How-to Handbook: 10 tips for Outlook

Checking email
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

4 November 2016

Microsoft Outlook is one of the most popular cloud-based email clients serving businesses around the world. 

Research from Gartner earlier this year found that more than 80% of companies using cloud email chose Microsoft over competitors like Google Apps for Work (Gmail).

The CA Today team have scoured the application and found 10 Outlook tools and tricks that you may not have been aware existed.

1. Schedule across time zones

Organising a phone call or video meeting with a colleague on the other side of the world can easily become an over-complicated process. Time differences, augmented at this time of year by daylight savings changes, can be a real headache.

While there are countless online converters and services that will help you calculate the gap between London and Hong Kong, Outlook offers a simpler solution by displaying multiple time zones in-application.

To enable the feature, go to File > Options > Calendar > Time zones > Show a second time zone and choose from the drop-down list. Don't forget to add labels to avoid confusion over which is which.

2. Recall and replace emails

If your Outlook is linked to a Microsoft Exchange account within your organisation, you can recall internal emails if they have not yet been opened and replace them with an updated version.

Double-click the email in your Sent Items folder to open it in a separate window. Under the Message tab, select the More Move Actions icon to open a drop-down list and click Recall This Message. You will be given the option to Delete unread copies of this message or Delete unread copies and replace with a new message.

If the Recall This Message command is not visible, either you don’t have an Exchange account or the feature is not available within your organization.

3. Take shortcuts

Many actions on Outlook can be translated into keyboard shortcuts, requiring no more than a second or two of your time. This can be especially useful on laptop computers where tracking pads can sometimes be cumbersome.

Useful key combinations include Ctrl+2 to open your calendar, Ctrl+Shift+A to create a new appointment and Ctrl+E to launch a search of your current mailbox.

The full list of shortcuts is available from Microsoft but note that, as most are configured for a US keyboard, some options may not apply.

4. Colour code priority emails

To ensure emails from your manager, team or those addressed directly to you stand out from the others flooding your inbox, you can manipulate your Outlook settings to colour code certain email conditions.

Go to View > View Settings > Conditional/Automatic Formatting and Add a new condition. Use the Font options to decide on the colour and style you want to use for these emails and the Condition menu to set the type of message you want to identify.

For example, an email sent by your manager, only to you and outside of office hours is likely of high importance and should be the first thing you read in the morning. Make such emails appear bold and vibrant as a rule to avoid missing them.

5. Specify a delivery time

Emails in Outlook can be delayed so that, after you hit send, a message will not reach the recipient until a particular deadline that you set.

This is again useful for communicating across different time zones and also in matters of sensitive information that may be under an embargo.

In a New Email window, open go to Options > Delay Delivery and use the settings to specify a delivery schedule.

6. Paste on Post-it notes

Post-it notes act as a visual reminder and convenient note-taking implement. Outlook has a virtual version that does the same thing.

Hitting Ctrl+Shift+N will cause a small text box to appear that can then be filled, placed around the screen or saved for later retrieval. They can be found by clicking the More (…) button at the foot of the navigation pane and selecting Notes.

Post-it notes can also be forwarded as attachments by clicking the icon in the top right corner of the box.

7. Fill in Quick Parts

If you find yourself typing certain things like introductions, instructions or terms over and over again in different emails, there is a way to paste in this content automatically.

Outlook’s Quick Parts feature will suggest saved portions of text to fill in once you start typing the first word, without you having to copy it every time. In a New Email window, write and highlight the text you wish to save and go to Insert > Quick Parts > Save Selection to Quick Parts Gallery.

You can then use this menu to insert the text into future emails or Outlook will suggest it to you the next time you begin to type it.

8. Swipe left (or right)

When using Outlook on mobile, swiping left will archive an email and swiping right will let you snooze (schedule) it by default.

However, these actions can be customised to suit your individual needs. Open the Outlook app Settings page on your device and tap Swipe Options. You will be able to set the app to archive, delete, schedule, mark read, mark flagged or move an email when you swipe.

You can also configure the same action for swipes in either direction if you want.

9. Adopt an alias

If you have a Microsoft account, you can set up several alias email addresses in Outlook. This means you can use dedicated profiles for social media or subscription services and keep that content separate from your main inbox while still having easy access when needed.

Login to the Microsoft account website and select Your info > Manage your sign-in email or phone number > Add email and follow the instructions to set up an alias.

You will have the option of creating a new address or using an existing email that doesn't need to come from Microsoft.

10. Recover deleted items

While clearing out your Deleted Items folder generally means those emails are gone for good, users with an Exchange account may still be able to retrieve them in a emergency.

Go to Deleted Items and open the Home tab. Click Recover Deleted Items from Server and peruse the folders for the item you need. Then click Restore Selected Items > Ok.

Items will generally be retrievable through this method for about two weeks after deletion.

Do you use Microsoft Outlook? What are your time-saving tips? Tell us in the comments below.


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