If you are using Microsoft Outlook as your email client, you’ve likely already used the instant search box… but using it can be even more “instant” if you learn how to use a couple of shortcut keys, instead of having to resort to the mouse every time.

Focus the Search Panel

If you want to focus in the search panel to search the current folder, you can just use the shortcut key Ctrl+E to focus in the search box, and then start typing:

If you are a fan of a clean inbox, you probably end up clicking on the link for All Mail Items quite often…

Focus the Search Panel for All Items

Instead of focusing the search panel just for the current folder, use the shortcut Ctrl+Alt+A to switch to the All Mail Items search view.

Note: If your search in the current folder doesn’t return anything, you can just use this shortcut instead of clicking the “All Mail Items” link… you don’t have to search all items first. Very useful.

Return to the Folder

After you’ve done your search, you can return to the folder you were viewing by using the Esc key.

Note: If you open the All Items search panel first, the Esc key won’t return you to the Inbox, but if you focus the current folder (Ctrl+E), perform a search, and then use Ctrl+Alt+A to search all folders, then the Esc key returns you to the previous folder.

Show the Search Query Builder

The little arrow to the right of the search box expands to help you perform a search without having to remember all the search operators. To show or hide this panel, you can use the shortcut key Ctrl+Alt+W

This should work in any view that shows the search box.

Use Advanced Find

If you need more search options at your fingertips, you can use the Ctrl+Shift+F shortcut key to pull up the Advanced Find dialog, where you can search by pretty much any field you want.

Searching Inside a Message (or other items)

If you have a really long email that you need to search through, you might have tried the Ctrl+F shortcut key that works in most applications… and you would suddenly see the forward message screen and be confused.

Instead of that, use the F4 key to open the search/replace dialog.

You can search backwards with Shift+F4 as well.

Open up Desktop Search from Outlook

If you like the Windows Vista built-in search dialog, you can pull that up instead from within Outlook using the Ctrl+Alt+K shortcut key combination.

This will let you search through everything that has been indexed on your drive, including email.

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Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
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