As the amount of information we have stored on our systems
increases, the ability to locate it quickly and easily becomes more essential. Search folders are new to Outlook 2003
and allow you to define and save search criteria or use predefined search folders
(for example, Mail Flagged for Follow Up) to greatly improve your ability to
locate specific messages within an information store. This article will show
you how to create and use custom search folders to find the mail items you need
quickly and easily.

Understanding search folders

The search folder is a mechanism that can locate messages in
your message store, based on various attributes, including:

  • The
    From field
  • The To
    field
  • Subject
    line and message content (key word)
  • Special
    attributes (such as Follow-up flags or Unread status)

The great thing about search folders is that they provide a
sort of cross-indexing. For years, Outlook users have been creating custom
folders for sorting and organizing their messages, and search folders don’t
replace that practice—but they do supplement it. Now a message can be in its
assigned folder, but can also be found in the search folder whose search
criteria it matches. The message itself stays in its original folder, but is
also displayed in the search folder.


Tip

Search folders should be thought of as virtual folders
because the messages in them are really stored someplace else. If you delete a
search folder, the messages are not deleted; they’re still in their original
folders.


How to create and customize search folders

You can create search folders from the File menu or from the
Find bar. First, let’s look at the File menu method.

Creating a search folder from the File menu

Creating a search folder from the File menu is easy.

  1. Click
    File | New and select Search Folder, as shown in Figure A. This opens the New Search Folder dialog box, shown
    in Figure B.

Figure A

To create a search folder from the File menu, click File | New and select
Search Folder.

Figure B

You can select a predefined folder from the New Search Folder dialog box or
create a custom search folder.

  1. In the
    New Search Folder dialog box, you can select one of the predefined search
    folders from the list, or you can create a custom search folder. To select
    a predefined folder, just scroll to it and click it. In this example, I
    selected Unread Mail.
  2. In the
    Search Mail In: field, click the down arrow to display a list of mailboxes
    in which you can search.
  3. Click OK,
    and the new search folder will appear in your Outlook folder list. All
    mail that matches the criterion (mail marked as Unread) will appear in the
    middle messages pane, as shown in Figure
    C
    . As you can see, I have a lot of
    unread mail.

Figure C

The new search folder appears in your Folders list, and the messages in it
appear in the middle messages pane.

Creating a customized search folder

What if none of the predefined search folders matches the
criteria you want to search by? For example, you may want to find all messages
sent from a particular person. In this case, go back to the New Search Folder
dialog box and scroll all the way to the bottom of the Select A Search Folder
list. There you’ll find an option labeled Create A Custom Search Folder. Click
it, and then follow these steps:

  1. Click
    the Choose button, as shown in Figure D, to invoke the Custom
    Search Folder dialog box, shown in Figure
    E
    .

Figure D

You can create a custom folder if none of the predefined ones meets your
needs.

  1. Give
    the search folder a name. In this case, I’ve named it “Jeff” because I’m
    searching for all messages from a person by that name.

Figure E

Give the custom folder a name and then click the Criteria button.

  1. Click
    the Criteria button to specify
    the search parameters.
  2. In the
    Search Folder Criteria dialog box, you can search by keyword in the
    subject field, message body, or frequently used text fields; by the From
    or Sent To fields; or by the time the message was sent, received, due,
    created, modified, or expired. In this case, I’m searching the From field,
    as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

You can search by keyword, by From and Sent To fields, and time.

  1. Click
    OK in each dialog box until they’re all closed. Your custom search folder
    will appear in the Folder List, and messages that match the criterion will
    appear in the middle message pane, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G

Your custom folder appears in the Folder List, and the messages in it
appear in the middle message pane.

You can narrow the search further by clicking the More
Choices tab in the Search Folder Criteria dialog box. Here, you can narrow the
search in the following ways:

  • Search
    only within a specified category
  • Search
    only for items that are read or only for items that are unread
  • Search
    by the item’s importance rating
  • Search
    only items with a flag of a specified color
  • Match
    case in your search parameters
  • Specify
    a message size (an exact size, within particular sizes, or greater than or
    less than a particular size)

If that’s not enough, you can define even more criteria by
clicking the Advanced tab. This will
allow you to search by dozens of fields, such as conversation threads, the cc:
field, and the document author field.


Tip

Once a message is displayed in a search folder, you can
delete it, mark it as read, or move it to a regular folder by dragging and
dropping. (However, you can’t drag a
message into a search folder.)


Creating a search folder from the Find bar

To create a search folder from the Find bar, you first
conduct a search: Click Find on the toolbar, fill in the Look For and Search In
fields, and click Find Now. After your search is complete, you can click
Options and select Save Search As Search Folder from the menu shown in Figure H.

Figure H

Improved Outlook

Search folders provide a quick and easy way to locate
specific items among hundreds or even thousands of Outlook messages that are
stored across dozens of folders. If you tend to accumulate several thousand
messages as I do (and that’s not even counting all the spam), search folders
can change your outlook on life.