2 clever customizations in Outlook

There are many ways you can customize Outlook to suit the way you work. Here are two not-so-obvious things you can do to smooth out your Outlook life.

‘Reply All proof’ your ribbon

If you’ve ever hit the Reply All instead of Reply button by mistake, and didn’t catch it, you may have experienced the “career altering email message.” The problem is that it’s easy to do this unintentionally because the buttons are right next to each other in the ribbon. Starting with Office 2010, we gained the ability to modify our ribbon. Here are the steps to “reply all proof” your ribbon.

  1. Click File, Options, Customize Ribbon
  2. Expand the Home tab on the right, and locate Respond
  3. With Respond selected, click the New Group button at the bottom of the list
  4. Right-click the new group and rename it, for example, My Respond.
  5. On the left, change Choose commands from to Main Tabs
  6. Expand Home or Home (Mail), then Respond and expand.
  7. With your new group selected on the right, choose the buttons you’d still like to have access to in this spot, for example Reply, Forward and Meeting, clicking the Add button in the Middle for each one.
  8. Finally, select the original Respond group on the right and use the move arrows to move it down near the bottom. This has the effect of moving the group farther right in the ribbon.

Now, when you want Reply to All, you’ll have to look for it someplace you’re not used to looking for it, on the right. Meanwhile, the responses you most often use will be available to you. You can always reset customizations by going back to the Customize Ribbon options and clicking the Reset button on the bottom right.

Top of mind, top of navigation pane

One way to avoid duplication in email is to use Search Folders. You already have some set up by default. You probably see one called Unread items. That’s actually a search folder that looks for all items with the Unread flag turned on. You can make use of this technique for email that you are now duplicating so you can put one in a subject folder and one in a person folder. Then, if you always want to know when you have something new from that person, you just have to look at the Search Folder. If it’s really that important, you’ll want to move it to the top left of your screen, where you naturally focus first. You can do that by adding the Search Folder to your Favorites. Here are the steps:

  1. Right-click the Search Folders line at the bottom of your inbox, and choose New Search Folder.
  2. Using the Mail from specific people (or any other criteria you’d like to set up), click Choose and select the contact, or type their email address at the bottom of the dialog box in the From or Sent to -> field.
  3. Click OK, and OK again. Your new Search Folder may take a few moments to populate.
  4. Right-click your new Search Folder, and choose Show in Favorites.

The Search Folder “self-updates” and will show a bolded number indicating the number of unread messages you have from that person. In the Search Folder view, you’ll see the actual folder the email is in. So if you have filtering rules in place, you’ll know where it really is.

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