Top 20 Tips for Microsoft Outlook

Are you getting the most out of Microsoft Outlook?

Shilpa Wymer, Principal of Holborn Training, has put together a whirlwind introductory tour of Outlook 2010 which is guaranteed to maximise your productivity!

Outlook DownloadAt our centres we have hundreds of people coming to improve their Microsoft skills and when we ask them about their Outlook skills, most will tell you that they use Outlook all the time and know it pretty well. However, on assessing their skills it turns out they’re using only a small portion of Outlook’s functions.

Outlook is a tremendous tool and if you want to master it fully, I suggest signing up for a course where you will learn the ins and outs of Outlook, and receive a certificate to prove your new found knowledge.

You can contact us on 020 70257 4700 or send us an enquiry online.

In the meantime, here are our top tips for Microsoft Outlook!

1. Customise your ribbon

The first thing I want you to do is to really make Outlook yours by customising the ribbon. This is the ribbon:

Outlook Ribbon

You can customise the ribbon really easily by clicking on the file tab and selecting Options and the Customise ribbon option. Select the options you want to see and take out anything you tend not to use. You can’t go wrong as you can always go back and add it in again if later find you need to use the option!

Costumise Outlook Ribbon

2. Quick Access Toolbar

Still on the customising theme, one more thing you can do to make your life simpler is to customise the Quick Access Toolbar. You should find it in the top left hand corner.

Outlook Quick Office Toolbar

Again, go to Outlook Options under File and click on Quick Access Toolbar.

Costumise Quick Access Toolbar

Select all the tasks you do regularly, decide if you want to show the toolbar above or below the ribbon and now you are starting to get Outlook working for you.

3. Quicksteps

Now let’s think about all the tasks you do on a regular basis; Sending out emails to the team or your manager, or arranging meetings. Set this up as a Quick Step and you’ll be working smarter.

For example, if you organise meetings for your boss with a number of different reports every week, then create a Quick Step, by selecting the little greyed out arrow at the bottom of the Quick Steps box. This will then bring up the following menu.

Outlook Quicksteps

New Quickstep in Outlook

Click on New and then you are ready to select what you want to do and what you want to call it.

Here, I’m creating a Quick Step that allows me to arrange a new meeting with SW and her reports. Once I’ve named it I’ll then select the attendees, click Finish and the Quick step will appear in the main Quick Step window.

Quickstep Setup

Some other examples of what you can do is:

• Move to Folder
• Categorise and move
• Flag & Move
• New email to
• Forward to
• New meeting with

4. Use Rules

Creating rules is a really great productivity tool, saving you from the tedium of being the forwarder of emails or continuously trawling through emails to put them in the correct folder.
So, let’s start by selecting rules on your home tab.

Outlook Rules

Here are some rules that I have created, these ones are very simple, and I use them to forward emails from certain individuals straight to some of my team.

Outlook Rules Setup

However, to create your own rules just select New Rule from the top of this box. That will then bring up the following wizard. As you can see they have several templates to get you started. So you can get organised or stay updated by assigning rules that tell Outlook what to do when you receive messages from different individuals.

Outlook Rules Wizard

5. Conversations

A great tool that I find quite handy, particularly if you’re working on a variety of things at once is the ability to switch on the Conversation settings. By displaying Conversations this will show you all the emails relating to the same heading under one entry, this will make it easier to know what’s been discussed on a particular topic and help to keep your inbox tidier.

Here’s an example of how it would look. You can see that I am having a conversation with Mark Kelly, it all relates to the same day. So Mark contacted me on the 25th, I emailed him back, so it’s put my sent message under this category and then he’s s emailed me again, the newest email is always on top. By selecting each of these it will show the content.

Outlook Conversations

In order to select or deselect the option click on the View tab and tick the Show as Conversation box.

Show Conversations Outlook

6. Clean up your conversation

You know how when you are dealing with a certain subject in Outlook and you move all emails into a subfolder to keep your inbox nice and clean, well isn’t it annoying that most of them actually include the content from the previous emails already. So you could effectively delete all the previous emails – well here’s the tool that will do just that. Under the home tab you will find the Clean Up function. Just click on it and it will give you the following options:

Outlook Conversation Cleanup

• Clean up conversation – this will clean up the current selected conversation
• Clean up folder – to clean up the selected folder
• Clean up folder and subfolder – includes any subfolders

I hope by now you’re already starting to feel more in control of Outlook.

7. Create contact groups

The number of times I have seen people constantly type in the names of a group of individuals who they seem to send emails out to quite often, to save yourself some time create a group. Here how select Contacts at the bottom left hand corner of your Outlook box. On the Home tab you will find the New Contact Group option.

Outlook Contact Groups

Add members and save it as a name that makes sense to you.

Contacts Outlook

Now any time you want to send out a message to that group, just type the group name, instead of selecting each person individually.

8. Empty Trash Can

Keeping on top of your emails is critical; ensuring you empty your trash of deleted items will keep the techies happy though!
Simply go back to the File tab, select Advanced and tick the box which empties your Deleted Items folder when you exit Outlook.

