Office 365 (Outlook 2013) - Find a message with Instant Search

Important: By February 28, 2017, Office 2013 version Office 365 ProPlus is no longer available for installation with an Office 365 subscription. Microsoft will no longer push any updates to Office 2013 suite of applications - complete details.

Need to find an important message in your crowded inbox or folder? Maybe you remember who sent it, or a word or phrase it contains. But who wants to scroll through pages of mail, looking for that message? Use Instant Search to find it quickly.

Want to specify multiple conditions, such as who sent the message, words in its body or subject line, or a date range when you received it? See the section Use Advanced Find.

For tips on getting even better search results with Instant Search, see the article Learn to narrow your search criteria.


Instant Search shows the first 30 matches. You can get up to 250 results by clicking More, below the results. If you want more than 250 results, you can change an Outlook option. See the section Remove the limit on the number of search results.

  1. In the navigation bar, near the bottom of the screen, click Mail.

    Navigation bar with views as text

    If you don't see this, "Compact Navigation" might be turned on, so you'll see icons instead, like this:

    Navigation bar with views as icons

    Or, in addition to "Compact Navigation" being on, the folder pane might be minimized, so the icons are arranged vertically. You can expand the folder pane by clicking the Minimize/Expand button, as shown here:

    Views as icons in minimized folder pane

  2. Find the search box. It's at the top of your messages, as shown here:

    Instant search box above messages

  3. To find a word that you know is in a message, or a message from a particular person, type the word or person's name (you can use first, last, and partial names) in the search box. Messages that contain the word or name you specified appear with the search text highlighted in the results.

    Search results matching a single word

  4. You can narrow your results even further by changing your search. Here are some common examples:
    • Type "expense reports" (including the quotes) to find messages containing the exact phrase "expense reports."
    • Type expense AND report ("AND" needs to be in all caps) to find messages containing both the word expense and the word report, but not necessarily in that order. You can also use "OR."
    • Type expense NOT report ("NOT" needs to be in all caps) to find messages containing the word expense but not the word report.
  5. There are some buttons on the Search tab you can use to quickly refine your search:

    Quick search buttons on the Search tab

    As shown below, choosing This Week finds the messages received during the current week:

    Results of This Week quick search

  6. When you're finished, you can clear the search by clicking the X in the search box.

Use Advanced Find

Getting too many results? Or are you just not finding what you want?

  1. Click in the search box.
  2. On the Search tab, click Search Tools > Advanced Find.

    Advanced Find under Search Tools

    The Advanced Find dialog box opens. In this box, you can specify much more complex criteria and even search in your calendar, contacts list, notes, and tasks.

  3. Click the Advanced tab.
  4. Under Define more criteria, click the Field button and then click All Mail Fields. You'll see a menu of fields you can search on, such as From, To, Received, Subject, and dozens more.

    Menu of advanced search fields

  5. Start by choosing a field, then choose a condition and a value to test.

    From/contains/Katie will search for messages from someone whose name includes "Katie." Notice we're using contains as the condition instead of is (exactly) so that we don't have to find an exact match. So if Katie's email name is "Katie Jordan," From/is (exactly)/Katie won't work because we'd need to specify Katie's full name, Katie Jordan, to get an exact match. That's where contains comes in handy as a condition.

  6. Add as many additional conditions as you need or want to test. We'll add three more:

    Received/between/5/01/13 and 5/31/13



    Building a list of search conditions

    Now, Outlook searches for messages from someone with "Katie" in her name that arrived in the inbox in May, 2013, with "budget" in the message body, and (in addition to you) were also sent to someone with "Rob" in his name. Here's a zoomed look at the list of the four criteria we added.

    Fields, conditions, and values

  7. Finally, click Find Now to run the search.

    Advanced Search results

Remove the limit on the number of search results

If the thought of more than 250 results doesn't scare you off, you can bypass that limit:

  1. Click File > Options > Search.
  2. Under Results, uncheck the Improve search speed by limiting the number of results shown box.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Restart Outlook.

Keywords:microsoft office 365 2013 client outlook app help mail calendaring overview messages instant searching tasks filtering o365   Doc ID:31910
Owner:Ara M.Group:Office 365
Created:2013-07-29 12:47 CSTUpdated:2017-06-08 12:23 CST
Sites:DoIT Help Desk, DoIT Tech Store, Office 365, UW Platteville
Feedback:  24   21