Prefixing your Outlook ‘instant search’ terms with from: and to: (and other ‘operators’) will quickly and effectively refine searches.

The Instant Search box is found above your emails.

Search Inbox in Outlook

The ‘Instant Search’ box in Outlook

Some examples are provided below – you can combine any number of different search terms as required. It’s incredibly powerful and, if you have an awful lot of email to search through, you can get as complex as you dare, to very quickly find what you want!

To quickly find an email you were sent:

1) One simple method is to narrow down the name of the person who sent the email, for example to find all emails from Matt type ‘from:matt
In the example below, you can see that this would find emails from anyone called matt, matthew, matthias or even bob@MattCo.com (anywhere ‘matt’ appears in the sender’s name).

Outlook-Instant-Search-Matt

2) If you remember a word from Matt’s email then you can type ‘keyword’ afterwards, so ‘from:matt flowers‘ will find all emails from matt (or Matthew or Matthias) which mentions flowers
In the example below, two of the emails contain ‘tomorrow’ in the subject

Searching from: and keyword

Searching from: and keyword

3) If this returns a lot of emails, to narrow down further, you could include subject – for example: ‘from:matt subject:tomorrow flowers‘.
In the example below, only one email in this folder is from Matt, with subject tomorrow and contains the keyword flower

Search Outlook from and subject

Search Outlook from and subject

There is a longer list of these search ‘operators’ below.

4) These terms will only search the current folder you’ve selected.
However, clicking the blue ‘Try searching again in All Mail Items’  link (at the bottom of the search results) will search ALL email folders (don’t worry, it’s almost instant!).

'Try Searching Again in All Items'

‘Try Searching Again in All Items’

Searching All folders from, Subject and keyword

Searching All folders from, Subject and keyword

5) You can, of course, change the columns you see in the results list (right click the ‘from’ bar to add in, for example, the ‘to’ column) to more easily see different search results.

Outlook Field Chooser Menu

Select the ‘Field Chooser’ by right clicking the title bar

The Outlook Field Chooser Dialogue Box

A more comprehensive list of instant search operators in Outlook:

TYPE THIS TO FIND THIS
Bobby Items containing bobbyBOBBYBoBby, or any other combination of uppercase and lowercase letters. Instant Search is not case sensitive.
bobby moore Items containing both bobby and moore, but not necessarily in that order.
bobby AND moore Items containing both bobby and moore, but not necessarily in that order. Note that logical operators such as AND, NOT, and OR must be in uppercase letters.
bobby NOT moore Items containing bobby, but not moore.
bobby OR moore Items containing bobbymoore, or both.
“bobby moore” Items containing the exact phrase bobby moore. Note the use of double quotes so that the search results match the exact phrase within the quotes.
from:“bobby moore” Items sent from bobby moore. Note the use of double quotes so that the search results match the exact phrase within the quotes.
from:“bobby moore” about:”status report” Items sent from bobby moore where status reportappears in the subject line, body, and attachment contents. Note the use of double quotes so that the search results match the exact phrase within the quotes.
hasattachment:yes Items that have attachments. You can also use hasattachment:true to get the same results.
attachments:presentation.pptx Items that have attachments named presentation.pptx or if the attachment contains presentation.pptx within its contents.
subject:“bobby moore” Items whose subject contains the phrase bobby moore.
subject:bobby moore Items with bobby in the subject line and with mooreanywhere else in the document.
cc:“bobby moore” Items in which the display name bobby moore is on the Cc line.
cc:bobbymoore@contoso.com Items in which the e-mail addressbobbymoore@contoso.com is on the Cc line.
bcc:bobby Items in which bobby is on the Bcc line.
received:=1/1/2006 Items that arrived on 1/1/2006. Note the use of the “equals” comparison operator (=).
received:yesterday Items that arrived yesterday. Instant Search also recognizes the follow date values:

  • Relative dates:    For example, today,tomorrowyesterday
  • Multi-word relative dates:    For example,this weeknext monthlast weekpast month,coming year
  • Days:     Sunday, Monday … Saturday
  • Months:     January, February … December
messagesize:enormous Items whose size is larger than 5 megabytes-  you can similarly use messagesize:>5 MBalso, tiny, small, large etc..
received:>=10/1/06 AND received:<=10/5/06 Items that arrived between 10/1/06 and 10/5/06.
sent: yesterday Items that you sent yesterday.
to:bobby Items that you sent to bobby when you are searching in the Sent Items folder.
read:no Items that have not been read. You can also use read:false to get the same results.

There are many, many more ‘operators’ you can use. For more reading, visit this link:
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/learn-to-narrow-your-search-criteria-for-better-searches-in-outlook-HA010238831.aspx