28 November, 2007

Five Efficiency Tips For Microsoft Outlook

Although small businesses seem to be gravitating towards web based e-mail, such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo! Mail, good old Microsoft Outlook still has a faithful following among those who want offline access to their e-mail. This week I have a few tips for exploiting Outlook’s features for working more efficiently.

1. Use Outlook As A Document Repository
You can store documents in any Outlook folder. That’s right! And you don’t have to attach the document to the mail message; you can store it just as you would in a desktop folder. To store a document in Outlook, follow these steps:

1. Drag a document and drop it in the Drafts folder in Outlook.
2. Open the Drafts folder. You will see your document — not as a message but as a document. Drag and drop it in any folder you want.

You may want to create a separate documents folder to store documents. You have to drag your document to the Drafts folder first because if you drag it straight to your destination folder, Outlook may create an e-mail message with the document as an attachment. By dragging and dropping it into the Drafts folder first, you can ensure that a message is not created.

2. Create Messages Quickly Right From Your Desktop
If you send messages to a person frequently, you can speed up the process of creating a new message to him by creating a shortcut on your desktop. Here is how:

1. Right click anywhere on your desktop, select New, and then click Shortcut on the fly out menu. A Create Shortcut dialog box appears.
2. Type mailto: followed by the person’s email address, as in mailto: someone@somewhere.com.
3. Click Next and enter a name for your shortcut.
4. Click Finish. A new shortcut appears on your desktop with the Outlook icon.
5. Whenever you wish to send a message to this person, just double click on the shortcut. Outlook will open (if not already open) and a new message will show up with the e-mail address of the person pre-populated.

3. Downsize Your Mailbox Quickly
Every so often, Outlook informs you that your mailbox is approaching its size-limit and you must either archive your messages or delete them to make space. If you don’t want to archive but want to delete a few messages with huge attachments to make space, here is what you can do:

1. Select a folder in your mailbox and then pull down the View menu from the menu bar at the top.
2. Choose Arrange By and then select Size on the fly out menu.
3. Outlook groups the messages in your folder by size into groups such as Very Large, Large, Medium, and Small.
4. Skim through the largest group and delete whatever you don’t need. Just a few deletes may make a big difference to the size of your mailbox.
5. Don’t forget to empty the Deleted Items folder.

If you have too many folders, you can save time by following the procedure above with the largest folders. You can quickly find out the sizes of all folders by doing the following:

1. Pull down the Go menu from the menu bar and click Folder List. The folder list will appear in the left pane.
2. At the bottom, you will find a link for Folder Sizes. Click it to see a pop-up window showing sizes of all your folders

4. View Your Messages Like Threaded Discussions
It often helps to see a message and all replies to it from all users as a thread. It saves you the trouble of scrolling down the entire mailbox to locate a message. Here is how to do it:

1. Select a folder in your mailbox and then pull down the View menu from the menu bar at the top.
2. Choose Arrange By and then select Conversation on the fly out menu.
3. Messages in the folder are now threaded. A little button with a downward arrow appears to the left of every thread that has two or more messages. The number of messages in each thread appears in the header.
4. Click the button for a thread. You will see all the messages in the thread sorted by date.

5. Color Code Important Messages
You may want to distinguish messages from your most important client from the run of the mill messages you receive. You can color code them to focus on them quickly. Here is how:

1. Select a folder in your mailbox and then pull down the Tools menu from the menu bar at the top.
2. Choose Organize. You will see a pane to Organize Your (Folder Name).
3. In the pane, click Using Colors. The pane’s display will change to reflect your selection.
4. Choose to color code messages from/to a person by selecting options in the dropdown boxes and then choose the color you want them to appear in. Click Apply Color.

Sometimes, people may want to reply only to you and not to everyone on the list. You can quickly identify such messages by clicking the Turn On button against Show messages sent only to me on the next line after selecting the color you want the messages to appear in.