Monday, March 1, 2004

Understanding Search Folders


By Diane Poremsky

One of Outlook 2003's best-loved new features is Search Folders. These are virtual folders containing pointers to messages stored in other folders. They use the same filter options as advanced find and automatic formatting, and are great for managing messages, but there are a few things to keep in mind when you use them.

First, Search folders search only the message store they are in. If you use an Exchange mailbox and personal folders, the search folder in the mailbox searches the mailbox only. You'll need a second search folder in the personal folders.

Secondly, search folders only work on personal folders and exchange mailboxes. You can't create search folders for IMAP or Hotmail/MSN folders. You can use search folders only for messages, not contacts, calendar, or tasks items.

Finally, Outlook doesn't begin searching for messages meeting the conditions used by the search folder until you open the folder. If you use a search folder regularly, the folder stays up-to-date, but if you don't use it for several days, the folder stops searching until you use it again. Messages are removed from the search folder when you refresh the folder, not when you mark the messages read.

The first time you use Outlook 2003, it creates search folders for unread messages, flagged messages (For Follow up folder), and large messages. As I mentioned earlier, it makes it really easy to use rules to move messages to other folders and easily find them. If you add these folders to the Favorites Folder list it makes them easier to use.

You can create your own search folders. To do so, right click on the Search Folders and choose Create Search folder. If you currently use Advanced Find, you can save your queries as Search folders using File, Save as Search folder.

For example, I use several POP3 accounts and it's hard to see which account the messages were sent to when they are all delivered to the Inbox. I could use rules to move messages to another folder, but as many people discovered, rules supersede the junk mail filter and result in a lot of spam kept in the folders. Instead, I created search folders for each account and I can easily see which account the messages arrived on and let the junk mail folder handle the spam.

Do you have a search folder suggestion you'd like share? Write me at