Office 365 Email Power Search

Locating old emails is something that has baffled people for a long time. We’ve seen users do the email “organizing” thing of dragging messages into some jaw-dropping set of folders. Maybe you’re one of those people. If so, welcome: maybe we can show you an alternative.

The beautiful thing about accessing mail through your browser in services like Office 365 and Google Apps is that you get to leverage the power of their servers. Rather than ask your underpowered little laptop to go fetch all the emails matching “budget”, execute that search on someone else’s hardware and watch how fast the results come in. Combine that concept with some advanced searching and you’ll be amazed at how fast you find what you’re after.

Often when doing basic email searches you arrive at one of two roadblocks:
1. Zero search results
2. Way too many search results

The latter, too many results, is something we can help with by way of something called Keyword Criteria and Logical Operators

Sound scary? Bear with us; it’s not too bad.

Keyword Criteria

Keyword criteria is a way to filter and apply more specificity to your search. You type these right into the search field and mix and match to your heart’s content. Here’s some of the more useful keyword criteria:

Keyword Description Example
From: Names or email addresses in the Sent field from:joe
To: Names or email addresses in the To field
Cc: Names or email addresses in the Cc field cc:george or bcc:amy
Participants: Names or email addresses in any of the above fields participants:amy
Subject: Specific words in the subject field subject:budget
Sent: Date message was sent sent:11/1/2014
Received: Date message was received received:last week
Has: Message has an attachment has:attachment
Attachment: Specific words in the attachment’s file name attachment:pdf

Ok, we’re almost ready for some real examples. One more thing:

Logical Operators and Advanced Criteria

Logical operators are additional things that can be typed into the search field to specify, even further, what you’re after. Here are the ones you might want to familiarize yourself with:

Operator Description Example
AND Message must meet both criteria from:amy AND subject:budget
NOT Message must not meet following criteria from:amy NOT subject:party
OR Message may meet either criteria from:amy OR to:joe
< Message must meet a value less than the criteria received:<2/13/2015
> Message must meet a value greater than the criteria received:>2014

Advanced Query Search Examples

Ok, here we go with some real examples and what happens.

Full Search Result
from:amy Finds all emails sent from people whose first or last name is Amy, first or last name contains Amy (e.g., Janice Amylia, Camyla Jackson), or has amy in their email address (e.g.,
subject:party Finds all emails sent or received containing the word “party” in the subject line
received:last month Finds all emails you received last month
sent:1/1/2016 Finds all emails you sent on New Years Day

Combination Examples

Full Search Result
from:amy received:last month Finds all emails sent last month from people whose first or last name is Amy, first of last name contains Amy, or has Amy in their email address
subject:party sent:1/1/2016 Finds all emails sent or received on New Years Day, 2016 containing the word “party” in the subject line

Quick Note: Keywords and search criteria are not case sensitive. A search of party returns the same results as Party.

Venture Forth

For good or bad, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s possible. The more comfortable you get with criteria, operators, and combinations, the faster you’ll get.

Here’s a couple more resources.

Bookmark this guide or post some better examples below!

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