A: The Outlook Social Connector was introduced for Microsoft Outlook 2007 but was ported backwards for Outlook 2003 and continues strong in Outlook 2010. When you enter an email address into an address field in Outlook, specifically a new email message, contact, or appointment, Outlook assembles information based on that email address and displays that information in the Social Connector pane. One of the components Outlook renders in the Social Connector pane is email messages received from that address. Outlook uses the Windows Search index to retrieve this information.

I sometimes use the Social Connector pane to see if I've missed any communication from the person to whom I'm addressing a new message. If the Search index isn't up to date or isn't working properly, the email information in the Social Connector pane also won't be up to date. If some of the email stores have been indexed, the results will show in the Social Connector pane, even if the index isn't complete. Recently, I had this happen to me. Outlook re-indexed my local files, and when I brought up a specific email address, recent messages were shown in the Social Connector pane -- but not the most recent ones. As a result of a quick check of the Social Connector, I assumed I was current with this contact.

Search indexing happens in the background, controlled by the Windows Search Service. You can configure what gets indexed within Outlook in the Search options section of Outlook Options, found at File, Options, Search, as Figure 1 shows. This option is also accessible from the Search tab of the Ribbon by clicking Search Tools, Search Options.

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Figure 1: Setting Search options in Outlook 2010 (Click image for larger view)

To verify if Outlook still has items to index in Outlook 2010, you can check Search Tools under the Search tab of the Ribbon. (One of the annoyances I find in Outlook 2010 is that the Search tab isn't present in the Ribbon unless the search field, found atop the main pane in Outlook folders, is highlighted!) To see Outlook's current indexing status, select Search Tools, Indexing Status. If the Windows Search Service is running and the current Outlook store is configured to be indexed, then the resulting window will indicate either that "Outlook has finished indexing all your items," or it will show the number of items not yet indexed, as Figure 2 shows.

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Figure 2: Dialog box showing the current Outlook indexing status

When indexing completes, all email items will appear properly in your Social Connector pane as expected.