Working smarter with Outlook

Outlook Hints Tips

Want to make the most of Outlook? Here are a number of Outlook tips that can make handling your email and appointments quicker and more efficient.

Public Holidays

If you don’t want to miss public holidays, Outlook can automatically add them to your calendar and it has nearly 100 different locations to choose from!

To enable this, simply go to: Options (File – Options) – Calendar – Add Holidays, and choose the countries that you are working with.

Outlook - Public Holidays set

They are added as All Day Events, so you can freely set reminders, apply colors and mark yourself as, Out of Office.

Two Time Zones

When you are working across multiple time zones, before you schedule any meeting it’s important to know the time on the other side to avoid setting up a meeting that might be too early or too late. Instead of trying to figure it out, Outlook can help you by showing two time zones at the same time.

Outlook - Two time zones

To enable it, simply go to: Options – Calendar – Time zones – Show a second time zone.

Outlook - Two time zones set

Easy scheduling of meetings and appointments

Staff are familiar with using the web service Doodle for finding a suitable date for a meeting. Unfortunately, this only secures a date via a poll. All participants then need to remember to enter the agreed meeting date into their calendar and often, due to the time taken to complete a poll, the dates have already been booked for other commitments and the scheduling starts all over again. Outlook makes the booking of meetings a doddle.

All you need to do is create a new meeting, add the participants and then check the schedule to find a mutually convenient slot. You can even add a local meeting room to book the meeting venue at the same time. All participants receive an invitation via email and can choose to accept or decline the meeting or even delegate it to a colleague. The meeting organiser can easily see who is attending and can very simply reschedule the meeting should that be necessary for whatever reason. For this to work efficiently, staff are encouraged to manage their diary commitments electronically so that the scheduling is based on your actual availability. Those who have recently given this method a try have found it to be incredibly easy and efficient.

Scheduling assistant overview

Once you have entered initial information, you can use the Scheduling Assistant option to find a suitable slot for this meeting:

Scheduling assistant

Scheduling assistant view

Select a mutually convenient slot for your meeting and then send the invitation. The meeting participants will receive an invitation per email. When they accept the meeting invitation, the meeting will be automatically added to their calendar. Meeting invitees also have the option to propose a new time for the meeting which would then be suggested to the meeting organiser to action.

In addition, if you have booked your venue via this method, the room calendar will be updated with your booking and you will receive a confirmation that the room has been successfully booked for you.

We encourage that the meeting participants send a response to the meeting organiser so that they have an overview of how many people to expect to their meeting. If you decline the meeting, it can also prompt them to possibly reschedule if your attendance is required.

Instantly create new emails and appointments

Regardless of whether you’re looking at your inbox or your calendar, you can create new emails, appointments, contacts and tasks using the New Items dropdown on the Home tab. If you don’t want to delve into the Outlook interface, right-click on Outlook’s icon in the Windows taskbar to open a jumplist offering direct shortcuts to create any sort of new item:

Outlook tasks from taskbar

Sharing Calendars

When you are working in a team, especially when you are not sitting close to each other, scheduling a meeting can be hard. When choosing a time, you can only see if someone is busy or not, but you will not see any meeting details. This can be overcome by sharing your Outlook calendar. You may agree within your team that this is a beneficial way of working.

Outlook calendar sharing

After your calendar was shared, everyone will be able to access all the meetings details you have in it. If you want to prevent it from showing certain meetings and events, simply use the “Private” flag and only you will be able to access those items.

Outlook - Private Meeting combined

Sort your mail with Rules and Conditional Formatting

The Rules dropdown in the Move section of the Home tab provides options to create and manage rules for automatically processing messages as they arrive.

If you select a message before clicking, it will offer to create a rule affecting similar messages. Select Create Rule and you’ll be given the option to set all sorts of criteria to check for – sender, recipient, size, date and more – and choose what should happen to matching emails.

18 Outlook tips

A similar feature is Conditional Formatting, which you’ll find under View Settings on the View tab. This doesn’t move or process messages, but it displays emails matching certain criteria in a specified font and colour, so you can instantly spot them in your inbox.

Your email and calendar can automatically apply colors to your emails and meetings based on pre-defined rules. For example, emails sent to you, when you are the only person on the “To” line, can be coloured red. To do that, simply choose: View – View Settings – Conditional Formatting (or Automatic Formatting), and you can add a simple rule as shown below:

Outlook - Automatic Colors

Your calendar and email have separate sets of rules, but they are accessed the same way.

Filter emails to find relevant messages

Another quick way to find specific emails is to use the Filter Email dropdown at the far right of the Home tab. Choosing a menu option instantly filters your mailbox display to show only certain types of emails, such as those with attachments, those dated within a specific time period and so forth. Within your filtered view, you can type into the regular search box to drill down further.

18 Outlook tips

For more search options, select “More Filters…” from the dropdown to make the Search Tools tab visible: here you’ll find additional settings, as well as the Recent Searches dropdown that lets you repeat recent searches with a single click.

We have a wealth of Outlook related information and tutorials on our intranet pages:

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