Tip 896: Searching with the OR operator (and other search syntax)

In Outlook 2003 (and earlier), using the "Find" command its possible to search on multiple items such as "Johnson, Smith, Jones" and the comma acts as the OR condition.

Windows 8 does not include Outlook 2013 items in it's search index. If using Outlook 2010 and older, Outlook items may be listed in Search again in, in the Windows Explorer search ribbon.

While the comma doesn't work with Instant Search, you can do OR (or AND and NOT) searches in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 (and Windows 7) by typing the operators in all capitals:

contactlastname:(Johnson OR Smith OR Jones)
will find Bob Johnson, Jim Smith, and Mark Jones as well as Mary Smith Jones.

contactlastname:(Smith AND Jones)
will find only Mary Smith Jones.

contactlastname:(Jones NOT Smith)
will find Mark Jones but not Mary Smith Jones.

More Search tips:

If you are in Windows and need to find an Outlook item, you don't need to go into Outlook. You can search for (only) Outlook items from the Start menu or Windows Explorer by restricting the search to Outlook message stores using

To limit the search to a specific Outlook item type, use
kind:email, kind:tasks, kind:notes, kind:journal, kind:meetings, or kind:contacts

In most cases, you can type the Outlook field name (leave out the space in 2 word field names):

To search between two dates use the following formats with any date field:
received:(>10/2/2010 AND <4/15/2011)

To include results from the dates, add an equal sign or use 2 periods between the dates:
received:(>=10/2/2010 AND <4/15/2011)
received: (1/1/11..6/5/11)

To find messages of a certain size or within a size range use:
size:=30KB size:1mb..12mb

Search recognizes days of the week (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday), the months (March, April, May) as well as today, tomorrow, yesterday, week, next month, last week, past month, and coming year. You don't even need to use the space: thisweek, nextmonth, lastweek, pastmonth, comingyear are valid in Instant Search.

Published August 1, 2011. Last reviewed on January 7, 2013.

  • Bruce Reid

    Thanks for this very useful tip. It led me to look for a concise reference of field names (contactlastname, for example) that are legal to use in such queries, but my attempts to find such a reference produced too many hits to wade through. Could you please direct me to such a thing?

    Thank you,

  • Diane Poremsky

    The best list i know of is at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/desktopsearch/technicalresources/advquery.mspx - it has keywords for both windows and outlook.

  • Rahul Gandhi

    Thanks a Tonn... Diane.

    I never think about this trick / Tweak, even it's a kind of miracle.

    Thanks Again...