How to make Microsoft Outlook Work Better for You

Electronic mail, whether for personal or professional purposes is now the most common form of written communication. Software for writing, sending, and receiving email is called email clients and the most popular is Microsoft Outlook. Other ways of managing email make use of web applications. Two of the most popular web mail apps are Gmail by Google.com and Yahoo Mail. Because Outlook is a stand-alone application and mainly because it is made by Microsoft, it is only natural for the product to have millions of users worldwide. This is important because any improvement in Outlook means that the lives of its millions of users are improved as well. A lobby by millions of Outlook users for improving the software is on the way to Microsoft. However, there is no need to wait for maker of the software to update the email client for it to work better for you because with a little tweaking, Outlook can make you more productive professionally as well as on a personal level.

Monitor new email yourself

Do you know how it feels when an overzealous office mate who wants to impress you constantly updates you with the status of the proposed company picnic next weekend? It is nice to know that some people can be so enthusiastic but you feel that you don’t need to be told about the picnic every hour. Well, this is Outlook’s default behavior every time a new email comes along. In case you didn’t know it, here is what will happen when Outlook receives email. It plays a sound, it changes the mouse icon, it displays a new mail alert on the desktop, and it displays a new mail icon in the notification area of the Windows taskbar. While the notification icon can be unobtrusive, playing a sound and changing the icon can be especially distracting when you are in the flow of writing. So what did I do so that I won’t be bothered by all the bells and whistles?  I just go to Outlook’s email options by first clicking on Tools, then Options on the menu bar. Next, I select Advanced email options. If you do not want Outlook to play sound, uncheck it from the options. You can do the same to prevent Outlook from changing the shape of the mouse icon, to stop posting a new mail notification on the desktop, and finally to stop Outlook from displaying the new mail icon on the taskbar. Click on the OK button to save the changes.

Now, Outlook is working on the background receiving new emails, leaving you to work peacefully.

Update the subject line of email

Say that the company is holding the annual picnic two weeks from now. Everyone gets an email with the subject “Company picnic”. Well, the subject line is brief and straight to the point. Then somebody suggests that each one brings a dish on picnic day and adds it as a reply to the first email. However, since the subject line still says “Company picnic” you fail to notice that you have been assigned one meal because that email is just one among the fifty or more emails you got about the picnic. Fortunately, that same nosy office mate tells you that everyone is supposed to bring something. So how do you change the subject line so that the particular heading becomes more informative? There is actually an undocumented feature in Outlook that makes editing the subject line possible. Just open that particular email in a new window. You can do this by double clicking on it. Click anywhere on the subject line to edit the heading. Press the Enter key and ignore any warnings that may come up because you really intended this to happen. Now your email has more appropriate subject headings.

A tweet on Outlook

Tweeter and Outlook is now able to work together and this possible with a free plugin called Twinbox. After installing the plugin, a Twitter toolbar will be displayed as well as a folder in the inbox. If you use Twitter professionally, you can make a folder for each person you tweet but it wouldn’t be wise to add a folder for each person in your social network especially if you have hundreds of followers. After you give your twitter name and password to Outlook, it then reads the tweets displaying them in your inbox just like email. Twinbox can only handle one Twitter account and some may see this as a serious limitation. But because the plugin is free, I am just plain happy that this must-have tool is available for any Twitter loving user to download.

Spell check it before you send it

Business correspondence should be thoroughly checked for mistakes, especially silly misteaks on spelling. There are users who go to extremes just to compose a perfect letter. One of them uses a word processor to write the letter and saves it as text so that Outlook can import it later. While this is rightfully silly ( the user could have just copy and paste it into Outlook) it reflects how users are circumventing the lack of a spell checker for Outlook. Not anymore because there Is an extension called Spell Checker for OE where spelling mistakes can be edited before it is too late. Better yet, Microsoft has released the free Live Mail which is a replacement for Outlook Express. It has a more streamline interface and additional functionality like dynamic search, spam filtering and a spell checker.

So with the four tricks discussed, any user can make Outlook easier and more fun to use. There are other tricks out there which only prove that you don’t have to wait for Microsoft to ship updates to software to you more productive and efficient.

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