20 Dec Getting the Most From Microsoft 365 – 5 Hidden Features of Outlook That You Should Know About
With around half a billion users, Microsoft’s Outlook is the second most popular email service worldwide. Known for its clean, user-friendly interface and host of features that make email management a breeze, the email client is a much-lauded and popular choice with both individual and corporate users alike.
Of course, for Microsoft 365 users Outlook is about so much more than sending and receiving emails. Officially dubbed a ‘personal information manager’ the platform offers calendaring, task management, contact management, note-taking and much more, and thanks to deep integration with the rest of Microsoft 365 forms an integral part of Microsoft user experience.
Despite many users interacting with Outlook on a near-daily basis, many of its useful features go overlooked or underused. Here are 5 hidden features of Outlook that you should explore to help your team become more productive and manage their emails more efficiently.
Templates are extremely helpful when using the likes of word or PowerPoint, as the pre-formatting they provide helps to fast-track the end result. Outlook also allows users to create email templates that can be used time and time again, resulting in faster email writing: something many users fail to realise.
To create a template, type out a message in the required format and click ‘save as.’ Then select ‘Outlook Template’ from the drop-down menu labelled ‘save as type.’
Ready to use that template? Click on the ‘home’ tab and navigate to ‘new items’ in the top left. Then select ‘more items’ from the menu, and then ‘Choose Form’ from the submenu that appears.
A window should now pop up which allows you to source your template from various locations. To locate the one you saved, select ‘User Templates in File System’ from the drop down menu as shown below.
You can then choose the template required from the list presented and click ‘open.’ The template you created will then appear in a new message box ready for you to populate.
Keeping on top of a large volume of daily emails can be a time-consuming task. If only there was a way to have a cursory glance at the contents of emails without having to open each one individually. Outlook’s ‘Message Preview’ feature let’s you do just that, allowing you to set the number of lines of each email that are displayed in the message list. This feature can be configured for every folder or a select few, and while it may not seem ground-breaking, it can make it a lot easier to discern those urgent messages from those that can wait or be deleted.
To configure message preview, navigate to the ‘view’ tab and click on the drop-down menu titled ‘Message Preview.’ You can now choose to display one, two or three lines. Upon making your choice you’ll then be asked whether you want to apply your selection to the folder you’re in or all your mailboxes.
The example below shows how emails will appear when a ‘2 line’ preview is selected.
It’s well known that ‘@ mentions’ can be used to get someone’s attention in Microsoft Teams, but many users don’t realise that Outlook also permits this useful action. Tagging someone in this way in the body of an email will grab their attention in several ways. Their name will be emboldened in the email body, they’ll automatically be added to the ‘To’ line if they haven’t been already and an ‘@’ symbol will appear in their inbox email list.
Type the ‘@’ symbol in the email text followed by the first letter or two of the person’s name. The contact you’re looking for should be suggested, and that’s really all there is to it.
The ‘@mentions’ feature also works well with Outlook’s message filtering options, allowing you to exclusively view messages in which you’ve been tagged. Simply locate the inbox filter located in the top right and select ‘mentioned mail’ from the filtering options as shown.
Use emails to set up calendar events or tasks
Let’s say you’ve just received an email containing instructions such as a request that a meeting be arranged or a task be assigned. How do you link that email to the task you’re about to create or the meeting you’re about to schedule? Do you have to copy and paste the email into the task or meeting?
No, Outlook makes it much less cumbersome. Simply drag and drop the message in question into the calendar or task icon on the navigation pane on the left. This will immediately auto-populate a task or meeting template with the email contents. Then, all that’s left for you to do is complete the form with the necessary details such as times, attendees, assignees, priority level etc.
Achieve more with a single click using ‘Quick Steps’
Outlook’s ‘Quick steps’ feature is a great way to save time when managing emails. Essentially functioning as lightweight automation, it allows you to perform multiple actions on an email with a single click, reducing clunky processes down to single-click actions.
The feature comes with a handful of preconfigured defaults, but the real value lies in its customisability. To set up a new Quick Step, navigate to the ‘Home’ tab, locate the ‘Quick Steps’ menu on the toolbar and select ‘Create New’ from the available options.
You’ll then be presented with a window that allows you to name your ‘Quick Step’ and configure the multiple actions you want it to perform. Start by giving the Quick Step a name that will allow you to identify it. Then start configuring actions, using the ‘Add Action’ button to configure subsequent actions as shown below – green ellipse.
If you so wish you can even assign keyboard shortcuts to your Quick Step and have explanatory text appear when your cursor hovers over it – blue ellipse.
Loaded with features and packed with cross-platform functionality as standard, it’s not hard to see why Microsoft Outlook is the email client of choice for millions of companies around the globe. Stay tuned for more informative articles designed to help you leverage maximum benefit from your Microsoft 365 subscription.
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