Bruce McCarthy is Founder and Chief Product Person at UpUp Labs, where he and his team are at work on Reqqs - the smart roadmap tool for product people.

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LookOut Search Plug-in for Outlook

Poor search is one of the many ways in which Outlook sucks. The native Search built into Outlook can only search one type of folder at a time (your inbox, personal folders, archives or public folders). It's also so slow I find it unusable.

A few years back I discovered a great Search plug-in for Outlook called LookOut. It was lightning fast and it not only searched all Outlook folders at once, but it even searched designated folders on my hard drive (e.g., the My Documents folder).

How fast was it? I did a search for the last name of a coworker and the code name of a project we're working on together. It took 3.06 seconds to find 128 documents containing both terms, including emails, meetings, spreadsheets, Word docs. The same search required me to open Advanced Search in Outlook (otherwise it searches subject lines only), only allowed me to search my personal folders, took several minutes and turned up only 39 items. I can't explain why Outlook search is so unusable, but LookOut has made me much more productive.

What's the big deal with search for Outlook? I'll tell you! Good search turns your computer into a database.

I store a lot of the mail I get (and send) permanently. I also have a hard drive full of documents I've created or received. I do this because I often refer to past emails or documents to remind me of past decisions and reasoning, and to base new materials on when I need to create them. A lot of people use their email as a kind of filing system. The problem is finding the material when you need it.

I have a system of folders I keep these things in, but it's hard to remember which I might have filed a specific item in and each folder has gotten quite large on its own. Searching across them all at once and getting results back in a sortable format makes it very quick to locate a specific email or document. I do this several times a day almost every day at work. Imagine if I had to wait minutes every time I did this and then had to repeat the search for different types of folders and on my hard drive before I could find what I was looking for. I would soon give up on searching in this way.

I have a colleague who keeps a set of well-organized folders on his hard drive, one for each of his projects. He saves every document associated with that project in the relevant folder, even saving local copies of individual emails there and then deleting them from Outlook. He has a meticulous filing system that he says never fails him and he can track the progress of every project, document by document. I confess, that kind of diligence is beyond me. I just can't keep up that level of maintenance. And frankly, I don't think I should have to. A fast and comprehensive search tool makes it possible for me to find what I need wherever it lives.

I am still happily using LookOut but you may have trouble finding it for download. Microsoft was apparently so unhappy with how well this freebie worked in comparison to their Desktop Search tool (a separate download that searches multiple folder types and your hard drive, but still much slower than LookOut and with a much clunkier, harder-to-use interface) that they bought the little company and made the product unavailable. Googling LookOut actually took you to the download site for Desktop Search. There was a huge outcry and they actually put the product up again, but only temporarily. You can't download it from Microsoft as of this writing. The only place I could find it for download today was here. I don't know if that will last so I have included a download link to my own copy here. You just need to register to access the downloads page. (No spam or messages from "partners," I promise.) It's freeware, so I am assuming I am not violating anyone's copyright or any laws.

Anyway, I hope everyone gets as much out of LookOut as I do. Post your experiences in comments below or head over to the Productivity forum to discuss. 

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    [...]LookOut Search Plug-in for Outlook - Blog - UserDriven.org - About Good Products and their Development[...]
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    LookOut Search Plug-in for Outlook - Blog - UserDriven.org - About Good Products and their Development
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    LookOut Search Plug-in for Outlook - Blog - UserDriven.org - About Good Products and their Development
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    LookOut Search Plug-in for Outlook - Blog - UserDriven.org - About Good Products and their Development

Reader Comments (36)

Try to use Google Desktop. It is quite
quick and convenient. And allows you quickly search against emails and desktop files. There are a lot of plugins for it, which will allow you to search for specific file formats. And it is free.

November 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDiver

Your download is called Lookout130.zip. Does that mean that it's version 1.3.0 (which is what I already have) or is it a later version?

December 11, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJames E

It is version to be precise. This is the latest version I have been able to find.

December 14, 2007 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

Lookout is so fast and easy. I have Google seach installed also, but it doesn't search Outlook automatically.

Thank you for posting the file. I've been looking for it since I've upgraded my machine.

December 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPaul R

Thanks. I've been using Lookout for a long time--it's good to have a place to point friends to for downloading.

December 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJames E

Google desktop does the job just fine for me - 14,000+ items in my outlook inbox does not worry me w. google desktop. It integrates a search input component directly into the outlook toolbar also - simple.

December 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenternc

Thanks to Joel Spolsky for pointing out where the original author of Lookout, Mike Belshe, has posted instructions for a hack to get Lookout working with Outlook 2007.


