Optimizing Outlook

A misconception about Microsoft Outlook and other email clients is that its only function is to receive and send email. Although email is its primary function, a lot of people don’t realize how many organization and scheduling tools are available and how Outlook can make office email and task management easy and effective.  Through the use of email organization, contact lists, calendar / to do reminders, user signatures and managing your junk email, Outlook can easily become one of the most powerful tools used in your office.

Email Organization (Filtering) and Usage

Don’t just use your Inbox when you can set up multiple folders to help organize incoming mail or change the colour of email received from particular recipients so your important mail never falls ‘between the cracks’. Here are some tips that you should find useful:

Sorting Inbox Messages - There are various columns in Outlook to display information about your messages (From, Subject, Received / Sent, etc…). To rearrange messages in one of the columns, click on the column title and it will sort. However, information not displayed in a column can be done manually.

Creating Folders - You can create multiple folders within your Inbox to help sort emails as they come in. To create a folder, right click on Inbox on the Mail pane to the left of your screen and choose New Folder. Once this is created you can set up a Rule to specify what type of message will be moved to this folder by going to the Tools menu and choosing Rules and Alerts. Select New Rule and specify your criteria.

Search for and move items or files to different folders - After a couple months you may have a large amount of emails stored in your Inbox. The best way to manage this is to store them in appropriate folders. To find these messages and to move them to go to the Tools menu, choose Find and then select Advanced Find. Once in the dialog box, specify the search criteria and search for the messages. Once the results are displayed you can move them by right-clicking on a message and choosing Move to Folder. If you wish to move multiple messages they can be highlighted by holding down the Ctrl key while selecting them.

Quickly see Next or Previous Messages in a Conversation or Thread – While viewing a message, click the drop down arrow next to the Previous Item button or Next Item button. From that list you can choose Item in Conversation Topic to view emails with the same subject heading.

Multiple Email Accounts - You can set up multiple email accounts in Outlook and can choose which to use when sending messages. For example, choose your Yahoo account and recipients receive the message from that account, complete with your Yahoo return address. To add the account, go to Tools, select Email Accounts and configure your new account. When you are sending a new message, click Accounts and then click the account you want to send from in the list.

Flagging Messages for Follow-Up - Messages can be flagged for follow-up using several colours in Outlook. If messages are flagged with one colour and you wish to switch them to another, locate the flagged message in the message list and right-click the flag to the right. A shortcut menu will appear with various options and different flag colours. While using the Follow-Up folder to view your items you can sort the list by flag colour or filter out colours you do not wish to see.

Contacts and Distribution Lists

By using multiple contact groups you can separate your contacts (professional, personal, other, etc…), categories, companies and more for ease of use when quickly viewing or sending emails to a specific set of people.  

Adding New Contacts from Email Messages - If you are viewing an email from someone you would like to add to your contact list, right-click on the person’s name in the from field at the top of the email and choose Add to Contacts. From there you can enter additional information about the Contact as necessary.

·Schedule a meeting with a contact - To schedule a meeting with other people from the contact screen, right click on a contact and then select New Meeting Request to Contact. Upon accepting this will add a meeting in the calendar of both parties.

·Send a Quick Email to a Contact - From the contact screen right click on anyone and select New Message to Contact.

Adding Information that isn't an Existing Field - To add a non-existing field for a contact, while in the contact screen select the All Fields tab, click New and then specify the field's name, type, and format. These fields will be in the list for new contacts as needed.

Calendar / To Do Reminders

Use calendar to set reminders, schedule meetings and set due dates in tasks so everything is completed on time.

  • Sending Reminders For Meetings - Open the original meeting request on your Outlook Calendar, right click on the appointment and choose New Message to Attendees. This will send a message to all contacts associated with that meeting.

  • Creating Message Reminders - You can set a reminder for a message (reply to date, follow up date, etc ) quickly by right-clicking the message you want to set the reminder, choose Follow Up from the list and select Add Reminder. In the following window Due By list you can choose the date from a calendar view for when you have to complete the reply and set a time.
  • Adding Holidays - Holidays can be added to prevent scheduling meetings and other appointments on days you aren’t available. By going to the Tools menu, select Options and then select Calendar Options. On the following window you can set and manage holiday dates in your system.

  • Creating a Quick Appointment - From the calendar you can create appointments quickly by double-clicking on an empty slot. You can also drag the mouse over multiple time slots and right click to add a longer appointment to your calendar without have to set the length and time manually.
  • Setting Recurring Appointments - While editing an existing appointment, go to the Actions menu and select Recurrence. You can then define how often you would like this appointment to repeat. Any contacts associated with the appointment will also see this recurrence.
  • Scheduling Meetings When all Attendees are Available - If you are trying to schedule a meeting and would like to do it when all parties are available, go to the Scheduling tab at the top and type the names of the attendees in the All Attendees list. Once entered choose Auto Pick and a list of available times will be available.

User Signatures

Set up multiple signatures so office or personal information will be shown depending on the contact group you are sending mail to.

  • Add Your Custom Signature or Practice Logo to Each Message - To have a signature or custom logo automatically displayed on each message you send, go to the Tools menu, select Options and then click the Mail Format tab. If you have multiple accounts set up, select the appropriate account and then click the Signatures button. From here you can edit the text to say what you want while making any formatting changes desired, including adding pictures or logos.
  • Junk Mail

    Filter out spam messages automatically and add more information about the junk emails slipping through so you never have to deal with spam in your inbox.

    • Blocking Suspicious Emails - If you get an e-mail in your Inbox that is Junk Mail you can quickly add it to your blocked list by right clicking on the e-mail, choosing Junk Mail and selecting Add to Blocked Senders List. As well, you can use various Rules and Alerts so that Outlook can scan the subject or content of an e-mail before it appears in your Inbox and have it automatically sent to your Junk Mail.
    • Never Reply to Suspicious Emails - is a common mistake people make replying to Junk Mail. Replying tells a spammer you have a valid e-mail address and you won't be removed from their mailing list, instigating more spam from them.
    • What Happens if a Message Goes to the Junk Email Folder? - If an email gets moved into the Junk Email folder by mistake, or if you want to view the messages in there, you can select the Junk Email folder from the Mail pane on the left and view them.


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