Entourage 2008 & Spotlight

Spotlight search in Entourage 2008 is so fast, this one feature makes the upgrade to Entourage 2008 worthwhile. If you’ve been disappointed with Spotlight in the Finder, you’ll find using Spotlight within Entourage 2008 to be easy and blazingly fast. You don’t get results from other file types and there is no setting for kind or type. You can search by a folder, but searching “all messages” is so fast you don’t have to worry about a message lost in some subfolder not showing up in the results.

This article is going to focus on the following:

  • Spotlight Basics
  • Location of your Spotlight cache files
  • Saving a Spotlight search as a custom mail view
  • Troubleshooting problems with Spotlight search in Entourage

Spotlight Basics

  • Spotlight indexing only works on one Identity at a time.
  • Spotlight search in Entourage only searches the Entourage Identity and nothing else on your computer.
  • If you use Spotlight search in the Finder, it can see the cache files from other Identities. You’ll have to switch Identities to view the message unless you install the Entourage QuickLook plugin.
  • Unless the Identity is left open long enough for Spotlight to index, you won’t be able to search that Identity.
  • Is the Entourage Database Daemon (Office Reminders/Notifications) turned on? Spotlight will index any cache files the Entourage daemon has created even if the daemon is not launched, but no new cache files will be created until the daemon is launched again.
  • Do you have Mail Messages. Contacts, Events & To Do Items selected in Spotlight System Preferences? These options do not apply to just Apple’s applications.

Open Spotlight in System Preferences. Be sure all corresponding Entourage items are checked:

  • Entourage Mail items are listed under “Mail Messages” group.
  • Entourage Events & Task items are listed under “Events and To Do Items” group.
  • Entourage Contacts are listed under the “Contacts” group.
  • Entourage Notes are listed under the “Documents” group

Why do I get duplicate contacts/emails listed in Finder Spotlight results, one for Entourage and one for Address Book?

This is a limitation of the implementation from Apple. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done about it at this time since Entourage and AddressBook have to share the same basic data ‘types’. The Address Book items do not show up if you are using Spotlight search in Entourage.


  • If you had Spotlight enabled in Entourage 2004, you can delete those cache files and free up some space. They are no longer needed.
  • If you delete an Identity in the Finder the Spotlight cache files will not be automatically deleted, but if you delete the Identity in the “Switch Identity” window, the cache files for that Identity will be automatically deleted.
  • If you did delete an Identity manually, then you will have to manually delete those cache files in this location: Library/Caches/Metadata/Microsoft folder

Spotlight cache files – .vRgemessage

We often have users ask if the files they find in their User’s Library that end in .vRge are their lost messages. The answer is no. These are the cache files Entourage creates for Spotlight searches.

When you enable Spotlight indexing within Entourage, a “cache” file is created for each item within your Entourage database. If you want to see the cache files, you can find them within your Library/Caches/Metadata/Microsoft folder. I suggest you use Apple ‘label’ feature as breadcrumbs to highlight the folders in this path in case you want to find your cache files in the future.

Entourage creates cache files for Spotlight searches. Spotlight does not actually index the database but the cache files that Entourage creates. Some users select to add their Identity folder to Spotlight Privacy tab. Supposedly, Spotlight is not supposed to search a database, but I have not been able to find definitive evidence to support this. Adding it certainly does not hurt anything.

What can I do with these cache files?

They do contain, in a different format, almost all the information in the original message. They contain the attributes of the message (sender, time, subject, etc.) and the first 75kb worth of text from the message’s body. 90+% of messages are 2kb or less once written to the cache.

The format is not what any mail client, including Entourage, expects to see, but if you had catastrophic database failure and no backup, these files can provide some useful info. So the upshot is that if you want to recover a specific, important piece of information, such as an email or phone number, for a message, these files may be useful, but if you are talking about trying to recover lost data en mass, currently there is only a script for Tiger users that works. If you have Tiger and want to test the script out, download Recover Emails from Spotlight Cache by Barry Wainwright.

Saving a Spotlight search as a custom mail view

When you create a search in Entourage using Spotlight, Entourage gives you the option to save the search as a custom Mail View. Click on Save and enter the name in this window:

Entourage saves the search as a custom Mail View. Mail Views are located at the bottom of the Folder window.

Besides being fast, another advantage of using a saved Spotlight search is you can easily find messages scattered in different folders.

Troubleshoot Spotlight

Spotlight does not seem to be indexing my Entourage messages.

  • Check to see if there are any files have been created at this directory:
  • Is the Entourage Database Daemon (Office Reminders/Notifications) turned on?

  • Do you have Mail Messages. Contacts, Events & To Do Items selected in Spotlight System Preferences?
  • Is “Include Entourage item in search results” checked in the Entourage Preferences: General Preferences
  • Have you restarted your Mac?
  • Test in a new Identity. I have seen a few cases where no other evidence of database corruption was evident other than Spotlight search failed to work.

How can you force a rebuild with Spotlight?

