Outlook-2013I know what you’re thinking … you work in SharePoint day in and day out, designing custom workflows and building servers and installing updates, why are you writing about Outlook?  The answer is simple.  If you’ve worked anywhere and had a cubicle in the last 15 years, you likely use Outlook to get and send email.  Even though we all use Outlook, there are features (some new, some not) that if you take the time, can help your day to day be a LITTLE easier.  I’m not saying this features will make you coffee or solve world peace, but every bit helps right?  Let’s look at 8 great features in the latest iteration of Outlook (2013).   

  1. Conversations
    I think the “Conversation view” came into its own in Outlook 2010, but you could mimic it somewhat in previous versions.  This is usually a love or hate it thing, and takes some getting used to.  To enable it, from the ribbon click View, then check the box for “Show as conversations”.  Try it for a week, and see if you can get used to it.  It shows your email in a thread fashion, so all replies in an email chain all show together instead of being spread out separately.


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  2. Reminders (and Follow Up)
    Sooner or later you had an email where you needed to remember it, but didn’t want to bother creating a full task action.  Or better yet, you need to send an email to your team, and want to pop a reminder.  For example, you email your team to enter time by COB Friday at 5pm, and you want to pop a dialog 1 hour before that time.  You could just flag it for follow up, but I’m specifically talking about the reminders piece of the follow up functionality.  Right click on an email, click Follow up –> Add Reminder.  Set your options, and the kicker here is the Reminder option.  This pops the alert at the designated time.

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  3. Categories
    Categories help you organize your email.  It’s like having folders within your email folders.  I assume that you’ve used folders before to organize your email, and this just goes a step further.  Within your folder of “emails about cats”, you can assign categories to email for any purpose you deem fit.  I use these especially on calendar entries to color different meetings for internal meetings, client meetings, demos or webinars, etc.  So at a glance of my week, I can see what kind of meetings I’ve got going on.  Or you use with Search Folders (see below) to create a dynamic collection of these “category types” of emails in one place.  I use these to flag emails that I want to keep handy but don’t want to flag them for follow up. 

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  4. Quick Steps
    Speaking of folders, are you tired of constantly moving emails to the same few folders constantly?  Use Quick Steps!  Think of them as a macro for email, an automated set of steps that fire at the click of a button.  From the ribbon under Quick Steps, click Create New (though there are already a few ones already created).  As you can see, you can do a lot of different things.  Think of anything you do more than twice a day, make into a quick step. 

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  5. RSS Feeds
    I guess being so many techies all the time, I lose track that not everyone follows blogs.  Even non-techies can follow blogs, and while there are all kinds of readers and apps, you can use Outlook.  If you notice, there’s a folder called RSS feeds.  Generally, to follow a blog and get updates when new blog entries are published, you subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed.  Let’s say you want to subscribe to our C5 blog feed. 

    1. Click the RSS Feed link on the top right side of the page, and grab the URL (/Home/rssid/1)
      1. Alternatively, on the top bar on the site, you can click Follow, then click the orange icon and copy the URL
    2. In Outlook, right click on RSS Feeds in the folder list, and click Add a New RSS Feed
    3. Paste the link in the box, and click Yes on the pop up box
    4. Done! 

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      I know, I follow a lot of blogs.  It’s a problem, I’m working on it.  New blogs will show in the Unread items, so if too many blogs clog that view, you can create a search folder.  Anywhere you see this symbol image, it’s an RSS feed you can follow.

  6. Search Folders
    Ok for the next to last feature, let me tell you about search folders.  The “Unread Email” folder is actually a search folder, you just didn’t know it.  Right-click on it, and see where it says “Customize This Search Folder”?  You can’t customize THAT one beyond the name and where it gathers, but you can for new ones you create.  Let’s say you’re using categories like we mentioned above, and you want to automatically have all emails flagged by a certain category.  You can also create it based on people, unread, email age, size, follow up, etc.  To create one:

    1. On the ribbon, click Folders, and click New Search Folder
    2. Scroll down under Organizing Email, and click Categorized Email (assuming that’s what you want, but click on whatever criteria you want)
    3. Click the Choose button
    4. Pick your category and click Ok, then Ok again

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      It shows up at the bottom under Search Folders, and if you want to show up at the top in favorites, right-click on it and click Show in favorites

  7. Limit desktop notifications to only “most important”
    I’m sure you know about the desktop notification when new mail arrives.  An email comes in, and you get a little popup in the bottom right corner of your screen with a little preview of the email.  What if you’re trying to focus on a task, but don’t want to close your email because you don’t want to miss important email?  You’re in luck, because you tweak that notification (sort of).  Basically, you turn off the general all-purpose notification, and create a rule that says “if the email is marked important, pop notification.  To be clear, we are talking about emails that had ”high importance” (shows an exclamation point in the preview, and says “This message was sent with High Importance”).  One other thing to note, is that you can of course go further than what I show you below, feel free to customize as you see fit.

    1. Turn off general one -
      1. Click File –> Options, on the Mail category , under the Message arrival heading, uncheck Display a Desktop Alert
    2. Create rule
      1. From your Inbox, click on an email that was marked as high important.  Right click on the email and click Rules –> Create rule
      2. Click Advanced Options
      3. Click the checkbox near the top that says “marked as high importance
      4. Click Next button
      5. On the “What do you want to do with the message?”, scroll to the very bottom and click the checkbox “display a Desktop Alert”
      6. Click Next button twice (unless you want an exception)
      7. Give it a name that you want, and click Finish
      8. Done! 

  8. Whatever you do, don’t click send!  You’re missing an attachment!
    This is a new feature in Outlook 2013.  Basically it’s logic that reads your email and it finds text like “hey check out the attachment for more information” and detects no file was attached, it will throw a warning.  Cool eh?  Just a helpful reminder before the email actually goes through that helps prevents you from looking a little … embarrassed.  What if you were emailing the CEO, and you had to follow up.  What a first impression! 

    How do you turn this on?  Click File –> Options, and in the Mail category, look under the heading “Sending messages”.  Click the checkbox then try to send an email with certain text.
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    When you hit send without an attachment, you get this:
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    From my understanding, it checks the following words or phrases in the subject or body of the email (context is crucial here):
    • attached, attachment, attaching
    • "Enclosed" ,"Going To Attach"," Here is", "Include", "Enclose", "See Snapshot", "PFA", "Print Attachments", "Sending You", "This Email" ,"Now Attach", "This is"

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