If your inbox looks anything like mine, it's a cumbersome mixture of read and unread messages.

That's a problem, because it's too easy for that unread mail to get pushed down and out of sight.

What you need is a way to tighten up that inbox, to tweak the view settings so that you see only unread mail.

Gmail makes it simple to do this, and so does Thunderbird. Surely Outlook must offer a similar option?

It does, though it can be hard to locate if you don't know where to look. For example, you might think that clicking the View tab (in Outlook 2010, that is) would reveal some kind of "show unread mail only" setting -- but, alas, no.

Here's how to access this option in Outlook 2010:

1. Open Outlook and switch to your inbox.

2. Make sure the Home tab is selected.

3. Near the right side of the Ribbon you'll see a Find section; click Filter E-mail, Unread Mail.

Presto! Now your inbox will display only those messages that are marked as unread. Don't worry, the rest of your mail is still there; you can click Close Search up in the Ribbon to return to the standard view.

While you're at it, check out the other handy filter option in that menu: Has Attachments. That's great if you want to see only those messages that, well, have attachments.

If you're an Outlook 2007 user, look for and expand the Search Folders option in your navigation pane, then click Unread Mail. (Find out more in Microsoft's help article on the subject.) But on my system, this option wasn't available for my Gmail IMAP accounts, only for my primary mail account.

This is a great way to focus solely on the unread messages in your inbox, without all the distractions and clutter of mail you've already viewed.

Got an Outlook tip to share? Hit the comments and let 'em fly.