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How I Use Outlook - 7 Tips

There are so many things you can do with Outlook, but I have to admit, I've never fully explorered all its features. However, the more I "live" in my Outlook at work, the more I've become obsessed with finding new and useful ways to get things done as efficiently and quickly as I can. On that note, here are a few Outlook tips I've discovered that have been making my work life easier.

1. The ClearContext add-in - every since someone told me about this add-in, I've been using the heck out of it. Although I can only afford the free version, I've found it unbelievably useful for categorizing my mail. Since I had been using a folders system prior to the Outlook 2007 upgrade, I didn't feel much like redoing this system just to use Outlook 2007's color-coded categories. Instead, I use a mashup of ClearContext labels and Outlook cateogries. ClearContext lets me label my mail and these labels are linked to an Outlook category list. As I visually scan my email, Outlook's color-coded categories help me find what I'm looking for fast. When it's time to move an email from the Inbox to its category folder, I just hit the "File Msg" button on the ClearContext toolbar and the message archives itself to the appropriate folder. (Another option for filing is SpeedFiler, which I hear is good, too).

2. Natural Language - I've been using Outlook 2007 for many months now, but I just discovered this feature thanks to a tip I read online. The new version of Outlook lets you enter appointments on your calendar using natural language. Instead of using the drop-down box to pick a date, you can type in real expressions like "day after tomorrow," "one week from today," "two months from today," "three days from now," and much more. You can also use expressions like "today + 3 days" and Outlook will figure that out, too. Finally, you can type in the names of holidays and use them in expressions like "the day before Christmas."

3. Outlook Calendar on the desktop - this software lets you pin the Outlook calendar to your desktop. The calendar stays there all the time so you can always see what's upcoming. It's not just a view of your calendar either, it's the real Microsoft Outlook calendar, so you get all its functionality, like direct editing, drag and drop of files, etc. Awesome.

4. Search Folders & Favorites - how did I live before Search Folders? Search Folders let you create virtual folders based on certain criteria. For example, you could make a folder of email from your boss you categorized as "Important" or a folder of your emails that have attachments. Even better, add these Search Folders to your Favorite Folders list and hide your Mail Folders list so that all you see is your Favorites. You'll be surprised how rarely you'll need to view your "real" folders.

5. Fast Email Searches - If you use Outlook 2007 on Vista, you have Vista's killer search built into Outlook. However, at work, we're still on XP. No worries though...you can download Windows Desktop Search for Windows XP like I did and experience the glory of fast searches. With either Vista or Desktop Search, results are displayed as soon as you start typing in text. 

6. Form Emails - Using templates, you can save standardized emails so you don't have to type the same thing over and over again. I use forms for things like emailing a new user's login information to their supervisor or emailing someone a note letting them know their issue was input as a helpdesk ticket. Creating your own form is easy - just write the email, then go to File --> Save As, and choose "Outlook Template (*.oft)" from the drop-down box. The email is saved as a template. Next time you want to use that form, open it by going to Tool --> Forms --> Choose a Form. Change the drop-down box to "User Templates in File System" and then pick the template you created.

7. Minimize to Tray - I'm surprised how many people don't know how to minimize Outlook to run in the System Tray. This is an absolute necessity (it should be the default!). Right-click on the Outlook icon in the Notification Area (next to the clock). In the menu that displays, select "Hide When Minimized."

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  • Duncan MackenzieDuncanma "yeah that's awful close, but that's not why I'm so hard done by"

    The natural language stuff for dates (day after tomorrow) is very cool, it has been in the product since before it was even called Outlook though I believe.... certainly for many previous versions Smiley

  • CattoCatto

    Hey Now Sarah,

    Nice Post. I really like search folders also. I didn't know of the desktop search, have to try it on my xp machines & also I didn't know about the option of hiding when minimized. Why do you think this a great feature? The 1st add on you  mentioned sounded very useful also.

    Thx 4 the info,

    Catto

  • CattoCatto

    Hey Now Sarah,

    Nice Post. I really like search folders also. I didn't know of the desktop search, have to try it on my xp machines & also I didn't know about the option of hiding when minimized. Why do you think this a great feature? The 1st add on you  mentioned sounded very useful also.

    Thx 4 the info,

    Catto

  • edddyedddy

    Two thing I feel missing from Outlook
    * A search box for all items
    * the contact search box must search all item in the contact (not the name alone)

  • edddyedddy

    Two thing I feel missing from Outlook
    * A search box for all items
    * the contact search box must search all item in the contact (not the name alone)

  • alwaysmc2alwaysmc2

    If you're using Vista, (I figured this out just now) type "Outlook " + whatever you want into the start menu.  For example, I typed "Outlook Stephanie", and I got emails about my girlfriend, her contact card, and some related events.  It did give me a couple files that weren't part of Outlook, but it seems to work pretty well over all.

  • alwaysmc2alwaysmc2

    If you're using Vista, (I figured this out just now) type "Outlook " + whatever you want into the start menu.  For example, I typed "Outlook Stephanie", and I got emails about my girlfriend, her contact card, and some related events.  It did give me a couple files that weren't part of Outlook, but it seems to work pretty well over all.

  • alwaysmc2alwaysmc2

    wait, about the second point.  Outlook does do that.  If I type my mom's email address into the contact search box, she shows up.  If I type my local area code in, a bunch of people show up.  If I type my home phone number in (and format it correctly) my parents show up.

  • alwaysmc2alwaysmc2

    wait, about the second point.  Outlook does do that.  If I type my mom's email address into the contact search box, she shows up.  If I type my local area code in, a bunch of people show up.  If I type my home phone number in (and format it correctly) my parents show up.

  • alwaysmc2alwaysmc2

    I'm a student and I use Outlook.  It's awesome to have local copies of all of my email, contacts, and calendar items from Live Mail available on my desktop and laptop.

    Plus Outlook itself is just really powerfull.

  • alwaysmc2alwaysmc2

    I'm a student and I use Outlook.  It's awesome to have local copies of all of my email, contacts, and calendar items from Live Mail available on my desktop and laptop.

    Plus Outlook itself is just really powerfull.

  • Thomas WillinghamThomas Willingham

    Outlook 2007 addresses the issues you raise:

     - Search box for all items - you can select which folder of Outlook to search.

     - Contact search now searches all fields of the contact.

     

  • Thomas WillinghamThomas Willingham

    Outlook 2007 addresses the issues you raise:

     - Search box for all items - you can select which folder of Outlook to search.

     - Contact search now searches all fields of the contact.

     

  • David LeslieDavid Leslie

    Rather than saving a stock email as a template, I like to use the quick parts (Outlook 2007) to store up common phrases that I use when emailing folks. It's a major time saver for me

  • David LeslieDavid Leslie

    Rather than saving a stock email as a template, I like to use the quick parts (Outlook 2007) to store up common phrases that I use when emailing folks. It's a major time saver for me

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