Five Ways to ...

Improve your use of Microsoft Outlook

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This still remains the most common way for people to receive their emails. However, there are many things that can be done with it which people don’t know about it.

Here are five of them.

1Outlook with the Inbox highlightedSort & file. At the top of the Inbox is a row with headers including From, To, Subject etc. If you place the cursor over this row and then click the right mouse button you will be presented with a drop-down menu. From this you can choose which headings you want displayed and the order by clicking on Customise Current View.

This brings up another box with various options. You can explore these sometime but the one that allows you to change the fields is Fields. To include a field, highlight it in the box on the left and then click Add. It will now appear in the box on the right. To remove it, highlight it in the box on the right and then click Remove. It will now move to the box on the left.

To change the order of the fields, highlight it in the box on the right and then click Move Up or Move Down until it is in the order you wish. When you select OK (twice) the Inbox will change to reflect your new settings.

You can sort emails by clicking on a header at the top of the Inbox. So, if you click on From it will re-order the emails by sorting them into alphabetical order based on who sent it. Click it again and it will reverse the order. This can be useful for finding all emails relating to a particular subject. Simply click on Subject and everything related to the same subject line will be displayed beside each other. Click Received to return to the default order, i.e. the date in which they were received.

2Change the appearance of the Preview Pane. You don't have to open every email to know whether you want it or not, use the Preview Pane instead. This is a panel that displays the contents of the email in a box either below or to the right of the Inbox.

Access the Preview Pane by hovering over the gap between the Inbox and the pane. Clicking the right mouse button will display a drop-down menu from which you can choose to switch it off, or display it at the right or bottom of the Inbox. Switching it off allows you to display more emails on the screen.

3Create an Autosignature. This feature allows you to set up standard text for the bottom of your emails. Incidentally, if you are a limited company there are legal restrictions on what you should include at the bottom of your emails, i.e. the company name, registration number, registered address and place of registration. Use the Autosignature to set this up and you'll never have to worry about remembering it.

  • Select Tools from the menu at the top of the page and then Options. This opens up a dialogue box with a number of tabs. Explore this sometime as it allows you to personalise many of your email settings.
  • Select the tab called Mail Format and you will see that there is a section at the bottom called Signatures.
  • Select the button that says Signatures.
  • Select New
  • Give your signature a name so that you can refer to it easily and select Next.
  • The next box allows you to type the text you want in your signature. You can change font sizes, colours, etc as required.
  • Select Finish and then OK to take you back to the main signatures dialogue box. From here you can select the signature you want to insert into new messages and indicate whether you want to include it in replies or forwarded messages.

Create new Autosignatures by repeating the above procedure. You can set up a default signature using the 'Select signatures for account' drop-down list.

If you want to manually insert a signature from pre-created choices then set up a new message and then select Insert. Hover over Autotext to display a drop-down menu. Hover over Signatures on this drop-down menu and then select the signature you want from the range. It will then be inserted into your message.

4Set up a Circulation List. Distribution Lists are a great way to send an email to multiple recipients. Here's how to set up and use a list.

Microsoft Icons for setting up a Circulation ListOpen up the Address Book. Select New Entry to open up a dialogue box from which you should select New Distribution List and then OK (displayed on the right are images of the icons).

  • A new dialogue box will open with the cursor in a box called Name. Give your distribution list a name.
  • To add members, select the Add New option which will open a new dialogue box.
  • Complete the name of your contact, then the email address and select OK.
  • Click Add New Member for each new contact.
  • When you have finished, select Save and Close and you will see the name of your distribution list in your Address Book.

When you want to use the distribution list, open up a new email and then click the To box. This will open the Address Book from which you can select the distribution list you want. Highlight it, select OK and the name of the Distribution List will appear in the To Box, although the names in the Distribution List will not. You will see a little cross in a square to the left of the name. Click this cross to see the names of the members in the list.

Note; all recipients will see the members of your distribution list when they receive your email. To avoid this happening, put your own email address in the To box and the Distribution List in the Bcc box (Blind Carbon Copy). Then no-one else will see who you have sent the email to.

5Back-up your Inbox. This is a hugely important feature allowing you to make sure you have a copy of your emails if you ever lost access to your computer and they are not stored on a server.

  • Select File from the menu at the top of the page and then Import and Export.
  • Click Export to a File and then Next.
  • Select Personal Folder File (.pst) and then Next.
  • You will now be presented with a list of all the folders in your Outlook. Choose the ones you want (select Include Subfolders if you have them) and then Next.
  • You will now be presented with a dialogue box with an option in it called Browse. Choose this option and decide where you want to save the file which will be created when you do the back-up.
  • Give the back-up file a name.
  • Click Finish.

By going to the location where you saved the back-up file, you can copy it to wherever your back-up is going to be, e.g. a CD or memory stick.

To make the process even easier and to encourage you to do it regularly, you should download a handy little tool called PST Backup from Microsoft. This will prompt you to carry out a back-up however often you need it and provides a wizard to make it easier. Download the PST Backup Tool or get more details first from the Microsoft Website.

If you need help with any of the functions listed here or any other features you want to use on Microsoft Outlook, please contact us and we'll see what we can do. Please note that this information is provided for general guidance only and P&L cannot accept responsibility for any actions or consequences as a result of using these hints and tips.