Last reviewed on April 13, 2012   —  13 Comments

Outlook 2003, 2007, 2010

Use the Unread Search folder in Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007, and Outlook 2010 to find unread messages.

You can also use Instant Search with the search query:


Using the Instant Search method, you would 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, otherwise you need to click again to view all unread messages.

Use Read:no in an Instant Search

With an Unread Search folder, your search is limited to one data file per search folder, so you need one search folder for each account. You can use a search folder to search all folders within the data store or restrict it to the specific folders, such as your Inbox. You can add the search folders 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; this is the folder Outlook shows you when you first open it. The startup folder is set in Options. See Choose the Folder Outlook Starts Up In if you need the exact steps.

If the Unread Search folder is not on your Favorites list, look for it under Search Folders. You can drag it to the Favorites pane or right click and add it to Favorites. If the Unread folder is not listed under Search Folders, right click on the Search Folder then create a new search folder. For help creating search folders, visit our search folder tutorial

Robert Aldridge 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.”

All Versions

In Outlook 2000 and later, after you receive new mail, the Folder List opens to show any folders in the hierarchy that have new, unread items. Other than that, Outlook does not provide much help in locating unread items.

One method would be to use Advanced Find to search all your folders. HINT: The More Choices tab has an option for finding unread messages. If you use Advanced Find in this manner often, you might want to use File | Save Search to store your search criteria for easy reuse. Note that Save Search is disabled or removed from newer versions of Outlook due to security concerns.

Otherwise, a few third-party tools provide some assistance in locating unread items.


Nelson Email Organizer

NEO Pro is an email organizer and search engine for Outlook that indexes emails (including multiple message stores), as they are sent and received, into convenient virtual folders such as Correspondent, Date, Attachment Type and Category for instant access. NEO Pro introduces Conversation View, which allows users to expand the thread in the message list. Includes email notation so that users can add notes to individual messages for future reference. Compatible with Outlook 2010 (32 bits), 2007, 2003 and works with or without Exchange Server.

NEO Find

NEO FIND organizes all emails automatically in the most logical and intuitive way people think about their messages: around the correspondent involved in the email communication. Adopting Caelo's patented virtual folder structure all emails (both sent and received) are organized in a Correspondent folder. This folder can be searched or filtered to quickly zoom-in on the message needed.


Create Search folders in any version of Outlook, searching all folders or specific folders in the background and search folders are updated automatically if the folders change. QSearchfolders supports all folder types, including contacts. Because search folders is a feature of MAPI store providers, all search folders will remain working even after de-installation of QSerachFolders. All versions of Outlook are supported.


  1. Ben Macias says

    Thank you for the information. It save me from having to go look manually over hundreds and hundreds of emails manually.

  2. Dorothy says

    I keep looking for a column header that you should be able to simply click on to group the unread messages together. Why isn't there? The "solutions" above are all far more complex.

    • Diane Poremsky says

      what version of outlook? Outlook 2013 has the unread link at the top of each message list when you use the compact view.

    • Dorothy says

      2010. Usually not a big frustration, but Charter seems to have the hiccups lately... they are delivering, and redelivering, email from as early the 9th and 10th, and I have to hunt for them. Be a lot easier to be able to group. Other suggestions above don't work, my system is too big and complex, with about 50 emails saved daily and way too many marked unread, to be useful. Thanks for any other suggestions, else I'll just wait it out and hope Charter gets their stuff together soon. :(

Leave a Reply

Please post long or more complicated questions at OutlookForums by

If the Post Comment button disappears, press your Tab key.