The best uses of the Microsoft 365 search box

The Microsoft search box is more powerful than you think. You can use it to quickly locate context-specific information, files, and guidance in the Microsoft 365 app you’re already working in.

There are several search box features shared across Microsoft 365 Apps. Other features are more unique to individual apps. Understanding the main features can only speed up your workflow, as we will discuss today.

Thanks to the Internet, the amount of information at your fingertips is limitless. All you have to do is find what you want. It is this principle that makes the Microsoft search box so useful.

The search box lets you get to the information, files, photos, or people you want faster, and with less switching between apps and folders.

The search box is available in Microsoft 365 Apps. You find the box above the ribbonwith the word To research invite you. Some users may only see one magnifying glass which expands in the box when clicked, depending on your settings. Depending on your version of Microsoft 365, the search box may be called Tell me and have a ampule instead of the magnifying glass.


A screenshot shows the Microsoft search box

A screenshot shows the Microsoft Tell Me feature.

Click in the search box and recent searches and suggestions will appear in a drop-down menu. Type a single letter and the suggestions will repopulate accordingly.

USE VIDEO OF THE DAY

The best way to use the search box is to type a single word or phrase. For example, PivotTable in Excel or View in Word. This will show more relevant results.

If you don’t see what you’re looking for, click More search results. You are likely to see what you want there.


A screenshot showing the search box in Microsoft Word.

Related: How to index Windows 11 for faster search results

Ignore this ability? With just a few clicks, you can click on the relevant folder and open the file you want. Likewise, a few clicks can open the information you need from a browser-based search engine.

It may be true.

But when was the last time you thought about how long it takes you to access a folder or piece of information? How many seconds or how many clicks? How long does searching for files or information take on focused work in an already distracting work environment?


It’s probably more time consuming than you initially thought, especially when you can use a very accessible alternative: jump into the search box, type in a word or two, and find what you need.

Microsoft 365’s search engine is part of a larger trend that computers are making better use of what they know about you. The search capabilities in Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace are now so powerful that more than a superficial level of folders for storing files can feel old-fashioned.

Related: How to show hidden files and folders on Windows 11

Microsoft Search Box Features

The search box has several core features that work consistently across Microsoft 365 Apps.

  1. Location. You’ll find the search box at the top of the app, above the ribbon, although it may be minimized as a magnifying glass, depending on your settings. The Windows keyboard shortcut is Alt+Q.
  2. Words or phrases. You can type a single word or phrase into the search box and get a range of context-specific results. For example, in Outlook, the box will display emails before Word documents.
  3. Memory. The search box will learn your behaviors and more intelligently display information for you. Your most recent searches are saved, so you can quickly access them again.
  4. Advice. If you need to find how to do a specific task in an app, just type a word associated with the task in the box. You will find a help document or a video to help you.
    A screenshot of the Help pane in Microsoft Excel.
  5. Internet search. If you want to do more research on a topic, type it into the search field and the basic information will appear in the app, along with Bing search results that will open in a browser when clicked.
  6. Definitions. Need to quickly grasp the definition of a word? Just type it and you will get a response.
  7. Access files. Type the name of a file and your device will find it. You can insert the file where you are currently working or select information from it that you copy.
  8. Share. Type Share in the search box, and you can share a link to your current file with collaborators.
  9. Suggested actions. These context-specific shortcuts help you perform recommended actions faster. They appear when you click in the search field.
  10. Quickly access settings. Just type a letter into the search box and you can quickly jump to a setting or tool that you might otherwise spend a few too many seconds looking for. For example, want to access paragraph settings in Word, but can’t remember exactly where they are? Put in P and Paragraph settings will appear.


Microsoft Search Box Features by Application

The search box has unique features in each of the Microsoft 365 Apps. Below are some examples to help you get started.

Outlook

  • Bcc. Want to quickly add a Bcc to an email? If you haven’t enabled this feature to always be on, type BCC in the search box. A line for BCC will be added to the email.
  • Quick steps. Have you set up Quick Steps to better manage your inbox? Type the letter Q in the search field and the Quick Step options will appear.
  • Insert a poll. Need to quickly interview a group of colleagues? Open a new email, type Vote in the search field, use the vote button and choose your preferred poll style.

A screenshot shows how to insert a poll via Microsoft Search Box in Outlook.

Word

  • Reuse content. The ability to reuse content from a specific file really stands out in Word. When working in one document, you may want to insert some text from another. Use the search box to find the file and open it in the search pane. Click on the three dots to the right of the file, before pressing Reuse content. Then copy and paste the text you need into your current document.
  • Views. You can quickly switch views. Type “Show” in the search field and you will see options to Grid view, whole page, Show Grid, Show table gridlinesand Show map.



A screenshot shows how the search pane can insert text from other files into a Microsoft Word document.

Excel

  • Freeze the shutters. Type F in the search box > Freeze Panes. You will keep the currently selected rows and columns visible while the rest of the sheet scrolls.
  • Speak. Type Speak and you get options to speak the cells by rows or columns.

power point

  • Lecturer coach. Type “Coach” and you will see an action to jump into a session with Speaker Coach, which can improve your presentation skills.
  • Slide master. Type S in the search box > Slide Master and you’re ready to start editing master slides, a feature notoriously hard to find for casual PowerPoint users.

Use the Microsoft search box to work faster

Save time and stop scrolling through the ribbon to find the right setting or searching folders for specific files. Instead, stay in the Microsoft 365 app you’re working in and type a few words into the Microsoft search box for context-specific results. You will find what you are looking for much faster.


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