Lookout: a powerful search function for Outlook

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Lookout is a free extension that adds a powerful, index-based search box to Outlook with powerful filtering options. Its functionality includes indexing and searching inside Outlook folders, in attachements, and even searching user-specified desktop folders.

If you use Outlook you already know that, unless you agree to install the top-heavy Microsoft Desktop search, Outlook in and of itself offers only a rudimentary, one-dimensional searchbox with no options or filtering to speak of.

Because I did not want to install Microsoft’s clunky, resource intensive desktop search (which attempts to strong-arm its way to being your default desktop and web search method), the way around this problem for me had been to install and use the excellent Xobni.

With Lookout, however, I have come across another excellent solution that, purely from a search function point of view (and not taking into consideration Xobni’s “social” interface features), provides both more powerful and more versatile searches.

Lookout Screenshot

The irony is that Lookout apparently has recently been bought by Microsoft and has since disappeared. But you can still download ver. 1.2.8 from this link. I decided to post it on Freewaregenius so that this great tool does not become extinct.

Lookout Screenshot - search resultsSearch options: the core of this program is a powerful advanced search that will hone in on exactly the information that you want; you could conduct the following searches for example:

  • Search for the phrase “scholarship deadline”, in emails received from “Charlie” in the last 7 days.
  • As above, but only if the word “January” is in the subject of the email, or only for those emails that contain attachments, or only for those emails that do NOT contain a certain word or words in the subject or email address, etc.

More notes on this program as follows:

  • Lookout SyntaxSearch syntax: a fast route to quick and powerful searches. See image to the right for syntax options. A fairly involved search syntax may look like this: lastmonth +from:charlie +”scholarship deadline” -subject:Jumpstart.
  • Search “builder”: a wizard that uses a GUI to create your search query for you. Very useful, but could have been better designed in my opinion for seamless integration with the searchbox.
  • Index-based: which means that it will initially scan all of your folders and construct an “index”, and will continually update that index in real time as you accumulate more emails and information. This allows Lookout to serve super-fast search results when you run a search. (Note: Xobni uses a similar approach).
  • Index desktop folders: Lookout can be pointed to any folder or folders on your hard drive and index that information as well. You can tell it exactly which file extensions you want it to look into in the settings (default: txt, doc, html, htm, xls, and ppt).

Freewaregenius 5-Star Pick

The verdict: if you use Outlook and have been disappointed with the search function that you have (or don’t have) then Lookout will surely satisfy. Although the program could have been would have benefited from being just a tad better designed, it is powerful and it delivers very well.

A strike against it is that since being bought by Microsoft it has disappeared and I am assuming is no longer in development. Regardless, I had been needing something like this for a long time and now that I have found Lookout it has earned the highest Freewaregenius Pick rating. Recommended!

Version Tested: 1.2.8

Compatibility: WinAll. Requires Outlook (I tested on Outlook 2007).

Go here to download ver. 1.2.8 (approx 860K). More info on this program here.