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Using email Search Folders in Outlook

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Introduction to Search Folders
Search Folders in Outlook are a tool that allow all emails meeting certain criteria to be viewable in a particular Search Folder. The word “viewable” is emphasized, because Search Folders do not contain actual emails but just allow emails (whether they be in the user’s Inbox, Sent Items, Deleted Items, or any other folder) to be viewed. It is helpful to think of a Search Folder as a porthole through which emails meeting specific criteria can be viewed; the emails are not “in” the porthole, but are just viewed (and can be manipulated) through it.
Once the Search Folder is created all mail meeting the criteria of the Search Folder will be listed in it and it can be further searched, and sorted, just like a regular email folder can be searched and sorted.  
The first Search Folder which users who use dedicated email subfolders should create is an “All Mail” search folder (similar to the “All Mail” label in Gmail which displays all mail in the user’s Gmail account). Searching an “All Mail” search folder allows one to find misfiled emails, or to search for emails for which (although nothing was misfiled) it is not clear what matter folder the email was filed in.
How to create a Search Folder
Perform the following steps to create a Search Folder:
  1. Navigate to the bottom of the folder list on the left hand side of the Outlook window, and right click on the “Search Folders” menu item.
  1. Scroll to the bottom of the “Select a Search Folder” list, and click “Create a custom Search Folder”, and then in the dialog box that appears give the search folder a name (e.g. “All Mail”), and then click the Browse button.
  1. In the dialog that appears after clicking the “Browse” button, click the checkbox for the top level folder (because for this “All Mail” search folder you want to search all mail), and then ensure the “Search Subfolders” checkbox near the bottom of the dialog is checked.
  1. Click OK three times to finish creating the Search Folder. Note that you will likely receive a warning stating that you have not specified any “criteria” for the Search Folder (i.e. you have not narrowed the date range, specified keywords the emails in the Search Folder must contain, etc.), but since you are making an “All Mail” search folder you can simply click “Yes” to continue.
  1. Click on the newly created search folder to review “All Mail”. Note that it may take some time for the Search Folder to populate the first time you access it, especially if you have a large email account. Searching the “All Mail” folder will then perform a search of all emails in your entire email account.
Search Folders can be used for more than just creating an All Mail folder
Search Folders can be used for much more than just reviewing “all mail”, for example:
  1. Set up a Search Folder for emails to & from a specific person e.g. your administrative assistant (so you can view all recent emails to and from that assistant on all files).
  2. Set up a search folder for emails sent / received “Today”, which is good to review at the end of the day to ensure you did not fail to record time on all client files worked on during the day. Alternatively you can just browse the top section of your “all mail” search folder to see all email sent today.
  3. For large client matters for which you use subfolders under the client matter email folder, create a Search Folder to pool all emails on that client matter into a single location for searching.
  4. To avoid searches bringing up hits from closed files, create a search folder that searches just the files under “Active files” (as referred to in the email folders section).
  5. Use the rich functionality in the Search Folder control panel to set up sophisticated search folders meeting detailed criteria.
  6. To save server space, sort the “All Mail” folder by file size and then go to the top / bottom of the list to review the largest emails in your email account and consider them for deletion.
Final comments regarding functionality of search folders
  1. You can search within a Search Folder. Search Folders have the name they do because when deciding what emails to show in the Search Folder Outlook “searches” for emails meeting the criteria specified when setting up the Search Folder, so the “first level” search is done using the criteria that define the Search Folder in the first place and is automatically implemented when the Search Folder is accessed. However users can then do a “second level” search within a Search Folder (just like searches can be done in a regular email subfolder) to focus in more narrowly on particular emails.
  1. Emails can be manipulated from within a Search Folders i.e. emails are not stored “in” a Search Folder but you can perform operations on an email being viewed through a Search Folder e.g. you can Delete, Flag, Categorize, drag and drop to a new folder, etc., and in each case the operation will complete as if it were being applied directly to the email in the folder holding it.