Three Outlook Tips

Tip #1 - Create a New Contact from an E-Mail Message

You've probably received lots of e-mail from folks who aren't in your Contacts folder and occasionally you've wanted to add them. You could just press CTRL+SHIFT+C to create a new Contact item and type in their info, but there's an easier way...

Drag and drop the e-mail message onto the "Contacts" group of the Navigation Pane.  When you do that a new Contact Item will be opened with their name and e-mail address already populated and the body of the e-mail you got in the Contact Notes field.

Lots of people (like me) have a signature block on their e-mail messages that includes their job title, company name, address, phone numbers, website... I just drag and drop each of those pieces of information to the appropriate fields on the Contact form.  When that's done I can edit or delete the remaining text in the Contact Notes to leave just the amount I want in order to give me some context on how I met this person.

Once it's all set the way I want it, I click "Save and Close" and I'm all done!

Tip #2 - Viewing Multiple Days on the Calendar

You've probably already played with Outlook's calendar views to show you a single day, a week or a month at a time. Did you know you can get a view that shows multiple non-contiguous days side-by side? Yes, days that aren't actually next to each other on the calendar...can be displayed next to each other for planning purposes.

Let's say you have a meeting scheduled for the 4th. Client calls and says "The 4th isn't going to work for me after all. Can we reschedule to the 6th, the 9th, the 11th or the 15th?" You could click on each of those days individually and look at them or...

Hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard and click those days on the Date Navigator (the calendar at the top left or top right of your view).  You'll see each day appear side-by-side by side.

Bonus Tip: Be sure to select the first date (the 4th in this example too) so that when you agree on a date to reschedule to you can just drag/drop the wayward meeting to it's new day/time.

To clear these from the view just click on any single date (like today) on the date navigator.

Tip #3 - Use Conditional Formatting to View Your Inbox

If you have a pretty active mail folder and you tend to get a lot of messages it can be helpful to have some visual cues about messages that are particularly important to help you sift through them. Outlook's Conditional Formatting feature lets you use fonts and colors to set different kinds of messages apart.

Let's create a rule to highlight messages from your biggest client:

In Outlook 2010...go to the View tab, click View Settings and the Conditional Formatting button.  Click "Add" to create a new formatting rule and give it a name. Click the Font button to specify a font you want to use.  You can change the color, type or size. 

 Choose a different color for the text - maybe green - and let's make it 1 point larger.  Good.  Now OK your way back out of that and click the "Condition" button. In the Filter dialog box that appears click the From button and enter the e-mail address (or addresses) of your big client.  Then click OK all the way back out.

When you return to your folder, with this view applied, any messages from the big client should now appear green and slightly larger. 

I use several custom conditional formatting rules to differentiate messages that are from certain people or located in certain folders at a glance. Outlook uses conditional formatting to make unread messages appear bold or past due items appear red. (See: "Why Aren't My Unread Messages Bold Anymore?")

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