Monday, November 14, 2011

Making Microsoft Outlook More Productive For You

Most of us Outlook on a daily basis if for no other reason than to access our email. But it is a productive program that can help you control much of your day, and most of us do not take the time to use it to its full ability. I would like to offer a few ideas here that may help make your day more productive.

1. Turn off the new-message alert. Yes, I know that most of us have this on by default, so every time we get a new message sent to us, the program flags us that it has arrived. And I would bet that much of the time you then immediately go to the message to respond to it, or to at least read it. But think about it: how is this any different than someone sticking their head in your door every 5 minutes to ask you something? You can turn the alert off. Here is how:

Choose Tools, Options, and click E-mail Options.
a) Click Advanced E-Mail Options.
b) Uncheck the box next to "Play a sound."
c) Uncheck the box next to "Briefly change the mouse cursor."
d) Uncheck the box next to "Show an envelope icon in the notification area."
e) Uncheck the box next to "Display a New Mail Desktop Alert."
f) Click OK.

2. Modify the subject line of archived Outlook email. Often what starts as an email chain about one subject may morph into a chain about something completely different? So, for example, you and a colleague begin a short series of back and forth emails about the dinner you just had together, and in that series you note a question about a work-related topic of some import, say, about a change in educational funding for research. This is now an email you wish to save, but the original topic line is about the dinner you had, so you cannot easily find that email now that you need it. You can actually edit the subject line to make it easier for you to find or to catalogue it. Here is how:

In Outlook, open the e-mail in question (You can't do this with message previews; you have to double-click the message to open it in a new window.)
a) Click anywhere in the Subject line to place your cursor.
b) Edit the subject as you see fit.
c) Hit Enter, then accept the warning Outlook gives you.

3. Use Outlook to access your twitter account. For those of you who use twitter, you can use Outlook to read and manage your tweets. To do so, you need to add a plug-in to the system, known as Twlnbox. When you install this, it will add a new folder to your inbox (and you can then make individual folders for each sender, which may be of help in a large organization such as ours). From there, you can just provide your twitter user name and password and it will locate all the tweets to your account and put them in the folder. You can then read them like email. You can click the toolbar that the program will put on Outlook and use it to send our your own tweets, and it will also let you know when new tweets arrive.

These are just a few ideas about making Outlook do more of what you need it to do. This is based on a short article by Rick Broida from PCWorld, (

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