How-To Geek

Stupid Geek Tricks: Find Messages Quickly Without Searching in Outlook

This article was written by MysticGeek, a tech blogger at the How-To Geek Blogs.

After watching the project manager at work scroll painfully through 10,000 messages in her inbox trying to find one from the right sender, it occurred to me that a lot of people don’t realize how easily you can use the keyboard to find a message in a sorted list.

Almost any list control in Windows will let you type the first couple of letters in order to focus the selection on the item that matches in the current sorted column. It’s not exactly a new technique, but judging from today’s experience I felt it was worth sharing.

For instance, in Outlook you can sort by the “From” header by clicking on it…


And now you can start typing the first couple of letters of a name, for instance I wanted to find messages from so I typed in the first three letters quickly: a, m, a…


You’ll see that the selection went down to Obviously this is a contrived example, but you can see the value in using this technique.

Note: This will also work for other columns like Subject, or anything that can be sorted in alphabetical order.

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 04/17/08

Comments (14)

  1. N/A

    Hey Geek man,

    i have another question, what are some possible reasons why my sound on my computer isn’t working (it is a laptop), and also is there anything similar to the ilife program that i can install on my lenovo computer?

    thx geek dude

  2. joe

    I’m embarrased to admit that I didnt know about this. keep up the good work, I can learn a lot from this site

  3. maheshexp

    This is one important tip that I used to use in my outlook. Also grouping of mail helps more.

  4. pipo

    completely unrelated to Mysticgeek’s article, but it’s one of the things i also use for Outlook, specifically for keyboard ninjas:

    ctrl + > – move to the next message (when you have a message open)
    ctrl +

  5. The Geek


    That’s a great tip… I bet a lot of people are unaware of that one too.

  6. balaji

    thanks for the useful tip…i am one of those guyz go thru thousand of mails, looking for specific from to.
    this is very useful.

  7. qrius

    I highly recommend xobni. It’s in beta right now, but works fine for me. Also, I use google desktop when I can, but it has a slight bug where you can’t open .msg files w/ outlook when it’s activated.

  8. whoisvaibhav

    I use this tip all the time. And yes, I am amazed how some people just don’t think of using it.

    I also used to use LookOut for Outlook (a great plugin if you still use 2003 or below versions).

    Of course, now it’s Windows Search for me, but its not as great as LookOut used to be.

    @Pipo, yes that is a great trick as well.

    My recurring problem with Outlook is how quickly my PST size increases (because of the number of emails I receive). Here’s my list of tips that keeps me sane while using Outlook all these years:

  9. celerysword

    Wow- I had no idea I could do that. I was using the tedious scrolling method before. Nice tip!

  10. xiong

    i used that all the time with windows applications. i especially like how outlooks will remember and fill in the remainder of an email if i only type in a couple or more letters.

  11. Gweeb

    Hi enjoy your newletter and have learned a lot.
    I have a new computer ( desktop) with sta on it. I had software on my old drive that was important. bought an adapter and plugged it into USB. I cannot enter ths drive it tells me access is denied. I have exhausted my limited knowledge. I have tried to make it a share file and to no avail. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

  12. arthur

    Well done and good work. I do enjoy your tips and tricks.

    Thanks for the time you spend – arthur

  13. santhosh J

    Hi, all

    In crashed Harddisk, how can i retrive datas back?

  14. Drew


    Thanks for the good tip. I am having an issue where this is NOT working. When I type a letter it finds the first contact of that letter, and then the next letter I type goes to a new contact name. This results in a lot of jumping around. Is there a setting for this or a corrupted registry entry possibly?


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