Quick custom folder sorting in Outlook 2013

Before Outlook 2013, you were stuck with an alphabetical listing of folders. Now, you can move folders to any position you choose.

Some users like to sort Outlook folders in a custom manner; not everyone wants an alphabetical list. Until now, they didn't have any other real option. With Outlook 2013, users can arrange folders as they choose. All they have to do is move them!

Office 2013

Let's work through a few quick examples. The figure below shows a simple folder list in alphabetical order. Now suppose you want the Waiting On Something folder to appear at the top of the list - it contains time-sensitive and important stuff. First, select it. Then, drag it to the top of the list and drop it. Yes, it really is a simple drag-and-drop task now!




If you change your mind, you have two options.

  • Move the folder using drag-and-drop.
  • Right-click the folder and choose Sort Subfolders A to Z. In this case, that option is dimmed because Waiting On Something isn't a subfolder. When using this option, Outlook reorders only the subfolders in the selected folder.

You might not like this behavior or, you might want to temporarily disable it as follows:

  • Click the Folder tab.
  • Check the Show All Folders A To Z.

Outlook will resort all of your folders into alphabetical order. While this option is enabled, Outlook won't let you move folders. It isn't a permanent disable; if you unclick this option, Outlook returns the list to its custom order.


Before 2013

If you're using an older version of Outlook, you can force a folder to the top (or bottom) of the list, but the results aren't as pretty. To force a folder to the top of the list, prefix the folder name with a special character, such as _ or *. Outlook sorts these characters first, so this type of prefix rises to the top. Similar, prefixing a folder name with the character z will force a folder to the bottom of the list. I told you it wasn't pretty, but it works.



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.


For me I prefer the "_" character as that gets in the way of the real folder name much less. If I want 2, 3 or even more sorts I use _, __, ___ as sometimes certain folders (e.g. "special items") need raising even higher than folders which may still have an alpha sequence lower than this (e.g. "answer now"). The z (or even "zz" or "zzz") works real well as long as you have the first character of the folder name as a Capital as that also gets in the way less and those items you are placing last anyway so they probably are much less important.

I prefer all of that to the drag and drop as you can then just keep the Alpha Sort and it is all automatic and "easy" to visualise when sorted.


__Special Items
_Answer Now
_Waiting on Something
zInternal use Only
zzAll read receipts etc.

My two-penneth anyway with the added advantage that this works as Folders on your Hard Drive, in Excel using sort, etc. etc.

Good topic! :)


The ancient workaround to make a folder rise to the top is to insert an exclamation mark as the first character of the folder name...easy to remove once you no longer need the folder at the top.

With the exclamation mark you can, in fact, create two alphabetical folder hierarchies, e.g.: !a, !c, !x, a, c, x.

Or is that too easy...?...


@DAS01 Another ancient work around is to number your folders starting at 00 before the folder name and go from there...01, 02, 03. You start with 0 in the single numbers to make all the rest of the numbers follow in order.  :)


@DAS01 Thanks for mentioning the hierarchy -- I'm sure many will benefit from that additional tip!

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