How do Outlook users organize emails?

By: standss , Oct 5th, 2012

We recently asked our 30,000+ readers about how they were keeping their emails organized. Our Inbox was flooded with responses. This report outlines the two main methods users told us they were using.. . as well as the problems they could not solve. Finally at the end of the report we  introduce a solution that has the advantages of both methods and also solves the problems of both.


Before we look at what people are doing, we tried to identify what people need from their  email organization system… irrespective of the system that they actually use.

It turns out that what we want is very simple.

  1. We want to  easily see which emails still need our attention.
  2. We want to quickly find and retrieve any one email or a group of emails in the future
  3. We want to do this without wasting our day shuffling emails around.

So now that we know what we want to do, how are Outlook users going about doing this.

The TWO MAIN WAYS readers organise emails are Folders and Search

… and there is an obvious move by users to Search!

The first way of filing that many readers used is Folder based i.e. users created many folders inside Outlook and then filed emails into these folders.

The emails are moved using addins such as our own Quick File for Outlook, Outlook’s built in Rules or even good old drag and drop.

This method was used particularly by people who work on very well defined projects such as Lawyers, Engineers, Architects etc.

While this method works for many, we still found that…

Users of the Folder Method are complaining about problems that are difficult to overcome

… some have even started moving to Search

Readers who are filing emails into many folders identified the following problems.

  1. After a while there are just too many folders… which makes Outlook messy.
  2. Sometimes it is difficult to decide which folder an email needs to go into
  3. Sometimes the same email needs to go into many folders.
  4. It is difficult to remember where an email was filed.
  5. It is easy to forget about filing emails from the Sent Items folder
  6. It takes TOO MUCH TIME and TOO MUCH DISCIPLINE to keep the system updated

We have long been supporters of the filing into folders method but we have also been struggling with the issues identified. We did further research and found that…

Studies show that it takes LONGER to find emails that has been filed into a folders.

Search is now the EASIER and FASTER way of Email Organization

The second way of email organization is to use Outlook’s built-in Search (or some other Search tool that works with Outlook).

Users either leave their emails in their Inboxes and Sent Items (which we think is not a good idea)… or archive their old emails into one or a few folders.

They then use Outlook Search to find emails when they are needed in the future. Outlook’s search is very good now, particularly if you are using Outlook 2007/2010 with Windows 7.

But Outlook Search has some problems too…

While Search is now the technically superior solution, users of Outlook who used Search had some complaints too.

  1. Search returns too few emails… Emails don’t always have the necessary keywords in them that you search by.
  2. Search sometimes returns too many emails… there may be other emails with the same keywords too.
  3. It is difficult to see a group of RELATED emails easily… this is easy when you’re using folders

The ideal solution would somehow combine the benefits of Search and Folders… while having none of the disadvantages

Is it possible to organize emails in a way that has the benefits of both Folders and Search?

YES! It involves TAGGING your emails with keywords… and then filing them into just one or a few archive folders.

You can think of tags as being similar to folders… without actually needing to create folders… or you can think of tags as keywords.

The great thing is that each email can have multiple tags (no more worrying about which folder the email goes into)… and you can easily see all emails with a particular tag when you need to.

You’ve probably been doing it with pictures on your computer already… and if you use Gmail, you may have been using labels which is their implementation of tagging.

You can sort of do all this in Outlook already but it’s way too cumbersome.

We’re about to make it super-easy
… at a price that you will not believe (less than $10)

We have been working on a solution for a while… and we plan to release it within the next 10 days.

We have been developing, testing and refining the product for the last 6 months and we’re almost ready.

I’m not going to tell you too much more… we’re going to show you how this works with a video in a few days’ time… keep an eye on your Inbox.

What do you think of the report? What system do you use? Let us know by leaving a comment on the blog.

Till then… have a better Outlook.


Sanjay Singh

PS: Our solution works inside Outlook and simplifies what Outlook can (sort of) do already. So even if you stop using our solution, your emails will still be safe, organized and (now) easily findable. Wait till you see our 2 minute video next week.

7 Replies to “How do Outlook users organize emails?”

  1. I would recommend filing all email into a processed mail folder with a simple Outlook category on each mail.
    Set tasks for anything that needs actioning by dragging the email into the taskbar, then treat the email like a piece of paper you have finished with, to save clogging your inbox.
    Study Manage Your Now by the instructer in USA.

  2. I’ve been using QuickFile for many years and am very happy with it. The problem is, as your research describes, needing to maintain a picture of the library of folders you use to store emails – in my case many hundreds. My mental map is fairly good as I know the terrain well – but still I sometimes ‘lose’ emails – often by poor discipline in filing them. I am looking forward to auditing the new system – but worry about needing to redraw my storage map using keywords – and wondering what I will do with the many thousands of emails stored in QuickFile folders. A guide the the size of my problem is that my live pst file is 5.7MB with an archive pst of 5.1MB

  3. dear sanjay
    1. i have used the folder orgazining add-on for years. but it is lost one day, and i could never find it again. can you help what i need to do?

    2. the tagging system sounds good, but can it have multiple tag location
    then it is possible to prganize also withon subfolders.

    3. are you making the tagging system (to then move into folders) also for windows itself, so you can tag to prganize.

    keep up the good work

    thanks maarten. portugal

  4. Bring it on…I’ve used “tags” on my pictures for years and they just work…fingers crossed you chaps can work the same magic for emails.

  5. Sounds very interesting. I have lots of folders, and your comments about too many are right on target. What you didn’t address in your blog is how and where to put action items so they will pop up when due. Hope that something like this will be included in your new offering.



  6. been using QuickFile for years and still always looking for a better way… Search is MUCH better now but still looking forward to seeing this new solution.

  7. Hi, I hope you can help me. I’m having trouble where with “Safe senders” are queried over again.
    I have their addresses in my contacts, I save their staus, but still there are some senders with the “blue bar”.
    What can I do to rectify this please?
    Thank you….Zivan.

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