As time passed, the Hotmail integrated Email Search tool has gotten better and better, to the point where it is now nearly impossible not to find a message so long as you remember a piece of information it contained, who sent it, or to whom it was sent. In this tutorial, we'll explore both the basic message search functionality and the advanced search interface. And, introduced in a recent iteration of Microsoft's webmail offering, you can now also sort search results, a very useful addition which was critically lacking if you had thousands of emails in your inbox and folders.
At its simplest, the basic email tool works much like a search engine or an in-page find tool like you find in web browsers. Start by logging into your Hotmail account, and going to your inbox or another folder of your choice. Once there, you'll find the search box near the top right corner of the page, right below the toolbar:
To try finding a message, simply start typing inside the "Search email" text field.
As soon as you do, Hotmail will present you with potential search matches and suggestions on-the-fly, deploying as a dropdown menu under the text box:
Notice that Windows Live Hotmail has already found a few email addresses that contain part of the word you have started typing. In our case, as shown on the screenshot above, we have three matching senders: click on any of them, and Hotmail will show you all email messages from that particular sender.
Notice next a "From:" followed by the keyword as you've typed it so far. Clicking on that entry will locate all emails whose sender's name or email address contain your keyword.
Likewise, the "Subject:" and "To:" will allow you to quickly find messages whose subject line or recipients (respectively) include your search keyword.
If you click on the "Search the web" entry at the bottom of the menu, Hotmail will use the keyword(s) you typed and open a new browser window and perform a search for web pages that match these terms, using Microsoft's own "Bing" search engine.
Tip: the last entry in the search menu has nothing to do with email, but is added as a convenience. If you click on the "Search the web" link at the bottom of the dropdown menu, Hotmail will open a new web browser window to Bing, Microsoft's search engine, and search the web for the keyword you started typing. A quick trick to search the web without leaving your emails! (And explains why you see the Bing logo in the search box.)
You may have noticed a double chevron pointing downwards, next to Hotmail's search box: click on it, and an advanced search panel will appear below, allowing you to find messages based on more advanced and targeted criteria:
Unlike the basic message finding tool described earlier, the Hotmail advanced search tool lets you pinpoint for which fields to search for what particular keyword. Note that each field is optional, but you need to specify at least one search criterion. • Under the To and From text fields, enter full or partial email addresses to search for.
• Any complete or partial email title will fit into the Subject text field.
• By default, the "Folder" dropdown menu is set to search for messages in "All folders"; click on it though, and you can narrow down your text search to any of the standard folders or custom folders for your account.
• Inside the Keywords text box, type any word that you believe was contained inside the message you are trying to find.
• If you remember roughly when the message was sent, you can pick either a single day by picking a date in the first text field next to "Date between", or specify a date range (including Start and End dates), by picking two different dates.
• Finally, Windows Live Hotmail lets you restrict your search results by checking the "Has attachment" checkbox: this will only look for messages that contain one or more files attached to it. (Remember that images -in newsletters, for example- can be linked-to from within an email: this doesn't count as a file attachment.)
Once you are satisfied, click on the "Search" button, and Hotmail will try to find all email messages matching all the criteria you entered; note that, based on current Windows Live activity around the world at the moment, the amount of emails in your account, and the number of folders in which you are searching, this may take a few seconds (the more specific a query, the quicker it returns result - but see the tip below).
Tip: the more search criteria you enter, the quicker you'll find a particular email message - if you happen to remember exact information about the email in question. At the same time, the more advanced the search, the more restrictive it becomes. It usually is a good idea to start with a more generic search and then narrow it down if needed.
Once Hotmail has loaded emails as matching search results, just click on a message to preview its content, or double-click on it to open it in "full width" mode (in that case, simply click on the "Search Results" button on the left to exit that email and refresh the search.
And this is how the basic and advanced search tools work in your Hotmail account! In most cases, you'll find that using the basic, single text box search tool works just fine most of the time. But it is good to know that you can (and how) perform more advanced searches, right from your email account.