Microsoft Tweaks Outlook Search and Reminders

Changing Outlook for the Better

It’s amazing (or surprising) when developers find new GUI tweaks to add to a 26-year old software program. Two recent changes to Outlook seem worthy of note, even if one appears in the Outlook Monarch client rather than the classic desktop client, which isn’t quite 26 years old.

The first covers “Find Related,” described in message center notification MC649940 (Microsoft 365 roadmap item 141712). The notification was last updated on 28 July, but the promised update is now available for Outlook desktop classic (I used version 2309, build 16827.20056, but don’t know the exact build when Find Related first appeared) and Outlook for Mac. The feature will come to OWA and Monarch at some point in the future.

Find Related for Conversations or Users

Search has had a checkered history in Outlook. It wasn’t very good for years, but has steadily improved recently. Find related is a quick way to search a mailbox for related emails directly from an item in the message list. To use Find related, select an item in the list and use the right-click button to reveal the actions menu (Figure 1).

Outlook Find Related option
Figure 1: Outlook Find Related option

The options are to find:

  • Messages in this conversation: Find items in the same thread as the selected item (Figure 1). The search used is the same as if the user types ‘[Conversation]:=”Title of message“’ into the search box. For example: [Conversation]:=”TEC PowerPoint Slides are due!”  The search looks for an exact match against message subjects, so “TEC PowerPoint” won’t work. However, casing doesn’t matter and the search finds messages with subjects like “RE: TEC PowerPoint Slides are due!”
  • Messages from sender: Find all items from the sender of the selected message. Outlook looks for messages based on the display name of the message sender. It’s like typing from:”user display name” in the search box. For example, from:”Kim Akers.”

Result of a Find Related search for conversation items
Figure 2: Result of a Find Related search for conversation items

Monarch’s Reminders Window

There’s not much more to say about Find Related, so let’s move to message center notification MC638133 (last updated 12 August 2023, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 144731), which describes a new reminders window implemented in the current build of the Monarch (preview) client.

Microsoft says that the reminders window is a “new notification style.” It’s a pop-out window, which isn’t very new at all, except when used to communicate meeting, event, and task reminders. The window lists reminders for upcoming events with the option to snooze reminders, dismiss reminders, or join Teams meetings (Figure 3).

Monarch's new Reminders pop-out window
Figure 3: Monarch’s new Reminders pop-out window

I hate to say this, but the new notification style trumpeted by Microsoft seems no more than a web implementation of the Outlook classic reminders window. It’s certainly useful to have reminders listed in a separate window, but it’s not like this is breakthrough thinking that sets a new frontier for information technology. Maybe it’s just functionality introduced in Monarch to match what’s in the Outlook classic client in preparation for an eventual switchover. That won’t be possible until feature parity is achieved. Monarch is still a tad away from that as current builds lack support for important features like offline access and PSTs.

MC638133 says that the default value for setting to control the reminders window is Off unless their settings from a “previous Outlook client that they toggled in from” is set otherwise. I assume that this is the Outlook desktop “Show Reminders” setting. In any case, you can check the notifications section of Monarch settings to see if the reminder popup is selected (Figure 4).

The option controlling the reminders pop-out window
Figure 4: The option controlling the reminders pop-out window

Feature Rich Outlook

In one respect, the problem with Outlook is that it is too feature rich. Even after using the client since Outlook 97, I continually find (or rediscover) functionality. Maybe that’s just my failing memory. But I like the Find Related search and will probably remember it. At least, I think I will.

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4 Replies to “Microsoft Tweaks Outlook Search and Reminders”

  1. For me this separate reminders window is a move forward. I use it all the time in the classic Outlook and when trying Monarch this was a game breaker for me. Web notifications or Windows action center just not the same. I wonder though if they allow custom postpone options or same limited 5 and 10 min like in action center. Will have to try that myself next week.

  2. Have you changed something about comments here? Usually i would mark to notify about new comments and it would only send if someone comments on this post. But now i get emails about any comment on any of your posts. And can’t even find a way to unsubscribe. In the past it would always send an email to confirm. But on 29th when i posted above comment it didn’t and just subbed me for all comments. Trying to posts this comment with all toggles disabled, maybe it will stop the spam.

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