  • Easy way: New to Entourage 2008–Click on the Rebuild button in the Spotlight preference.
  • Manually remove the files in the Finder.
    Library/Caches/Metadata/Microsoft folder
  • Use the Terminal to rebuild.

Use Terminal

You can manually trigger Spotlight indexing in the Terminal by running the following command line tool in Terminal.app:
mdimport ~/Library/Caches/Metadata/Microsoft/Entourage/2008

[Added May 28, 2009] I found this link today that offers some additional tips to troubleshoot Spotlight. Spotlight won’t work? Fix a broken Spotlight menu with these troubleshooting tips

Recommended Reading: Andy Ruff, MacBU Program Management wrote an article, Basics of Spotlight when Spotlight was first introduced that contains basics every user should know.

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12 comments to Entourage 2008 & Spotlight

  • Chuck

    Question – what if you want to restrict a search to a particular Entourage folder without having to switch to that folder? For example, I have my Inbox open, I want to find ONLY messages in my Sent folder for a particular parameter. Is this possible?

  • If you are wanting a particular folder, it’s best to select it first, but selecting “All Messages” should find exactly what you want, but might include more unless you further refine the search criteria.

  • Dave B.

    Question: When I use the “kind” function to search in my Entourage mail (i.e., “smith kind:entourage”), I only get results thru the last day of January, 2009. However, if I search on “smith” only, I get results up to the most current. What’s wrong?

  • You don’t need to use ‘kind’ or ‘entourage’ in Entourage. This is only needed in the Finder to narrow your search.
    Generally, if you know the folder where the message is located, you would first select that folder, then enter your search term in the Entourage Spotlight box. You will see that folder as selected for the search in the search bar. If you don’t find the item there, select “all messages” and it will find it in any folder.
    When you switch views from Mail to Address Book for example, Entourage would be searching in Contacts and not Mail.
    Hope this helps!

  • Dana Hinman

    I just used Emailchemy 9.8 to recover mailboxes from spotlight and it is working like a charm. For some reason, when I switched from Entourage 2008 to Mac Mail, the initial sync hiccuped somewhere (or user error is more likely!) and a couple of my folders from my MSN account disappeared. I then switched back to Entourage 2008 and then what folders were left were synched empty. Old emails showed up in the spotlight search, so I hoped there was something out there that would recover them for me.
    Two days of searching brought me to this software package and it has restored ALL the folders and related emails, including the ones that disappeared earlier from my previously backed up identities. Thank goodness for those earlier backups!
    I highly recommend the software. The trial download is full functioning so I was able to see if it would actually parse the emails and attachments when reimporting the mailbox folders into Entourage. The trial masks the sender and subject on import with “please buy full version” which I did for a mere $30 – which is cheap compared to other data recovery options.

  • G Nicola

    When I do a spotlight search in Entourage I am unable to find a way of telling in which folder I have archived a particular email. Is there a way the path can be seen, please?
    Many thanks
    G Nicola

  • There are two scripts that will tell the path for the folder.
    Finding path of messages.
    Place script in the Script Menu Items folder inside the Microsoft User Data folder. Select the message and then select the script from the Script icon in the Menu bar. One script will show the path in a window, the other will open the message in the folder where it resides.

  • Paul

    Hi. Spotlight feature in Entourage is great. Are there any keyword shortcuts that can be used? I have an email in the Inbox from john.
    when I type in from:john in spotlight I get no results. If I expand the search to all messages I get all email threads that John took part in. I have to go into Advanced search and choose the criteria “From Contains John”. That gives me the desired results but it is several extra steps.
    The regular Mac spotlight appears to understand the From: keyword. Any help would be appreciated.

  • Forget the ”from“ part. Type ”John“ in Spotlight search box. You will then get the opportunity to further define your search. By default it will search the folder you have selected. Click on the + button and select ”from“ instead of the default ”contains“.
    You can further define your search by adding more criteria to the search by clicking on the + to add.

  • Paul

    Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I was doing what you suggested and it does work.
    It would just be nicer to use shorthand directly in the spotlight search box (reduce from 3 steps to 1 step).
    Sounds like it is not available yet. Thanks.

  • Mark

    For a long time now I’ve been looking for a way to do the following in Entourage 2008:
    When viewing a single message (so, message is selected or highlighted), view all other messages from that same sender — with a keyboard shortcut or a right click and selection of a script or action.
    I’ve set up several Saved Searches to display all the messages from each of the main people I correspond with. But I’d like a way to create, I guess, a search on the fly based on the sender of whatever message is currently highlighted.
    Is there a way to do that, or do I need to learn how to create my own script to do it? Thanks!

  • Using linking, you might be able to do what you want. If you select a person in the Address Book and assign a category to that person, you can use the “show related” to see everything linked to that contact.
    Using a script or a saved search would probably be easier to use. I suggest joining the YouTalk list and ask there. Several scripters are on the list and might be able to offer some suggestions.
    Subscribe to YouTalk list