December 26, 2007 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

I have downloaded and tried to install lookout a couple of times now. It shows that it has installed and says that it will show up in my toolbar the next time I open outlook... but it is not there. Any thoughts?

February 6, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjosh

It may be getting crowded out by other toolbars or excluded by your Outlook toolbar settings.

I would first go to the View menu > Toolbars and make sure LookOut is checked as enabled. Then I would turn off any other toolbars you are not using much.

If that doesn't make it appear, it sill may be crowded out by other toolbars and buttons. Go to the far right of your toolbar and click on the little upside down triangle to show the Add or Remove buttons controls.

Let us know how it works!

February 6, 2008 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

I've used Lookout for years in Outlook 2003. Last week, Microsoft did one of their security updates that included some Office stuff. Now Lookout has disappeared, and I can't seem to get it back. This happened once before last year, and after an uninstall and reinstall, I got it back. Now, even a fresh install does not show Lookout in the View/Toolbars list. I'd appreciate any suggestions.

February 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

I can't get to run properly on my new PC. O/S is WinXP just like original laptop. Menus all appear and indexing / searching also works. The main problem is that, when I click on the Options button, a series of error messages appears: "Lookout couldn't load your previous settings. I'll use defaults instead. You can reestablish any previous settings by reviewing your Options."

(04,84s) Info: clicked 'Options' button [Chrome.UI.ChromeButton.OnClick()]
(00,02s) Error: ***** Exception: System.IO.DirectoryNotFoundException: The system cannot find the path specified. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070003)

March 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

If you read through the comments above it appears some versions or patches for Outlook disable versions of LookOut.

I would check www.belshe.com for any updates on this and workarounds. Also, I've posted an older version (v1.2.8) on my downloads page in case that doesn't have the same issues.

Please write back if you find a workaround so others can benefit.

March 24, 2008 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

I found a solution to my Outlook/Lookout problem.

I believe it was caused by a failed .NET Framework security update.

A developer by the name of Aaron Stebner has written a neat little program that pretty much does the job of uninstalling Framework and removing most of the arcane registry entries that Framework uses. You can find that information here:


Read the page carefully and follow the advice given.

I completely uninstalled Framework 2.0 and all of its patches. Then I reinstalled Framework 2.0, but I no longer allow Microsoft to try and apply patches to Framework.

After that, I reinstalled Lookout, and it has worked fine ever since.

March 24, 2008 | Registered CommenterMichael McGown

I have both LookOut and Google Desktop to search my Outlook emails. I would like to only have to use one of the two, but....

LookOut doesn't Index "on the fly" like Google Desktop (I think there may be a setting to change this but I haven't been able to affect such a change), so if I search for an email from yesterday, it won't show up in the results.

Google Desktop search results seem to update instantly, but as far as I can tell, it will only search my Inbox only. There are several shared email Inboxes at my company that all employees have access to, but I cannot figure out how to designate Google to include these in search results. LookOut does this without a problem.

Anyone have thoughts on this?

March 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Zweber

Look at the bottom of the Options menu for LookOut. It allows you to set the frequency with which it adds new items. I have mine set for every 60 minutes, which seems adequate for me.

March 26, 2008 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

I still cannot view the Lookout toolbar in Outlook. I went to View - Toolbars but did not see Lookout anywhere. Help!

May 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Armstrong

As posted above, check out www.belshe.com for postings on troubleshooting issues from the author of LookOut.

May 13, 2008 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

For those having issues getting the toolbar to appear, make sure Outlook is really restarting when you close and reopen it. Often (for me at least), although it appears the program has closed, it's still runnning. You can look for Outlook.exe under Processes in the task manager to see if it's still runnning. I cannot recommend ending the outlook.exe process as it may have negative effects on the PST file. If anyone has any ideas on the possible issues caused by terminating the outlook.exe process please post.

June 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Thanks for posting this copy of Lookout. I used lookout on my previous computer and now that I have a new computer, I need to install it. I am glad that you saved it for everyone to use and not rely on Windows Search. Thanks!!!!

July 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSeeker

I fixed the annoying "cannot load your options, I'll use defaults" error by going to Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, clicking on Change/Remove for .Net 2.0 and selecting the Repair option.
One quick reboot later, and all is well with Lookout :-)

P.S. This is the error that gives the following in the log:
(04,84s) Info: clicked 'Options' button [Chrome.UI.ChromeButton.OnClick()]
(00,02s) Error: ***** Exception: System.IO.DirectoryNotFoundException: The system cannot find the path specified. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070003)

Hope this helps someone

October 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJules

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