Microsoft’s Outlook is a powerful e-mail front end, which also has heaps of functions for managing your calendar, address book, tasks, notes, and even a journal. It’s a bit mind-boggling, actually, but I thought I’d mention a few features that I’ve found to be extremely useful. I happen to be using Outlook 2007 at the moment, but most of these are available in previous versions.
1) You Can Organize Your Email in All Kinds of Ways
First, you can sort by any of the fields (From, Subject, Date Received, Size, and so on) just by clicking on the column heading at the top. Second, you can add or change the fields that are visible by right-clicking on that heading and selecting “Field chooser.” Third, you can group messages by any field by using the “Group By” function. All of these together provide easy ways to quickly find messages that you’ve lost or forgotten.
2) Archive Stuff Away
Most folders have a provision to automatically archive old entries – right click on the folder and go to “Folder Properties.” This is great for removing old clutter, whether it’s calendar entries from 6 months ago, old e-mails, or whatever. The more relevant the information you’re viewing, the faster Outlook will operate, and the more focused you can be.
3) Outlook Is Able to Handle Multiple Email Accounts, Both for Sending and Receiving
I like having my personal and business e-mail come to the same inbox, and to be able to send on either one as well. Recent versions can even have different signatures for the different accounts. Before you set this up, though, you might want to check what your employer’s policy is on mixing personal and business e-mail.
4) Reminders on Emails (Flags), Calendar Appointments and Tasks Can All Work Together
If you like using Outlook’s reminders to help keep you on schedule, try setting a flag on an e-mail which will remind you to do something with it at a future time. Or create a task that has a reminder attached.
5) Categories Can Be Useful
Some people prefer to file old e-mails away in a large structure of folders, but I tend to prefer filing them all away in a single file, assigning each message to one or more categories. My current file is named 2010.pst, and it has a single folder in it named “2010” – that keeps each file from growing too terribly large, making them easier to back up. By using categories, I am able to put several identifiers on a single message, so it will be easier to find in the future. The folder view can be grouped by categories, and Outlook’s Advanced Find feature can look for categories as well.
Of course, this is only scratching the surface of Outlook. For me, though, investing time to learn some of the more advanced features is well worth the effort, since I base so much of my work around e-mails, calendars, and tasks.
by Carl Dierschow