Unified Inbox in Outlook: The Complete Guide

Unified Inbox for Outlook

While popular email clients like Mailbird include the ability to add individual account inboxes to a “unified” inbox – many, like Microsoft Outlook, do not make this easy.

If you manage multiple email accounts, then you know how tedious it can be to be forced to switch from inbox to inbox in order to check each one.

To help out, we’ve gathered a couple of the best ways MS Outlook users can set up a unified inbox – or as close to one as Outlook will allow.

 

Outlook Unified Inbox Method 1: Search Folders

Skill Level – Beginner

 

The simplest method for getting a unified inbox in your Microsoft Outlook client is by using it’s search. Although this method is easy, there is unfortunately no way to save your search – requiring you to perform a search every time you need it. If you check your recent searches from the “Search” menu, you may be able to select it. However, if you are searching alot you may not be able to find it every time.

  1. Type the following in the search box: folder: (Inbox) received: (this week)
  2. Press Ctr+Alt+A to or click All Mailboxes button (Outlook 2013) or All Mail Folders (Outlook 2010).
  3. Hit enter and you should see your Unified inbox for all mails received this week.

You may notice a “Search Folder” option in the “Folder” pane. However, this only lets you create search folders using data from individual accounts – Not something we can use to make a full Outlook unified inbox with.

 

Email client worth downloading -end of blogpost

 

Outlook Unified Inbox Method 2: Rules

Skill Level – Intermediate

 

First, we will create a folder for your Unified Inbox (don’t worry where, or in which account you create it).

Creating a new folder for a Unified Inbox
image source: scrubly

Right-click on the account you will use and select New Folder.

Next, name the folder “Unified Inbox.” Next, we create the rules for the folder.

THE RULES

  • On the Home tab of the Outlook Ribbon, click the Rules drop down and select Manage Rules and Alerts.
Creating a rule for a Unified Inbox
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  • This will bring up the Rules and Alerts menu. Click the New Rule button to begin creating a rule on your first account.
selecting a new rule for a Unified Inbox
image source: scrubly

 

The next few steps get a little complicated.

Outlook has alot of options for creating rules and things can get confusing if you are new to them.

  • In the first step of the Microsoft Outlook Rules Wizard, select Apply rule on messages I receive from the Start a blank rule section.
  • Click Next to continue.
step one for creating a rule for a Unified Inbox
image source: scrubly
  • The next screen has a bunch of options, but don’t worry. All we need to do here is indicate you want this rule to trigger for any message through the account.
  • In the Step 1 box, check ONLY the box next to through the specified account.
third step for a Unified Inbox
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  • In the Step 2 box, click the blue underlined specified item.
selecting an account for a Unified Inbox
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  • You will be presented with a drop down. These are your email accounts. To make things as clear as possible, select the one you created the Unified Inbox folder in. It’s possible this will select the account you created the Unified Inbox folder in by default. That’s fine.
  • Click OK after highlighting the account, and then click Next.
clicking an account for a Unified Inbox in Outlook
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  • On the next page, you will indicate what to do with any (all) messages that match the criteria you set in step 1. Only check the move it to the specified folder item.
  • Clicking this box will give you another specified item to fill in. Click the link and select your newly-created Unified Inbox folder.
  • Once you’ve selected the Unified Inbox folder, click OK
choosing destination for a Unified Inbox in Outlook
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  • Next, select the assign it to the category item. Go down to Step 2 and click the category link. We will be assigning a different category to each email account in Microsoft Outlook so you can easily tell them apart in your Unified Inbox.
  • Once you’ve selected a category (or created a new one), click OK.
  • Then, click Finish
category for a Unified Inbox in Outlook
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  • After clicking Finish, a warning should appear letting you know that this rule will only run when Outlook 2013 is running. Click OK.
Unified Inbox in Outlook Warning
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Repeat steps 3-11 for each account you want included in your Unified Inbox in Outlook.

The reason being is you need to create a new rule for each account to send it’s messages (with it’s account category applied) to your new Unified Inbox folder.

 

ADD INBOX TO FAVORITES

To add the Unified Inbox folder to the Favorites section of Outlook, click and drag the folder from the account you created it in into the Favorites section above the accounts pane.

adding a Unified Inbox in Outlook to favorites
image source: scrubly

 

A Quick Note on Rules

You may have to adjust any existing rules or copy them to your new folder. If you want a rule to run before the message is sent to your unified inbox folder:

  • Click File
  • Select the account who’s rules you want to manage from the dropdown
  • Click Rules and Alerts
  • Highlight the rule/s you want to run before sending messages to the Unified Inbox
  • Use the arrow keys from the menu ribbon to move the rule/s above the one moving messages to the Unified Inbox
  • Repeat for any other account that has rules you wish to change.

 

Email client worth downloading -end of blogpost

 

Outlook Unified Inbox Method 3: Visual Basic Macro

Skill Level – Advanced

 

If you are a bit more advanced, you can Microsoft’s Visual Basic scripting language within Outlook to create something similar to a Unified Inbox.

In fact, all this macro does is run the search from Method 1 outlined above – in one click.

The downside is that it still needs to be run every time you open the client.

The upside is that it offers unique customization options including the ability to choose exactly what you want included in the Unified Inbox view by adjusting and adding more queries.

Before setting the macro up:

  1. Select “File” > “Options“.
  2. Select “Trust Center” on the left pane, then select the “Trust Center Settings…” button.
  3. Select “Macro Settings” on the left pane, then the desired setting. …
  4. Click “OK“, then close and re-open Outlook for the setting to take effect.

Once your Outlook has restarted, continue setting up your new Macro:

  1. Press Alt+F11 to open the VBA editor
  2. Expand Project1
  3. Expand Microsoft Outlook Objects
  4. Doubleclick “ThisOutlookSession”
  5. Paste the following code into the window:

The code for a UNIFIED INBOX:

Sub UnifiedInbox()
Dim myOlApp As New Outlook.Application
txtSearch = "folder:Inbox received: (this week)"
myOlApp.ActiveExplorer.Search txtSearch, olSearchScopeAllFolders
Set myOlApp = Nothing
End Sub

The code for a UNIFIED SENT BOX:

Sub UnifiedSentbox()
Dim myOlApp As New Outlook.Application
txtSearch = "folder: (Sent Mail) sent: (this week)"
myOlApp.ActiveExplorer.Search txtSearch, olSearchScopeAllFolders
Set myOlApp = Nothing
End Sub

 

You can also change the scope of the Macro by using these search scopes:

Scope Description
olSearchScopeCurrentFolder Limit the search to the currently selected folder.
olSearchScopeSubfolders Limit the search to the currently selected folder and its subfolders. To search all folders in one data file, select the top level of the pst.
olSearchScopeAllFolders Search all folders (of the current folder type). This search includes all data stores that are enabled for search.
olSearchScopeAllOutlookItems Search all Outlook items in all folders in stores that are enabled for search.

Note: In Outlook 2007, you are limited to olSearchScopeAllFolders andolSearchScopeCurrentFolder

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  • Jonn Ross

    I followed your steps exactly for Method 2 and it is not working. It did not alert me that Outlook is running when I clicked Finish. I’m assuming this works for Outlook 2016 since everything was exactly the same as you presented it here.