The Secret Outlook Feature You Didn’t Know You Needed

For those of you who use Outlook heavily, you’re probably quite comfortable working with Views in folders and you may have even created your own custom Views.  These are great when you need you own specific column layout or require sorting and grouping your e-mails in a way that makes more sense for you.

You may have even gone to the lengths of creating a specific filter in the View for only showing e-mails that meet certain criteria – such as e-mails received in a certain date range, sent from certain people, with one or more attachments, etc.  The possibilities are endless!  But the more filters you define, getting the right set of e-mails to be displayed becomes more complicated as the criteria can exclude one another.  That’s because each additional filter defaults to an AND operator.  What this means is that all criteria need to be satisfied.

Take for example a View with two filters:

  • Messages sent today
  • Messages that contain the “High Priority” category

If you setup the View with these filters, only messages that satisfy both conditions will be displayed.  So what can you do if you want to display messages that have been sent today OR messages that contain the “High Priority” category?

The trick is to (drum roll please) use the Query Builder tab in the Filter dialog.  “What Query Builder tab?” you might be asking:

screenshot1Yup, I don’t see a Query Builder tab.  Want to add it?  Here’s a secret! (SHHHH!)  Run your friendly neighbourhood Registry Editor (type RegEdit in the Run dialog to run the C:Windowsregedit.exe program), and add this key:

*HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice12.0OutlookQueryBuilder

*Note that this will work with Outlook 2000 and greater – at least I’m mostly sure it will work with 2000 and I’m too lazy to fire up a Virtual Machine with that version loaded to check right now – you just need to change 12.0 to the appropriate version to find the right key section under HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftOffice:

Outlook 2000: 9.0
Outlook 2002/XP: 10.0
Outlook 2003: 11.0
Outlook 2007: 12.0
Outlook 2010: 14.0

So to be perfectly clear: right click the Outlook key and select New –> Key and type “QueryBuilder”.  That’s it! It should look like this when you’re done:

screenshot2Now edit your View to display the Filter dialog again – voila!

screenshot3So now to create our filter, I’ll create the two conditions outlined above:

screenshot4Now we just need to change the logical evaluation operator by highlighting the AND element in the tree view and selecting OR from the Logical Group dropdown:

screenshot5Now your View should include both e-mails that were sent today, OR have the “High Priority” category!

Rock on Outlook, rock on…

Eric Legault

Microsoft Outlook MVP (15 yrs). Author: Microsoft Office 2013 Pro Step By Step. Consultant/speaker/Outlook add-in builder/SharePoint pioneer. Guitarist: Maiden Canada (Iron Maiden tribute band)

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