If you’re like me, you’ve saved practically every email you’ve ever gotten (or sent). Your Microsoft Outlook .pst files threaten to slow your office’s Exchange Server to a grinding halt. But, hey, you never know when that information is going to come in handy. And if you’ve got it in paperless form, it’s just that much easier to search. Right?

But if you’ve ever attempted to find that critical email by using Outlook’s native search functions, you know how frustrating the paperless office ideal can be. How hard could it possibly be to find last month’s email from “Bob” that has the word “merger” in it?

Where Outlook’s Advanced Search fails (or frustrates), Lookeen succeeds.

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

What is Lookeen?

Lookeen is a plugin (a.k.a. add-in) that allows simple word searches of all your Outlook items (mail, calendar, contacts, tasks, etc.) and, optionally, files on your hard drive. Part of the charm of this add-in is that it’s easy to do a basic search, but other more sophisticated filtering and reporting tools are available if you need them.

The download file itself is 10MB (which takes less than two minutes to download on a broadband connection). Installation is very quick and easy and requires very little user input other than accepting the EULA.

When Outlook starts next, Lookeen takes you through a wizard to set the software up.

Setting up Lookeen

The Setup Wizard allows you to customize which mailboxes/Outlook .pst files (or as Lookeen refers to them, Outlook Stores) to index. You can also add local folders from your hard drive(s) to search.

Once you’re set up, Lookeen needs the opportunity to index your inbox(es) and any local folders you have (so you might want to install just before you go to lunch or are otherwise away from your computer to give it sufficient time/bandwidth for that first index). Once the index is created, it is refreshed on a schedule you can control.

Searching with Lookeen

Once installed, Lookeen’s controls reside on its own tab in Outlook 2010:

Weirdly, hovering the mouse over these buttons didn’t give me any tool tips, so I had to press each button to find out what it was. The tab buttons above (from left to right) are: Analytics (gives you statistics like how many Mail, Task or Calendar items were created each day); Conversation view; Find More Like This; All from Today; All from This Week; Options.

One of the key differences between Lookeen and Outlook’s Advanced Find (and the related Search Folders feature) is the simplicity of Lookeen’s interface. Even though I’m used to working with databases, I’ve always found Outlook Advanced Find to be cumbersome. Miss a trick anywhere—define a date range with the wrong syntax, forget to select the right folder(s)—and your search turns up nothing (or, worse than nothing, a bunch of unrelated items). The Outlook Advanced Find interface looks like it was designed by a programmer (and not in a good way).

In contrast, Lookeen’s basic search just asks you for the words you’re looking for. And, really, when you’re trying to find that elusive email you know you received, a few keywords will readily come to mind. That simple search can sometimes be far more effective than a Boolean “Sender=Sam Glover AND ReceivedDate<=01/01/2012” set of terms. Lookeen allows you to search based on keywords and refine your search later by date, attachments, or names if necessary.

Another advantage: the ability to search multiple Outlook .pst files (including attachments) or even Windows folders in one go (assuming you designated those during setup or added them later and allowed them to index) . Outlook’s native search allows you to search the items in only one .pst file at a time, so if you’ve got multiple email addresses in Microsoft Outlook like I do, one Lookeen search will cover them all.

I keep using the word “email,” but as you can see above, Lookeen actually indexes and searches any Outlook item—appointments and meeting notices, contacts, and tasks, too. You can even save favorite searches for future use.

The bottom line

The good news is, Lookeen 8 allows a fully-functional 14-day trial (which I took advantage of here), so it doesn’t cost anything to see whether it can make your life easier. This add-in is compatible with Outlook versions 2003 through 2013 and Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8.

The not-quite-as-good news is, the lowest-price option is (according to their website) $69.80 per license for the Standard edition. Two other editions, Business and Enterprise, price out at $99.80 and $139.00 per licensed copy, respectively. Volume discounts are available for the Business and Enterprise editions. As Microsoft Office plugins go, it’s a bit on the pricey side. However, if searching large .pst files or multiple data stores is a frequent enough task in your office, the cost may be more than offset by the time savings.


Lookeen 8

Reviewed by Deborah Savadra on .

Summary: Lookeen 8 is an add-in for Microsoft Outlook that offers a simple but powerful search interface, but it’s not cheap.


  • Price and features: 4
  • User interface: 4
  • Performance: 5

Overall score: 4.33 (out of 5)

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/edith_soto/7271415680/)