Outlook Search – Where Did it Find the Results?

Outlook Search may be good at finding things – but not so good at telling you WHERE it found them

Outlook Search
Figure 1.
If you have a lot of email folders in your Outlook and can’t find something that you are sure is there, then using the Search function with the scope set to either Current Mailbox (to search all folders for the currently selected email address) or All Mailboxes (to search all folders of all email addresses) will probably find it (as long as you type something sensible as the search term) – see Figure 1.

Once you have found it, it is then easy to double-click on the message in the list of results. It will open as you would expect and you may be relieved to have retrieved it. If it was mis-filed, it’s only natural to want to move it from its current folder into the correct one. And here’s where the fun begins…. how on earth do you find out where it’s currently filed? The natural thing to do is to right-click somewhere, to get a “Properties” option, but there isn’t a context menu or option for this. This strikes me as a peculiar omission – especially in a program that’s been around as long as Outlook has. Never mind, though, we can find the answer by coming at it from a different angle.

Outlook Message Properties
Figure 2.
The quickest place to start is by clicking Alt Enter either when looking at the email in a list of search results, or when looking at the content of the email itself. In either case, this will open a window of properties for the current item. The folder in which the message is stored is shown next to “Location” (see figure 2). However, it doesn’t give any indication as to where that folder sits in the hierarchy of your email folders.

If you know exactly where that folder is (and if the name is unique within your email structure), then that’s it. You can navigate to that folder in the normal way and drag-and-drop the message into the folder you expected it to be in before you had to search for it.

Outlook Advanced Find
Figure 3.
But suppose, for instance, that you have folders for each of 200 clients and each of those has a sub-folder called “Orders”, then being told by the “Alt Enter” method above that the message is in “Orders” doesn’t really help very much.

So, to find out exactly which “Orders” sub-folder it is in, we have to be a little devious:

  • Open the message in its own window (eg by double-clicking on it in a list of search results)
  • Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl Shift f to open “Advanced Find”
  • Click on Browse (see figure 3) and you will see the current folder (ie where the message currently resides) within the hierarchy of your email folders

Outlook Folders in Advanced Find
Figure 4.
You can now see exactly which folder the message is currently hiding in. Once again, you can now navigate to that folder in the usual way and drag-and-drop the message into the folder you expected it to be in before you had to search for it. See figure 4.