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Insider Tips: 5 Outlook Email Features That I Love

March 6, 2019 altonworks
By Chris Alton

Ding! Remember when the Ding! sound was an exciting novelty? Email was an entire character in movies like Sleepless in Seattle and You’re Got Mail. Back then, it was easy to love this innovative office tool.

Now that it’s easy to throw shade on the daily email office task, let’s look at some valuable Outlook features. After all, Outlook has been around in various forms since 1996. Within the last few years, Microsoft has persistently upgraded this program while dueling with Gmail for market share. Here’s a few ways you —the consumer — has benefitted from these upgrades.

Goodbye Clutter, hello Focused: If you’re an Office 365 user, perhaps you noticed when Clutter disappeared from Outlook. Perhaps overnight (during an upgrade), the word “Focused” appeared next to “Other” on your email screen. Clutter will be fully retired for every user by January 31, 2020. Still, the goal of Focused Inbox experience is the same: to reduce the overwhelm of receiving hundreds of emails every day. Your Focused emails are hopefully the most important emails to reply to and your Other emails are not-very-important-stuff. If your Outlook isn’t as smart as you’d like it to be, train it: hover over an email, right click, and when you see the box appear, select “Always Move to Focused.” I personally like the Focused and Other boxes. I’m one of those people that never deletes all of my email and this system helps me see the trees instead of the entire forest when I look at my mailbox.

Templates: This “hidden” tool is great for creating templates for emails that you send to people all the time. It’s worth creating a template for any email you send frequently with the same or similar text, layout, or special format styles. Here’s the easiest full instructions for creating an email message template that you can retrieve from the ribbon on the home tab.

Calendar: Outlook’s calendar is connected all the programs in Microsoft 365. That’s why it’s my go-to calendar for both work and home meetings and events. I know there are so many online calendars to try, but Outlook is the one that makes sense for me. I use it to tell my wife about upcoming fishing trips. I use it for meetings with clients. I use it to remind myself of a task I need to complete later in the day, tomorrow or next week. Setting up a reminder for myself that Dings! me is a surefire way to recall a task I’m likely to forget about doing, too. I may not like the Ding! sound, but I do need to hear it sometimes!

Notes: This is a simple feature that Microsoft hides, but we all know simple works best! Find it by right clicking on “…” icon in the lower left-hand corner of Outlook. This is where you can create notes for yourself. I use it both on my desktop and on my smartphone. Of course, every smartphone has a notes app, so I set my notes app to be connected to my exchange server: click on the arrow when you open notes on your smartphone and you can do the same. I use notes to write down tasks that I need to do for clients. I also use it when meet a new person and their dog in my office building so I can recall their names are Susan (human) and Phoebe (dog). Or when someone tells me about a good book or movie. My wife uses it to write poetry on her phone. Her smartphone syncs with her Outlook: she doesn’t want to lose her masterpieces if she loses her phone.

Outlook App: I downloaded the Outlook App on my smartphone for a specific reason: vacation. Sometimes I forget to set up my “Out of Office” email before I leave town.  Now I can set up this automatic I’m-out-of-the-office email from my smartphone. I think that’s the best reason for adding this to your app pile. Then if you want to keep this app and not be annoyed by it be sure to turn off all the sounds, badges and email previews that pop up the minute you get this app running. Sure, maybe you want these notifications, but I am a lot more productive if I’m not drawn to my smart phone every 30 seconds.