5

Microsoft Outlook for Mac (version 16.21) is frequently unable to find email messages using the search feature, even in the case of emails that were sent relatively recently. I presume that the search index is broken.

Solutions are available for PC, and I have even installed a Mac-specific tool called "OutlookSearchRepair.app", but this doesn't ameliorate the problem.

Are any other solutions available?

Edit: There is little else to say (to increase the detail of this question), save that the emails that aren't found are seemingly at random, and are not found on subsequent searches either. I have not limited my search results in any way.

  • I'm using Outlook 16.23, and the Search feature seems to work fine. Have you set the scope of the search in your "ribbon"? – Seamus Mar 20 at 0:11
  • Yes, I have been using Outlook for over a decade. The emails that are not found are seemingly at random. I see that my question has been put on hold as it does not have 'enough detail', and I appreciate the brevity, but there really is little else to say. There is no apparent pattern to which emails are not found, and I certainly know how to use Outlook. – CaptainProg Mar 20 at 10:16
  • Out of 300 people, we typically have 2-3 where Spotlight and Outlook can't find reasonable messages. Mail from the pervious week, people that know how to search and have been using outlook for decades. The new design has some instability or we're just getting more crap attachments. We are still chasing this down, but it's been a thing in our organization and clearly Microsoft made a tool to help people reset their indexes. That's like calling a tow truck, at some point you get tired of being rescued from the ditch and want a car that doesn't drive there so often. – bmike Mar 20 at 11:25
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Outlook and macOS's Spotlight (the indexing app) have notorious problems working together. With previous version I had success with the Repair tool that you mention. With Mojave & Outlook 2019, however, I had to try many other methods. This website seems to have the most comprehensive guides for troubleshooting this.

In my case, I finally found that "alternative method 6" from that guide worked. That means:

  • Backup!
  • Quit Outlook
  • Go to the folder ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/Outlook/Outlook 15 Profiles/Main Profile/Data (in Finder you can press cmd+shift+G to get there)
  • Move the Outlook.sqllite file e.g. to the Desktop (to keep it around until the restore is successful)
  • Launch Outlook.
  • Outlook will prompt you to repair your database. Click "Repair". Outlook is now forced to restore its database and rebuild the index, etc. In my case this took about 2–3 hours on a speedy MacBook Pro.
  • ~/Library/Group Containers/UBF8T346G9.Office/Outlook/Outlook 15 Profiles/ will contain backups of your previous database. To free some disk space you may want to archive or delete this.
  • I will try this +1 for the research and links and experience. – bmike Mar 20 at 21:08
  • I ran this too but it didn't work for me: Friday completed, today missing lots of messages again. I didn't do a thorough check on Friday and can't testify to the short term benefits. But it also took several hours for my 6GB box. – Georg Aug 12 at 11:02
2

We do two things when this happens:

  1. Validate that search works for us in the online version of outlook (we use O365 for our exchange servers so YMMV if you don't). If you can't find it on Micsosoft's servers - then the mailbox content itself has issues.
  2. Validate that the search fails in Outlook and in spotlight and then works in both immediately (or after 5 minutes if your outlook store is large and indexing into spotlight takes more than a minute to complete).

When you're sure the online search works and the local search is failing, you can be sure of one of four things:

  1. The importer that Outlook adds to the system so that spotlight knows how to index mails is broken / crashy / and needs an update. Contact Microsoft for assistance.
  2. The mail that user has (some attachment, some calendar invite, some mail) is corrupt and if you find and delete those specific data files - the indexer will stop crashing or being corrupt or incomplete.
  3. This just was bad luck and the index stopped one time and you won't have to run the repair tool again in a day or week or month.
  4. Your Mac has storage or stability issues with the filesystem or spotlight in general. If this is the case, you should be able to find other things like file name search that are broken or Disk Utility telling you that the disk needs repair / erase / reinstallation.

There will be lots of other things to try to attack the "bad luck" case above like emptying the mail cache (which tell spotlight to forget all the results and causes all the mail to be redownloaded from the server that it thinks it needs a local cache), but doesn't address the fundamental mechanism for search. Outlook uses spotlight and modifies spotlight with its custom plug in to handle the data format for Outlook data when it's stored on the local disk.

0

There have been problems between macOS and Outlook search indexing for some time now. It appears that Microsoft, whilst acknowledging this, for some years already, appear to be doing nothing to fix this, as it has been under the status of "investigating" since the article was created.

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/search-doesn-t-work-in-outlook-for-mac-after-macos-upgrade-b73de6f1-aeb9-4720-bbbe-de65ab50012e

It is arguable that the loss of reliable searching in an email application makes it not fit for purpose.

  • The link provided now suggests this issue was resolved in Mojave 10.14.5. Should this answer be updated with this new information? Did this resolve the issue for you? – grg Aug 12 at 11:12
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For me the solution is to switch to Outlook Web Access - at least for searching. I had this problem on and off for at least 2 years now and couldn't find the solutions to work. For a time the OutlookSearchRepair was helping, but since that is no longer working I don't find the proposed solutions to work.

So my suggestion: Check if your organization provides Outlook Web Access (OWA) and use that for searching or even all your mail duty.

  • I have unfortunately still not found a suitable solution either. Using the web app certainly is a workaround but not a fix, and I have also found that if I periodically (about once every three months) completely destroy my Outlook profile and rebuild it, that mitigates most of the problems. But, the issue 'builds up' again over time. – CaptainProg Aug 19 at 20:25

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