25 Outlook 2016 Command Line Switches You Have to Know

Anthony Grant Updated 20-01-2020

You can get more out of Microsoft Outlook by learning how to use command line switches.


The command line interface can seem intimidating, especially if you aren’t particularly familiar with using it. However, it can offer major benefits if you’re willing to learn the basics.

Command line switches can be used in Outlook to perform all kinds of tasks. Whether you’re troubleshooting a problem or just trying to speed up your normal usage, these switches offer serious advantages.

Here are 25 command line switches for Outlook to get started with.

Introduction to Run Commands

The easiest way to input a command line switch is by using a Run command, which is essentially a single-line version of the full command line interface A Beginner's Guide To The Windows Command Line The command line lets you communicate directly with your computer and instruct it to perform various tasks. Read More .

In Windows 10, you can open a new Run command by typing Run into the search bar, or by using the shortcut Windows key + R.


Windows 10 Run Command Prompt Screenshot

You should see this window — simply input your desired switch into the Open field and press Enter to execute it.

Now let’s take a look at how to perform some tasks using this tool!

Sending Emails

Command line switches can be used to speed up the process of sending emails. To compose a new message, enter the following into the Run dialog:

outlook.exe /c ipm.note

This will generate a blank Outlook email. It’s also possible to add the name of the email’s recipient by adding an extra /m switch onto the end of the command:

outlook.exe /c ipm.note /m

The result is a new Outlook email with the recipient filled in:

Windows 10 Outlook New Email Command Switch

You can even add an attachment by using the /a switch and specifying its disk location.

outlook.exe /m /a "C:\My Documents\deathstarplans.pdf"

Which results in the following email draft:

Windows 10 Outlook Add Attachment Command Switch

You may have noticed that ipm.note was left off the switch from the previous command. Unless Outlook receives specific instructions to attach the file to a different type of item, the program will assume that the user is trying to draft an email.

To attach content to a different item, such as a task How to Use Outlook for Simple Task and Project Management Outlook can work as a simple tool for managing projects and tasks. We show you how to set up Outlook Tasks to set reminders and due dates, assign to-dos, and track tie. Read More , all you need to do is add another switch to the command.


Creating Other Items

By modifying the last element in the command used to send an email, you can create a variety of other Outlook items:

  • — Creates a new contact.
  • ipm.stickynote — Creates a new note.
  • ipm.task — Creates a new task.
  • ipm.appointment — Creates a new appointment.
  • ipm.activity — Creates a new journal entry.

Cleaning up Outlook

Anyone who’s worked as a system administrator will tell you that certain employees can have a tendency to … adjust their computer station.

Whether they’ve been fiddling with settings that should go untouched or repetitive reminders that clog up the system, cleaning up this mess can be frustrating.

Fortunately, we can use switches to clean up some parts of Outlook without even touching the program. The following command will remove all names and email addresses from the Autocomplete register:

outlook.exe /cleanautocompletecache

There are plenty of other things that we can clean in Outlook by switching out /cleanautocompletecache for another switch:

  • /cleancategories — Deletes any custom category names and restores category names to their default labels.
  • /cleanclientrules — Deletes client-based rules.
  • /cleanserverrules — Deletes server-based rules.
  • /cleanrules — Deletes both client-based and server-based rules.
  • /cleanreminders — Clears and regenerates reminders.
  • /cleanviews — Deletes any custom views and restores the defaults.

Opening and Finding Files

Switches can be used to open individual files in Outlook without having to navigate through an email inbox. The following command will open either a message file using the MSG format or a saved search that uses the OSS format—just swap out file-name.

outlook.exe /f file-name

We can also swap out /f for /hol to open a HOL file, and /ical to open an ICS file.

Sometimes you might not have the file name of the content that you’re looking for. In this situation, you can use the /finder switch:

outlook.exe /finder

This will produce the Advanced Find window, which is a powerful search tool to find just about anything hidden away in Outlook.

Windows 10 Outlook Advanced Find Command Switch

Opening Outlook

Initializing Outlook from a Run command might shave a few seconds off the process, but that’s not the only reason you might want to use it. By taking advantage of switches, you can open Outlook and perform other useful tasks at the same time.

Enter the following into a Run dialog to open up Outlook with the Reading Pane disabled:

outlook.exe /nopreview

You can switch out /nopreview for /safe to disable both the Reading Pane and any active toolbar customizations.

Alternatively, you can initialize Outlook and open a specific folder by using the following command:

outlook.exe /select folder-name

Just replace folder-name with the title of a particular folder or reference like outlook:calendar.

One especially time-saving switch is /sniff. This switch opens Outlook, looks for new meeting requests in the inbox and adds anything it finds to the calendar.

You activate the switch like this:

outlook.exe /sniff

In the event that Outlook crashes, there’s a switch that can attempt to open the same profile and folders that were active before the crash:

outlook.exe /restore

Finally, if you want to initialize Outlook by using an Outlook window that’s already open (if one exists), you can use this command:

outlook.exe /recycle

Where is Cleanfreebusy?

You may notice that among these switches for Outlook 2016 the absence of a very powerful switch:

outlook.exe /cleanfreebusy

Unfortunately, this switch is not available in the 2016 edition of Outlook. Microsoft phased out this feature in the 2010 edition. There is not a direct replacement for this feature yet, perhaps in the future, there will be an alternative.

Further Steps Into the Command Line Interface

Once you’ve used a few of these switches with Outlook, you’ll hopefully find that the command line isn’t as fearsome as it looks from a distance.

Learning the concept of inputting commands is the first step toward carrying out more complex tasks from the command line. Next, why not try using it to take control of your network How to Reset Network Settings in Windows Having a network issue in Windows 10? A new option lets you completely reset your network settings in one go. Here's how to perform the reset and what you should know about it. Read More , speed up your Windows system 7 Common Tasks The Windows Command Prompt Makes Quick & Easy Don't let the command prompt intimidate you. It's simpler and more useful than you expect. You might be surprised by what you can accomplish with just a few keystrokes. Read More , or choose the perfect emoji How to Find the Perfect Emoji Using the Command Line Emoji are fun, but sometimes you have trouble finding the perfect one. Here's a geeky tool to help you out next time that happens. Read More .

Related topics: Command Prompt, Microsoft Office 2016, Microsoft Office 2019, Microsoft Outlook.

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  1. Sunny
    November 19, 2018 at 11:40 am

    what switch we should use for clean free/busy data...

    or any resolution for below error.

    Outlook 2016 | "suggestions cannot be provided because free/busy data could not retrieved"

  2. Sunny
    November 19, 2018 at 11:32 am

    which command do we use for 2016 outlook for cleaning free/busy data

  3. Michael
    November 16, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    Very useful command with clear description.... i suggest to other users

  4. ceooph
    June 21, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    To open a shared calendar (from a shared mailbox)
    outlook.exe /select "outlook:///calendar".
    Be careful, calendar is language sensitive, for french it's calendrier.
    Double quotes it's for spaces in

    Hope this help, enjoy to sharing.

    Allez les bleus, ce soir c'est match France/Pérou (Russia 2018) ;-)

  5. manal
    August 3, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    how to attach multiple files

  6. Ramu
    September 18, 2016 at 11:18 am

    The finder flag is awesome!!

  7. Steve
    September 12, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    You missed /cleanfreebusy which cleans up any free/busy data