Searching for or excluding empty fields

When using Instant Search, it is easy enough to find something when it contains that specific word or category. I can also do a search for items that should not include that word or category by using NOT in my query. However, I cannot seem to find a way to locate all the items that do not have any value assigned at all to that field.

For instance; find all items that do not have any category assigned or find all contacts for which I haven’t specified their birthday or company.

How can I use the search feature to return all items that have empty fields?

There is no way to do this with the Instant Search feature in Outlook 2007. This feature has been added to Instant Search in Outlook 2010 though. For all previous versions of Outlook, you’ll have to use Advanced Find or the below described “View sorting method” instead.

Outlook 2010
In order to search on empty values in Outlook 2010, you simply use the query field you normally use but then use the open and close bracket characters ( [ and ] )as the value.

Examples;

  • To find all messages without a subject you use;
    subject:[]
  • To find all messages without a category assigned use;
    category:[]
  • To find all messages who have a category assigned (doesn’t matter which) use;
    NOT category:[]
  • To find all messages who have a category assigned except for the category named “Blue category” use;
    NOT category:[] NOT category:”Blue category”
  • To find all contacts without a Birthday specified use;
    birthday:[]
  • To find all contacts without a Birthday specified who belong to the category “Family” use;
    birthday:[] category:Family

Search query: empty birthday
That’s probably not the search result you want either…

Outlook 2007 and previous
To get similar results in Outlook 2007 or previous, you’ll have to use Advanced Find (CTRL+SHIFT+F) and switch to the Advanced tab. You can now add/type the field name that you want to search on and set the condition to “is empty” or “is not empty”. For some fields you’ll have to use “does exist” or “does not exist”.

This method will not work if you want to combine your search with an exclude on the same type of field. For example;
Find all messages who have a category assigned except for the category named “Blue category”.

If you want to do the above search, then you’ll have to enable the Query Builder, which is hidden by default. Once you’ve done that, you can create the search;
     Categories is not empty
     AND
     Categories doesn’t contain Blue category

View sorting
Another way to find all items with a specific empty field is to simply sort your view on the field that you want to search on.

For instance, to easily find all contacts for which you haven’t set a birthday, switch your view of the Contacts folder a list view such as Phone List, add the Birthday column and click on the column to sort it by date. All the contacts with an empty birthday will now be listed together.

Sperry Software
Use "BH93RF24" to get a discount when ordering!