5 Ways to Work Faster in Microsoft Outlook

By Helen Bradley | Posted February 09, 2012

Email is vital to your day-to-day work, but it can also be a sink hole into which precious time simply disappears. Anything you can do to manage your incoming and outgoing emails more quickly will free up time for other tasks. Here are five ways to improve email management in Microsoft Outlook.

5 Microsoft Outlook Tips

1. Create Contact Groups

When there are groups of people that you routinely email whether within your organization or outside it, set them up as a Contact Group. Click Contacts and choose New Contact Group. In the Name area, type a name for your group and click Add Members on the Contact Group tab. Here you can add members from your Outlook Contacts, Address Book or a new email contact -- someone who is not in your address book. When you are done, click Save and Close.

Create groups of recipients to make it easy to email a group of people at once.

Figure 1: Create groups of recipients to make it easy to email a group of people at once.

Later, to send an email to the group, create a new email and, to protect recipients from seeing other recipients' details, add your own email address to the To: line of the email. Add the Group name to the BCC entry -- if you cannot see the BCC field, click the Options tab and click BCC to add it.

2. Use Quick Steps

Quick Steps is a new feature in Microsoft Outlook 2010. Use it to move emails from one folder to another or to perform another repetitive task with a single click. If, for example, you frequently email your manager, you can set up a Quick Step to do this.

Quick Steps, new to Outlook 2010, help you perform repetitive tasks with a single click.

Figure 2: Quick Steps, new to Outlook 2010, help you perform repetitive tasks with a single click.

In the Mail module, click the Home tab and select New Quick Step > New Email To. Type a name for the Quick Step, and then type in the recipient's email address. Click Options to add a Shortcut key for the task. Click Show Options to add a subject, text or to automatically send the message, and then click Save. In the future, click the option in the Quick Step list and a new email will be created automatically.

3. Create a Form

If there's a report or a formulaic email that you send regularly, you can create it as a form (Outlook's version of a template). A form is a better choice than creating a Quick Step for long messages, as you can include formatting, images and even tables in the form.

To create a form, first create a new message and type in all the text you would ever want to include in a variety of form messages. You can edit the form for a specific audience, so include alternate paragraphs now, knowing that later you can delete the unwanted ones prior to actually sending.

Use forms to prepare detailed and repetitive emails in advance.

Figure 3: Use forms to prepare detailed and repetitive emails in advance.

Click File > Save As and from the Save As Type dropdown list, select Outlook Template (*.oft) and type a name for the message template. Outlook automatically stores this in the correct Templates folder.

When you want to use the template in the Mail module, select the Home tab > New Items > More Items > Choose Form. Next, from the Look In list, choose User Templates in File System, select your form, and click Open.

Alternately, locate the template's .oft file in the templates folder and drag it onto your taskbar. You can click it to launch a new email message with all the content in place -- even if Outlook is not open.

4. Resend, Don't Forward

If someone asks you to resend a message to them or forward one you have received, you may have already discovered that by choosing to forward it, the message doesn't look as it did originally. Instead it contains header information, a second signature and the subject line has FW: added to it. To save the effort of cleaning up the message before sending it, don't use the Forward feature; resend it instead.

Double-click the message to open it. Locate the Message tab, and from the Move group of tools choose Actions > Resend This Message. The original message opens so you can, if you wish, add some extra text to it but, if you don't want to do so, add a recipient's address, if necessary, and click Send. If you resend an incoming email the sent email will retain the original sender's details and not yours in the headers so the new recipient can reply to it more easily.

The resent message appears as a duplicate message in the appropriate Inbox or Sent Items mail box with the new date on it. If you have Conversations view enabled, you'll see the original email and the resent version together in the folder.

5. Drag-and-Drop

It's easy to create one item from another using drag-and-drop in Microsoft Outlook. For example, if the To-Do Bar is visible, you can drag an email onto a calendar date to quickly create an appointment for that date.

When you do this, it adds the body of the email to the appointment. If the email contains details about the appointment, everything you need will be in the one place. You can also drag-and-drop an email message into the Task area of the To-Do Bar to turn the email into a task requiring attention.

You can also drag a file from the file system directly into Outlook. When you drop the file onto the Mail option in the bottom left of the Outlook window, a new message will be created with the document attached.

Likewise, drag a file onto a calendar date and a new appointment will be created with the file attached to it. You can also save messages from Outlook using drag and drop -- drag the message from the Inbox into a folder on your drive and a duplicate of the message will be saved to that location.

Helen Bradley is a respected international journalist writing regularly for small business and computer publications in the USA, Canada, South Africa, UK and Australia. You can learn more about her at her Web site, HelenBradley.com

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