10 features of Outlook that most people don't use

By Hannah Wakeman

24 July 2014
10 mins read

Millions of people use Microsoft Outlook but how many really make use of it’s features? The abundance of buttons and tabs can put some people off, it can seem confusing and complicated. But it’s quite brilliant, most people just aren’t using it effectively.

Here are 10 features which most people are unaware of, which have the potential to change your entire experience of Outlook:

1. Schedule emails

Sometimes I work late at night, but I don’t always want clients knowing that. You might have some news, a blog, or an article that you don’t wish people to know about until the next day. Outlook allows you to write an email without sending it until a time you’re happy with.

How: Once you’ve written your email, go to Options>Delay Delivery and tick the box which reads Do not deliver before, then enter the date and time you would like the message held until. Click close and then send your email. It won’t be sent prior to your specified time.

2. Create new meetings, appointments, tasks and contacts from one window.

If like me you find yourself switching between contacts, calendar and email frequently, then this feature you’ll really like. It allows you to create a new task or appointment for example without having to leave your inbox.

How: from your email home page click the tab which reads New Items (it’s next to the New Email button). Then you simply select which item you would like to add: a contact, meeting appointment and so on. You can also access the same list by right clicking on your Outlook Icon in your Start Bar:


3. Send similar emails quickly with Quick Parts

If you send similar emails on a regular basis, for example to invite people to an event, then Quick Parts allows you to save the email and you can insert it in the future. Plus, if you save it as auto text, then next time you start to write the same content, Outlook will suggest the remaining text for you and you can simply hit Enter to insert the text.

How: Once you’ve written your email, select the text you wish to save. Go to the Insert tab (top menu bar). Click Quick Parts, then Save selection to Quick Part Gallery. You can then give it a name for easy reference and in the Gallery drop down you can save it as Quick Part or as Auto text which will automatically suggest it next time you start to type the beginning of the sentence.

4.  Keyboard Shortcuts

I love keyboard shortcuts and there are some handy ones to know for when using Outlook:

  • Switch to Mail CTRL+1
  • Switch to Calendar CTRL+2
  • Switch to Contacts CTRL+3
  • Switch to tasks CTRL+4
  • Make a new appointment CTRL+SHIFT+A
  • Create a new contact CTRL+SHIFT+C
  • Start a new message CTRL+SHIFT+M
  • Send message ALT+S
  • Reply to a message CTRL+R

5. View it your way

Most people use a default view of their inbox and yet there are other ways to view it which may suit you better.

How: click the View tab (top toolbar) and then Change View. You should see a few preset views to choose from. If you wish you can go a step further then you can click View Settings, where you can add columns, sort emails, change the font and much more. Once you have the settings you’d like you can save the view.

6. View messages your way

I really like this. You can custom the way that certain emails appear. For example, instead of bold, my unread emails are Green. Even more useful is that any emails which contain a certain word (in the title or body) are blue. This really helps me when I’m looking for particular emails. For example we organise an event called Tech Talks, I can see relevant emails to the event at a glance which is extremely helpful.

How: Go to the View tab (again) > View Settings > Conditional Formatting. Click on any of the descriptions and then Font to change how it appears. If, like me you wish certain words to stand out then you can quickly create your own by clicking Add and then Condition, give it a name and save. Really simple, really effective.

7. Sharing calendars

Sharing calendars can save time and make for better team working. At SpiderGroup most of us have access to at least one other person in the office so we always know where someone is and when they’re likely to return. For me it’s useful to see what availability James and Bryan have for the occasions when I need to book meetings or events with them.

How: To share your calendar with someone go into your calendar and click Share Calendar. Enter the contact you wish to share your calendar with. In the details drop down menu you can select whether you want them to see availability only or full details (you can still lock personal appointments if you wish).  Finally click Send. The Recipient accepts your request and will have access to your calendar.

8. Effective Task management

Tasks are definitely among the items that are seriously under-used. Similar to calendars, task lists can also be shared. Even better you can actually delegate tasks to people in your team. This is great if you’re working on a project with one or more people for you can assign certain tasks to certain people and get notified of when they are complete. Everyone can see how close to completion they are and if any are yet to be started.

How:  First create a task (Task > New Task). Enter as many details as you wish: subject, start date, due date, status and so on. On the menu bar select Assign Task and put the name of who you would like to assign the task to and click Send. The recipient can accept or decline the task, and you’ll get notified of their response. If you also ensure both boxes are ticked when you send the task you’ll keep an updated copy of the task on your task list and you’ll also get a status report when the task is complete.

9. Creating and managing rules

The rules element of Outlook helps you to prioritise and organise emails to suit you. Examples of what you can do include: having emails from a particular person going to a separate folder. You might want newsletters to go to a ‘read later’ folder for when you have some quiet time. You might want to permanently delete emails from a particular person, ie someone who sends blanket emails that you cannot unsubscribe from. You can forward certain emails to someone else on the team or have folders specific to certain projects. You can also have an alert sent to your phone if waiting on something urgent for example.

How: To manage and create new rules you go to Rules>Manage Rules & Alerts>New Rule. From here you can select the type of rule you want to apply then click Next to add more details such as whether its a rule for certain people or subjects, click Next again and add the details of what you want to happen to those emails. You can change the rules at any time by following the same process without clicking New Rule.

10. Creating Meetings

We’ve already looked at sharing your calendar with colleagues but you may not wish to do this with people outside of your organisation. Instead you can Email a snapshot of your calendar so that they can see your availability and create a meeting accordingly.

How: Go into your Calendar and click Email Calendar which then gives you the option of sending a day, week, month or entire Calendar (nb: they won’t see any changes that you make after you email)

To schedule meetings in-house (with those who you have shared Calendar access) a handy tip is to click Schedule View (located in the View tab) and you can see any gaps that you share at a glance. This is a really quick way of scheduling a meeting.

These are just some of my favourites but if you want to know any more or need help with any of the above, feel free to get in touch

(Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)


For more information on Outlook and the Office 365 package, call us on 0117 933 0570 or fill in our contact form and we’ll get back to you.


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