Tagged searching helps you find what you need in Outlook. Much of my working life is spent in Outlook. Almost all of my contact with clients and contractors is through email, and when I need to look something up, typically where I look is in my countless email folders. As the years have gone by, I have a record of every communication and deliverable at my fingertips in the form of Outlook emails and calendar entries.

I’ve already written about creating multiple Outlook files–not only to aid in organization but to help reduce or prevent Outlook crashes and corrupt files. But having more and more PSTs and folders can lead to a filing conundrum: Saving time by organizing your emails into folders shouldn’t result in spending (wasting) time endlessly copying and moving emails into those folders. (“Rules” are a great helper for this–and someday I promise to write a post about that!)

This is where searching comes in. Outlook has a pretty good search feature–so even if your emails are not sorted into folders, it’s pretty easy to find what you want. Between searching and your folders, you should be pretty much set in having an organized repository of all your emails in Outlook.

Outlook Searching

Outlook’s Search feature is powerful. Just enter text in the Search field above your email messages.

It will search not only the subject line and fields about who sent or was copied on the email, but it searches the body text and the text of attachments, or you can limit it to just specific fields. You can navigate to a folder before searching to limit the search scope to that folder. Or you can tell it to include the subfolders beneath that folder, or open it up to search your entire Outlook repository of emails, calendar items, and notes. All of this is controlled on the Search Tools ribbon, which is automatically activated as soon as you enter something in the Search field.

Experiment with it for just a moment and you’ll see it’s very easy to use.

Tagging for Better Searching

A month into the XYZ Project, I might get an email from a client with the subject line “BTW” then the body text says something line “We have to remove the blue boxes from the last chapter.” Six months from now when I wonder who it was that told me about something that was supposed to be removed for the XYZ Project, how will I find that,–especially if I can’t remember that it was the “blue boxes” to be removed? Of course, hopefully that email ended up in the XYZ Project folder, but it would be even better if I could search for it.Here’s where tagging comes into the picture.

Outlook doesn’t have a built-in way to add extra keywords to emails to help you search for them, but here is a trick. Open the email message, put your cursor on the subject line, and start typing. Your new text will be added to the subject. Then when you close the email, answer Yes when it asks to save changes.

If you want to be able to easily tell which of the text was in the original subject line and which is the tagging that you added, precede your new text with a symbol that you consistently use: for example >> (or anything else). Here is a before/after:

Now this email will be tagged so that even if I don’t remember who sent it or what exactly it was about — I can still find it because now it includes the name of the project.

The moral of the story

Outlook is a great tool, but it’s too easy to get bogged down and waste too much time just sorting emails. But don’t react to the problem by throwing that valuable information away. Instead, use it wisely by tagging it or filing it — keeping it searchable so you can be a hero two years down the road by being able to pull up even the most obscure tidbit of information.

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One Response to Outlook Productivity: Tagged Searching

  1. Wow. This article on how to tag emails and search for emails using the ribbon was REALLY helpful!!! In the past, I’ve actually sent myself copies of emails because I wanted to change subject line. Never again. This is going to save me time, and make it a lot easier to find critical emails for my clients. Thanks, Kathleen!

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