Trash Can Outlook

9. Add Folders to favourites

If there are folders you use all the time, but like me have so many folders and subfolders that you find scrolling through them to find the one you want irritating and time consuming, then just move the main ones up to the top of your Outlook box by dragging the selected folder up to your Favourites box. Here’s an example of how I’ve moved my Social Media and Payroll folder up to Favourites.

Add Folders Outlook

10. Insert screenshot

This has to be one of the smartest things that have been added to Outlook. Outlook now allows you to take a screenshot of any of the applications you have open on your desktop. Select the insert tab and click Screenshot and it will show you all the applications you have open. Select the one you want and it will insert the captured image straight into your email.

Screenshot for Outlook

Once inserted, you’ll see a new contextual toolbar appear. This will allow you to do some fancy editing of the picture and create all sorts of effects!

Outlook Screenshot

11. Create a Calender group

If you constantly are trying to get people together within the same company, wouldn’t it be handy if you could just see all their diaries in one place. Well now you can! As long as they have allowed you permission to view their diary by sharing it then you can simply open their calender by selecting Home tab in Calendar, Open Calendar and selecting the individuals.

Outlook Calendar

To make it even easier for you, create a calender group for each type of event you organise regularly that includes the diaries of all those who would attend. Simply click on Calender Group, name the group and add the diaries you’d like to see. Here I have created a Managers group so that I can see all their diaries in one place. I think this feature is great to view around 3 – 4 diaries all in one place.

Calendar Group Outlook

12. Add second time zone

So you manage people across two different time zones and it’s tricky to co-ordinate them right? Not now as I’m going to show you how to set up a second time zone so that you can instantly see what time it is in the other location. Select File tab and Calendar, you’ll find the option to show a second time zone under Time Zones.

Insert Timezone Outlook

Now when you are viewing diaries you can see the time zone in your chosen country and it appears right next to your normal times, like this example.

Outlook Timezones

13. Schedule a meeting

I’ve seen many people send out a standard email request for a meeting. Save yourself time and effort by scheduling the meeting the proper way.

Outlook Meetings

Select the New Meeting option and then the Scheduling Assistant.
Now, you’re ready to organise the meeting, select the people you want to attend and check their diaries (as long as you have permission). This will save you lots of time when organising meetings as any changes you make to this event will automatically update everyone else diaries too.

Meetings in Outlook

14. Resource Scheduling

Staying on the same theme, you can also add resources such as meeting rooms as a calendar. So if you are responsible for managing meeting rooms this will help you efficiently manage the bookings.
To do this, create a new calendar with the name of the meeting room. Now, go to File and Options and select Calendar. At the bottom of this screen you will find an option for Resource Scheduling.

Resource Scheduling

Now you need to select some options such as whether you want to automatically accept meeting requests and remove cancelled meetings or decline requests that conflict, etc. Make sure you have given users permission to view this resource and now you’re in control.

Schedule Resources Outlook

15. Advanced searching

Now looking for that all important email is so much easier. By clicking into the Search box, it will bring up a contextual toolbar with more Search options. Here, you will be able to search on all sorts of different criteria from looking in the current folder to subject or ones that you have categorized.

Outlook Advanced Searching

16. Keyboard Shortcuts

Here’s some really handy keyboards for Outlook that you should learn by heart!
CTRL + D Delete
CTRL + R Reply
CTRL + F Forward
CTRL + N New Message
CTRL + P Print
CTRL + C Copy
CTRL + V Paste
CTRL + X Cut
ALT + S Send
F7 Spell Check
F9 Check for Mail
F12 Save Document As

17. Delegate Access

If you’re away and someone else is looking after things for you, simply delegate access to them and they’ll be able to send items on your behalf, including creating and responding to meetings requests
Go to File tab and select Account Settings.

Outlook Delegate Access

This will bring up a box like this one.
Firstly add their name here.

Delegate Outlook Access

Then, give them the appropriate permissions in the next box that appears.

Access to Outlook

Now, even if you’re away you can still expect things to run smoothly!

18. Ultimate confidentiality

When you are dealing with highly sensitive information you may want to just add a little extra protection to your emails. Here’s how.
Firstly, create a new email, then select Options tab and here you’ll find an option for permissions (please note that your Information Rights Management credentials need to be activated).

Confidential Emails

Clicking on permissions will allow you to select the option for Do Not Forward. Once selected your email will look like this:

Do Not Forward

This will stop anyone receiving this email from Forwarding, printing or copying the content.

19. Create Polls

Have you ever tried to find out how people feel about a particular issue or even organise a drinks night and get a series of emails back and forth. Cut out the clutter by asking people just to vote on it. Simply create a new email and you will find an Options tab at the top. Select the voting button.

Outlook Voting

Clicking on this will give you the following options:

Yes; No
Yes; No; Maybe

Or create your own!

20. Jumplists

Finally, those clever people at Microsoft have made it so easy for you that you don’t even have to open up Outlook to do your normal outlook tasks. Just make sure you pin Outlook to the bottom of your taskbar on your desktop, right click on it and you’ll see it will bring up your regular Outlook tasks!

Outlook Jumplists

There’s only one thing left for you to do which is to go back and implement these tips.
What I’ve taken you through today is only the tip of the iceberg and to become a truly efficient and in-demand PA keep sharpening those skills and keep learning.

Download a printable version of our Microsoft Outlook tips here.

Published by Holborn Training.

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