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Home / General / Outlook Overload – AKA – Frightful Folders

Outlook Overload – AKA – Frightful Folders

Does your Outlook folder system require a degree in computing to navigate or is it organised to the nth degree? Can you find your emails quickly or is it a mammoth task dictated by expanding multiple level folders until finally you find that hidden gem – only to discover that oh oh, wrong folder, wrong year, wrong email!


Many of our emails actually fit into more than one category, and if we try to ensure that there is a copy in each of the appropriate folders we are not only duplicating emails but also reducing our storage space.

Whatever way you may have organised your folders, did you know that there is a better way?

Really, it’s true, there is.

With the search features available in Outlook there are so many different parameters under which you can search that the solution is simple! All you need is one folder for actioned items and one (the Inbox maybe?) for to-do items.

Go from having the long list (right) to a short confined group of folders (below)


A few quick tips should help resolve many of the challenges we face, but let’s start with the basic search functionality.

Sitting above the contents of our inbox is the search box, a seemingly unpretentious little text box, minding its own business. However the moment you click into this box you set off a chain of reactions. A new contextual Search Tools tab appears at the top of your Outlook, bringing with it a whole host of excellent search secrets.

Working from the first item across, let’s see what we can do

The Scope group is pretty self-explanatory – where do I want the system to look:
All Mailboxes, Current Mailbox, Current Folder, Subfolders, All Outlook Items, I can choose!

Nothing particularly different here – except to note that a mailbox refers to all items relating to a specific email alias or ID – this part is for people who manage more than one email alias

Results Group

Again pretty self-explanatory – do I want to include older results (archived) or just the ones currently in my inbox – but I do need to remember that this search function requires me to be connected to my workplace if my archive is on a network and not on my pc

The Refine Group on the other hand has several little gems, each of which allows you to apply parameters to your search, thereby refining it and helping to locate your elusive mail with more speed

  1. From – who sent me the mail
  2. Subject – great if I remember the subject line
  3. Has Attachments – much easier to include or exclude as appropriate
  4. Categorized – have I set up a rule to apply a category to a mail – if I have, hey presto! Much easier to isolate
  5. This week – hint: click the drop down for more date/time options
  6. Sent to – do I remember if I sent it and if yes to whom
  7. Unread – any mail that sits unopened in my mailboxes
  8. Flagged and Important – did I mark something for follow up, did someone send me something marked important
  9. And then the final gem of this group – MORE!

Selecting the More option allows me to add semi-permanent additional search parameters to my standard search box – and the great thing is – they only appear when I click into the search box and disappear again when I close the search menu. And if I don’t want them anymore I just click the little X to the right of the relevant box and it goes away, couldn’t be easier

Our last grouping is the Options group – small but significant

Here we are just presented with two choices

  1. Recent Searches
    • Well, you know what that means, what have I tried to look for recently, well click the drop down arrow under Recent Searches and I can re- run the same search with just a click
  2. Search Tools
    • Using the Search Tools option I can further refine my search if the groupings above don’t give me what I need
    • Here I have several options – some are a repeat of those offered above but others give me more scope like Advanced Find for example
    • With three tabs to choose from I am spoilt for choice
    • Messages – who, when, where, what
    • More Choices – how big, what category, is it read
    • Advanced – well here I can choose a field, refine the information further and then search


So many ways to search for a mail, take my advice and make the move from folder frenzy to sleek and simple – it really is worth it.

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