Weekly Computer Tip # 376
13 September 2012

Last updated 17 April 2023 - added bonus tip

Reduce irrelevant search results
(Outlook 2007-2010)

Searching in Outlook 2007 and 2010 is easy. Simply open your mail, calendar, contacts or task folder and type the words or phrase that best describe the information or the name of the person you're looking for in the Search box. But what if your inbox is an out of control beast and you get too many hits? Or you have a lot of contacts with a similar sort of name? (I get Alan, Ank, Anna, Anne, Anneke and Andrew when I'm looking for An.) Well, did you know you can use the double quotation marks (" ") in the same way you might be used to when you search the web?

Here's how:

  1. Open the item you want to search in, such as your inbox or to-do list.
  2. In the Instant Search box in the top right hand corner, type the exact phrase or specific word(s) you are looking for, enclosed in double quotation marks (" "). For example, "outlook 2010". Or "an" if I don't want to find Alan, Ank, Anna, Anne, Anneke and Andrew.
  3. If you cannot find what you are looking for, you could click on the All Mail Items button in the Search Tools tab (Outlook 2010 only) so that it won't just look in, say, the inbox but also all the subfolders.

By the way, see tip_292.php and tip_294.php for more tips on finding that needle in a haystack.

Bonus tip: If you typed your search without the quotes and got too many hits, you can quickly add the quotes.

  1. Press CTRL + E. Your cursor will be at the end of your search term.
  2. Type your first double quote (").
  3. Press the Home key on your keyboard to jump to the start of your search term.
  4. Type your second double quote (").
  5. Press ENTER.

You can use this trick in all sorts of scenarios, such as when you rename a file name. Simply press Home and End to toggle from the start to the end of the name.

Thanks for the tip inspiration, Elaine. Stay curious!