iPhone/iPad Mail App: Finding E-mail by Outlook Category

June 14, 2015 (updated Dec 5 2016)

You probably know that you cannot see Outlook Categories on the native iPhone/iPad Mail app (the Mail app delivered with your iOS device). For example, you can’t display a list of mail grouped by Category. But, you can still easily display your e-mail by Outlook Category, one category at a time. You do that using the Search box at the top of the Mail app (swipe down to see it).

To do this, simply type into that search field the phrase Category:accounting (assuming accounting is the Category you are searching for). This will display all mail in the selected folder that has that Outlook Category assigned to it (and only that mail).

Here’s a screenshot from my iPhone where I am searching in my Processed Mail folder:

The only mail now shown is mail in the Processed Mail folder with that category assigned to it. So, if you are using Outlook Categories to file mail (something I highly recommend, see Chapter 8 in my Outlook book), and use an iPhone or iPad, you can find your mail!

(Note: I’ve only tested this on an Exchange account, so I am not sure how this would work with say an Outlook.com account, or any other servers that support Outlook Categories. Let me know if you test that.)

This search also works in the third party iPhone/iPad Outlook app (the one created by Microsoft). I am not a fan of that app however, I prefer the regular iPhone Mail app.

Still No Way To Assign Categories

By the way, there is still no way to assign Outlook Categories to mail within the native iPhone Mail app (or in Microsoft’s Outlook app).  That’s okay by me though, because I do all my e-mail filing at the end of each day when back at my laptop or desktop. It’s just much easier to do mail filing on a full copy of Outlook.

If you want to assign categories on your iPhone, you’ll need to install one of two 3rd-party e-mail apps: Preside, or Touchdown. If you are a power user, Preside is my current favorite, it has a ton of optional settings (by the way Outlook Categories are called Tags in Preside). But by default is in a very simple mode.


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15 Responses to iPhone/iPad Mail App: Finding E-mail by Outlook Category

  1. Tipsponsel says:

    For me this is very helpful at all, yes even though I had to learn English, but I quite understand this, thank ya have shared …

  2. Jason Kraft says:

    Thanks for making this available. Now I can cut right to who is assigned what emails. Not perfect but knowing I can search by category is very helpful. Hopefully someday outlook for iPhone and Mail can support categories.

  3. Kevin says:

    Hi, thanks a lot for sharing this!
    Can you please confirm that this is still working on iOS 9.3?
    I am not able to perform the search in my native Mail app, it gives no result although I am sure to have categories on my professional email.

    Thanks a lot.

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Damn, it looks like either Apple or Microsoft broke this recently. I can find mail older than late January using this search, but nothing newer than that date shows up in my searches. Almost like the way categories are stored changed in a Jan server update, or something. This is really too bad. Users needing this feature may have to switch over to Symantec Touchdown on their iPhones. Michael

      • thiollier says:

        hello Michael,
        I am a eavy user of microsoft onenote and consequently decided to use microsoft outlook for mail, calendar and task since onenote is perfectly integrated.
        I loved the category classification on outlook. It is extremely useful since you can apply a same category to mail, task and calendar…
        I have a iphone 6, and damn…; I cannot retrieve these categories on outlook application.
        What could be your advice since I want same categories on both environments: iphone and surface pro 4… should i buy a microsoft phone… any idea?
        thanks a lot

        • Michael Linenberger says:

          Vincent, no on microsoft phone, won’t help. try the mail app Preside or Touchdown on an iPhone. They handle categories.

  4. sk says:

    It (still) works in ios outlook app. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Alana says:

    I’m a little confused. Does searching by category work on iPhone native app for mail, or iPhone outlook app (sk’s comment above), or on both? Does adding the category work on either one? Or should I look into touchdown and preside apps?

    Thank you!

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Alana, the search works on both the native mail app and Microsoft’s outlook mail app. Adding the category works on neither, you’ll need Preside or Touchdown for that. Michael

  6. Alana says:

    (Posting again because I forgot to click email updates option the first time)

  7. Bernhard says:

    Hi, I know this is an old threat, but it’s the only helpful one I can find.
    This search is very helpful but I’m facing one problem:

    This search ist working well when selected “All Mailboxes”, but not in “Current Mailbox”.
    Ich “Current Mailbox” I only get Mails displayed that are two month old, nothing actual.

    Does someone have an idea / solution?
    Thanks a lot in advance!

  8. David Smart says:

    The inability to search by and assign categories in iOS email apps is still unbelievable. I’ve tried Preside as suggested but can’t get on with the interface. Programitaly it must be possible as apps like Preside and TaskTask can do it. Come on developers get this sorted!

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      David, take a look at the new iOS Nine app. It might have a better interface for you and I am pretty sure it handles categories. Michael

  9. Carlos Sheley says:

    Info in any form is truly powerful! https://oneworldrental.co.uk/ipad-hire

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