with your relaunch into TR Dojo. I just hope that all these goodies will still be available under the new regime... regards and cheers Lou Gar?on

hoekbrwr
hoekbrwr

I have trouble understanding the selection of folders. In other MS interfaces when you select a folder containing subfolders and search in subfolders has been checked all subfolders will be checked too. What happens id you check i.e. Personal folders at the top of the tree with search all subfolders checked, you get all documents and you can not exclude any folder. MS do your work with some more brains! This is ridiculous!

Xephire
Xephire

I myself use Outlook 2007, labels and a folder called "@Archive". All the mails in my inbox that I have read, I label (and if action required, add the follow up flag as well) and move them to the @Archive folder. Therefore my inbox only holds my unread emails. This has 2 advantages. First, if I get an email from customer X about product Y, I can add two labels (or have rules do it). With search folders, don't need to think if I should add the mail to the client folder or to the product folder, I now can always find it either way. Mails from mailing lists go straight to the @Archive but leave them unread. I can the "Unread Mail" search folder to quickly find them as well, and they don't clog up my inbox. (They have their own label as well, so could search on that if needed) Alexander

kees lucassen
kees lucassen

Nice article! it helps seaching in more than one folder. However this solution has the same limitation as in the "[Ctrl]+[Shift]+F" search facility. It will not search in more then one outlook .pst file. I still need a third party tool here . . .

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

it could be a case of mis-linked HTML due to site "updates" over the years.-

PatOz24
PatOz24

I have also used Lookout for Outlook 2003. But since I updated to the 2007 version it didn't work anymore... Anyway, after a little research I found Lookeen (www.lookeen.net) and it does all the things I loved about Lookout before, even a bit faster :) On the downside it's not free, well only for two weeks. But so far I'm very satisfied and tempted to make this little investment after the free trial. It's way better than the 'normal' OL search... Maybe it's interesting for some of you out there

mirossmac2
mirossmac2

Not from Neosoft but from Caelo Software - www.emailorganizer.com. Sorry about that.

PCF
PCF

What version of Outlook are you using (I'm wondering if that's why you have to check). I tried it on both my Exchange mailbox and a personal folder file. For both I did the steps exactly (top folder checked with search subfolders checked, nothing else checked), and all mail appeared sorted by the folder they're in.

pianoguy
pianoguy

If you do that search, you'll only get results from "Drafts;Inbox;Outbox;Sent Items". Don't ask me why "all" doesn't really mean "all", but only the Search Folder process here is a one-place virtual folder where your search will include everything you included in your virtual folder.

marvin
marvin

Whenever I do a search in a particular folder (Outlook 2007)and it finishes,it always asks me if I want to search in "All Mail Items". This returns a list of all messages that meet search criteria. I do not recall if this works in Outlook 2003. It does work easily for me without having to go through the trouble of making special search folders

dfd9880
dfd9880

X1 inedexes and searches my whole machine and my external drives (with a little workaround) but this solution fills a void 2007 created. I create yearly PST files so their size doesn't go over 2 gig. The 2003 search allowed me to search the complete file by date. Now I have that functionality back. Thx

Richard Noel
Richard Noel

I agree, it would be great if we could use a search folder in my Mailbox to search all of the items in an Archive. Windows Search doesn't even seem to search Archive Folders.

PCF
PCF

It can be done with the same steps in this article, since Outlook archive folders are just an offline storage file that, like a pst, you can add to your Outlook profile and view it in your folder list. To create the search folder, first click on any folder in the Archive, then proceed with the steps. The Archive will appear in the "Search mail in" field on the 'New Search Folder' window (step 2). When you're done, the search folder appears within the Archive's folder list (not your mailbox, but still easy to get to within Outlook). I hope this helps. Thanks for asking the question, as I'll definitely use this with personal folder files that are in my profile.

pgoodwin
pgoodwin

Yes, would be good to have a single tool in outlook to search all mail items regardless of where the email resides(archive, OST or PST). I have resorted to a 3rd party tool "X1" to handle this.

kkrssll
kkrssll

Now this allows me to build a search folder for my archives (by selecting the Archive Folder before building the search folder) and one for my mailbox. But it would be nice to have one search folder that would search everything at once.

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