We are often asked how to create a single search folder to display all unread email across all email folders:
I have several Inboxes and many more sub-folders in Outlook. I would love to be able to highlight each email account and easily scan through them all by just looking to see if I have any unread emails.
There are two ways to do this in Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2007: Unread Search Folders or Instant Search to look for unread messages. Each method has advantages and disadvantages.
Unread search folder: Search is limited to one data file per search folder, so you need one for each account. You can add them to the Favorites list so they are convenient to access. If you view the search folders regularly, they should update as new mail arrives. Search folders can be set as the Start up folder (the folder Outlook opens to when you first open it.)
Instant Search: Type read:no in the search field and click the Search All Mail Items link. This search will include unread messages from all folders in your profile but the results are limited to 200 messages in the initial results, which is fine if you are good at marking your email read. Including all messages is somewhat slower and requires a second click.
Robert explains how he uses an Unread Search folder:
Normally my Outlook is set to Conversation view. That makes it a little difficult to catch-up when I’ve been out of the office, because the “unread” messages are combined with the “read” messages in the Conversation view.
So my Search Folder is called Unread Inbox and combines all of the “new” items into one view. Then I can quickly scan for important messages, and optionally, use Control-A to mark all messages and then use “Mark as Read.”
Published March 16, 2012. Last updated on July 21, 2013.