We widely use Microsoft Outlook in business to organize our email, manage calendars and share files. You don’t have to stop at the basics, however: Outlook has many features which can be utilized to help us work efficiently and speed up communications.
Email doesn’t have to eat up so much of your working week. In this article, the experts at Syntax IT Support London provide guidance to help you make the most out of the tools available to you.
Scheduling emails can be incredibly useful as it allows you to send emails at a time when you know they’re likely to be read by the recipient. This means your correspondence will be at the top of their inbox when they come to check it.
Outlook allows you to schedule outgoing emails using their Delay Delivery tool, so you can compose a message whenever it suits you without worrying about a late-night time stamp or the possibility that it won’t be seen beneath a slew of other emails. Using this feature also enables you to acknowledge your co-workers’ free time by ensuring that they won’t receive non-urgent messages on evenings or weekends.
Being aware of shortcut keys could change the way you email, making correspondence quicker than ever. There are a range of shortcuts to serve different purposes. Some examples are listed below.
- To compose a new message: use Ctrl + Shift + M
- To open a received message: use Ctrl + O
- To open a new task: use Ctrl + Shift + K
- To switch between inbox and outbox: use Ctrl + Shift + I/O
- To reply to an email: use Ctrl + R
- To forward an email: use Ctrl + F
- To insert a hyperlink: use Ctrl + K
- To spellcheck: use F7
Filter junk mail
Outlook has an automatic junk filter which automatically moves more obvious spam messages into your ‘junk’ folder. However, this filter has a range of more sophisticated tools which can be selected to keep more junk out of your inbox and protect you from phishing.
The default filter setting is ‘low’, but this can be changed to ‘high’ for maximum protection. You can also choose to have Outlook disable links in phishing messages and warn you about suspicious domain names in email addresses. Using these features means you no longer have to waste time sifting through junk and deleting spam emails.
A search folder is a virtual folder containing only emails that belong to a certain category. There are a number of options that can be selected to help you sort messages and keep your inbox organized. For example, the ‘Unread mail’ selection creates a folder in which all unread messages are located.
Once read, an email moves from this search folder to be shown elsewhere. Another available search folder is ‘Large mail’, which contains only items larger than 100 kilobytes. Other options include ‘Important mail’ and ‘Mail with specific words’. You can also create custom folders to sort messages into your own categories.
Most people have used Outlook’s search mechanism, but few to its full potential. Often, only one word is searched to find the desired message and this can mean sifting through a large volume of results. Once learning a few handy keywords, you can narrow your search results and avoid the headache. Some examples are listed below:
- Use ‘from: Sender’ to filter results so that only messages from a specific sender will appear
- Use ‘received: last week’ to see messages from the past week. This can be altered to a period of your choice.
- Use ‘has attachment: yes’ to only see messages containing attachments.
These keywords can be used together to find specific emails. If you want to find that message from a certain co-worker received last week, using search functions allows you to do so quickly.
This is a simple feature but it allows you to appear professional in your emails and also saves time. Creating a signature means you can include a closing message without having to type it out with each email you send. You might want to include contact details, office hours or your company website within this signature, or simply a polite sign off. The ‘Signatures’ tool is easy to find under the ‘File’ and ‘Options’ tabs.
Set up a distribution list
Creating a distribution list makes sending an email to a group of recipients much easier. This is a useful tool if you’re working with a specific team on a project, or need to send all employees within a department essential updates. On Outlook, distribution lists are called contact groups and are found under ‘New items’. Alternatively, to form a list you can use the ‘Ctrl + Shift + L’ shortcut.
Edit received messages
Editing received messages can be a helpful tool if the subject line of an email was poorly written or seems irrelevant. You might want to edit this to something that better describes the content so that you can easily identify the message in future. With a message selected, choose ‘Actions > Edit Message’ from the ‘Move’ section on the taskbar. Make any changes you’d like to both the body of the email and the subject.
Out of office auto reply
Setting up an auto-reply for when you’re out of office improves communication between yourself and other employees or clients. Letting individuals know that you won’t be able to respond for a given amount of time is good business practice and prevents anyone who seeks to contact you from becoming frustrated at a lack of reply. To set this up, you just have to go to ‘File > Info > Automatic replies’ and compose your desired message.
Send to undisclosed recipients
When sending an email to a group in which some individuals are unknown to each other, you can protect their identities by not disclosing their private email addresses to all recipients. To hide recipients you need to use the Bcc tool, which can be found by selecting ‘Cc’ when composing a new message.
These tools are invaluable in business and once you have become accustomed to using them, they can save you a lot of time and make using email effortless.