Q: How can I easily perform granular searches in Outlook 2010?

A: There was a time when searching email was an Achilles' heel for Microsoft and Outlook. However, because of consumer demand and stiff competition, search was made a priority at Microsoft. As a result, Microsoft's search functionality has improved greatly, including within Outlook.

In Outlook 2010, you'll find the search interface, or search bar, directly atop the primary Outlook folders -- Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, and even Notes -- as Figure 1 shows. By default, the search bar performs a basic search; however, searches can be very granular, allowing queries of specific properties of an email message, appointment, contact, or task.

Figure 1: The search bar atop the Mail folder in Outlook 2010

Outlook 2010 has a Search tab on the Ribbon that provides access to advanced searching tools, including the ability to assign form properties to limit searches. The Search tab isn't visible unless you activate the search bar, which you do either by clicking in the search box or by typing Ctrl+E. The Search tab on the Ribbon is then available to use, as Figure 2 shows.

Figure 2: The Search tab on the Ribbon in Outlook 2010 (Click image for larger view)

When you employ search in Outlook, you can manually filter the query to search for specific properties. You can create search filters by selecting properties from the drop-down menu under More on the Search tab. Figure 3 shows the list of filter options for the Inbox.

Figure 3: Outlook 2010 search filter options for the Inbox

However, you can also create filtered searches by typing the equivalent text in the search bar. The list of items under More provides the different properties you can use to filter your search and is specific to the folder you're in -- that is, this list is different for Contacts, Calendar, and so forth. For example, if I wanted to search messages that I know I've read, that included the text San Diego in the subject, and that referenced the word power in the message body, I can type the following line directly into the search bar while in the Mail folder:

subject:(san diego) read:yes contents:power

The filter words are not case sensitive, so power, Power, and POWER all return the same content. Parentheses are needed when there's a space between the words, as with san diego in the example above. Figure 4 shows the outcome of this sample query.

Figure 4: Performing a filtered search in Outlook 2010

If I wanted to search my Contacts for one of the technicians at the MGM Casino in Las Vegas, I could type directly into the search bar while in the Contacts folder

jobtitle:technician company:mgm

The search bar format can save time for users who are more comfortable with the keyboard than with the mouse.

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