Outlook Tip: Display your folders in non-alphabetical order

The Outlook folders tree shows folders in alphabetical order only. In order to display them in a different order, you can use either of the following methods:

  • Promote a specific folder to the top of the list
    If you want a specific folder to appear before the others, rename it with a punctuation mark at the beginning of its name. For instance, if you want the “Pending” folder to appear first, rename it “!Pending” or “_Pending”.
  • Define the position of each folder in the list
    If you want to define the position of each folder, just prefix each folder name with a number, for example:

If you use SpeedFiler to file your messages, you do not have to type the numbers, as SpeedFiler looks for matches anywhere in a folder name, not just the beginning. So if you want to file an item in “1 Rejected”, just open the File In Folder window and start typing the word “rejected” until you see “1 Rejected” in the list of matching folders.


19 responses to “Outlook Tip: Display your folders in non-alphabetical order

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  3. Hi Itzy. That was a very useful post. It may encourage me to actually start using Outlook.

  4. The best thing about this tip is it works in email clients other than Outlook. I use a product called OfficeTalk (disclaimer I also do the PR for its developer, but used the product for years before I started doing the PR). The numbering folders idea really does work well.

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  6. I’ve done that within outlook for a while. I also have a couple folders that are top priority “category” stuff so I end up doing something like:
    __ 1 Stuff (category 1 folder 1)
    __ 2 Stuff (category 1 folder 1)
    1 Stuff (category 2 folder 1)
    2 Stuff (category 2 folder 2)

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  8. This is a trick I have used for years to organize my email and general data file folders, giving the lower numbers to higher traffic or priority folders. I was amazed by how simple it was, and yet how effective it was. I have found that when I don’t use this method, like with shared network folders at work, I can’t properly organize and have problems finding the things that I need. Unfortunately, convincing others to reorganize has been even more frustrating.

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  10. I get quite a bit of mail daily, so what I want to do is sort all my incoming email into alphabetical order.

    I used to have a program on my first old computer with Windows 95 that did this, it could order it asending, desending or in alphabetical order, that was a very handy feature. Now I have Windows XP, and a lot of these good things are gone! Not an improvement in my mind! Can you direct me to getting this done.
    I will be very greatful, if you can. thanks.
    Jim McKinley

  11. Considering you can’t rename some of the key folders such as Inbox and Sent Items, the mandatory alphabetical listing is hopeless.

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  13. This is too bad. We are in the process of moving from Groupwise to Exchange and in the Groupwise client you have the ability to position your folders anyway you like. They both have their positives I guess but there are a few things that Microsoft should have stole from Novell. This is not going to make my users happy. The battle goes on.

  14. re: Jack – GroupWise
    We just migrated this weekend to Exchange and I’m already regretting it. Besides folder sorting (the blog post above hardly counts for more than a ridiculous work-around), wait till your user’s try to share folders! Could MS make it any more cumbersome. Yes, we know about public folders, but there is a need for the user to EASILY share data. Just not available in Outlook / Exchange. If you’re thinking of migrating – STAY WITH GROUPWISE!

  15. Call me crazy but how about you just let me place my folders in whatever order I want. Sure place them in some predictable way in the beginning (alpha order, first/last position) but then let me move them wherever I want.

  16. Yeah, exactly Scott. We already know Outlook sorts things low to high by the folder name. We also know that all user created folders are re-nameable. Prefixing folder names to attain varied ordering schemes is an obvious solution.

    The title of this article is misleading and technically wrong. No matter what name a user gives their folders, Outlook will always use its single and unmodifiable sorting rule. The numeric prefixing of user created folders is a rather ugly way to get your Zebra folder (for example) to appear above your Absurd folder.
    1. Zebra
    2. Absurd
    This method would seem even more frustrating if a user happened to have a significant amount of folders that are all titled with long strings of numbers — an archive folder containing emails sorted by client number perhaps:
    1. 16765461
    2 . 24765167
    3. 42315469
    Folder prefixing is not only flawed and ugly, the commonality of this solution suggests that there doesn’t actually exist a way to disable the automatic sorting applied to folder order. Considering the simplicity of object oriented programming, disabling the sorting of folders should be as simple as changing a single property. Moreover, changing Outlook 2007 to allow for personalized folder re-shuffling should be programmatically easy as well. Since that functionality for personalized non-alphabetic sorting schemes exists for so many other GUIs, there shouldn’t be any reason why it can’t be made to work for Outlook.

    I’m surprised not to have found an Outlook add-on or script online that would allow for this functionality. Usually when an application is as widely used as Outlook, every conceivable add-on, tweak, modification, tool, and what not is available within a few months of its release. Perhaps I just quit searching too soon.

  17. im a student of the NFPA 1 Fire Code which uses the following example:

    1 (folder name)
    1.1 (folder name)
    1.2 (folder name)
    1.2.1 (folder name) (folder name)
    1.3 (folder name)
    1.3.1 (folder name)
    2 (folder name)
    2.1 (folder name)

    im a fan. it works.

    – tony

  18. i should specify that this numerically ordinal identifying method is meant for folders with sub folders… duh.

    (hopefully when i post it keeps all the spaces i entered in front of the sub folders to demonstrate subordinal position.)

    1 (folder name)
    1.1 (folder name)
    1.2 (folder name)
    1.2.1 (folder name) (folder name)
    1.3 (folder name)
    1.3.1 (folder name)
    2 (folder name)
    2.1 (folder name)

    – tony

  19. damn -tony

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