Five Ways to ...

Use Microsoft Outlook More Effectively

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Here are five things to help your business get more out of Outlook.

1Outlook disables automatic image download but you can override this option Downloading Images. Later versions of Outlook don't automatically download any images contained within emails. This has good and bad aspects. Disabling images creates a faster download and reduces the chances of catching a virus or other nasty from the image. On the other hand, it can make emails look very plain and boring.

You can download images from a specific email or you can switch the function on or off. The default is generally that images will not be downloaded. There are two ways to change the settings;

  • For a specific email, click in the box that says "Right-click here to download pictures". All images in the email will be downloaded but the default settings will be unchanged.
  • An email with images will have a statement at the top above where it says who it's from, saying "Click here to download pictures". Clicking this will display a separate dialogue box with the option "Change Automatic Download Settings". Selecting this will allow you to change what happens on every email you receive.

2You can tell whether you use Outlook or Outlook Express by the words in the bar at the very top of the screenUse Outlook rather than Express. Any time Windows is loaded, e.g. when you have a new computer or it has to be repaired, you will have a choice of whether to use Outlook or Outlook Express. Choose Outlook as it offers more features and is easier to restore if anything ever goes wrong with your mail server.

You can tell whether you use Outlook or Outlook Express by the words in the bar at the very top of the screen.

3Select Edit and Undo and reverse the latest changesEdit - Undo. Most people are familiar with this facility when using other Microsoft programs such as Word or Excel but don't know about it for Outlook. Selecting Edit from the menu options at the top and then Undo cancels the last action you did with an email.

It's useful in Outlook if, for example, you were moving an email or folder but then dropped it in the wrong place and couldn't find it. Edit Undo will put it back to where it was so you can repeat the action correctly.

4To access the Contact, Tasks & Calendar functions select Go and choose from the drop down listExtra Functions - Contacts, Tasks and Calendar. Outlook has a number of useful subsidiary tools including a Contacts List, a comprehensive Tasks list and an online calendar. They're all linked, so you could include a task on a to-do list, set a notification in the calendar for when it's time to start doing it and then have a link to the contact details to notify the right person when you've finished.

The various functions can be accessed from the menu options at the top. Select Go and then the function you'd like from the drop-down list.

5To set a rule select Tools and the Rules and AlertsSet a Rule. You can program Outlook to automatically perform a specific action when something happens. For example, you might want every email from a certain person or with particular words in the subject line to go into a nominated folder. That way you don't have to act on it until you're ready (you could even set a Task with a specific time in the Calendar for it).

  • From the menu options at the top, select Tools
  • Select Rules and Alerts
  • This opens a dialogue box from which you should select New Rule
  • This will open a Wizard which will guide you through the steps needed to create the rule. You'll be asked to select from a variety of options to help build your rule.
  • When you select OK the rule will be set and actioned the next time an email with that set of characteristics is received.

The rule can be edited in the same way, but rather than selecting New Rule, highlight the rule and then select Change Rule.

You can also use this feature to set an Out of Office message, e.g. if you won't be able to read your emails because you're working away from the office or on holiday.

If you need help with any of the functions listed here or any other features you want to use on Outlook, please contact us. 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.