Office Outlook 2007: 10 User's Tips

Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 may look like earlier Outlook releases, but it offers more. Here's how to get the most from Office Outlook 2007.
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The first time you open Outlook 2007 you might be disappointed to see that, on the face of it, Outlook does not display the new ribbon and new interface that you will see in the other major applications in the Office 2007 suite such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Dig a little deeper under the surface, however, and you'll see that the Ribbon and new interface are there in places, but more than this, Outlook is significantly improved both in terms of both functionality and features.

There's a lot to like about Outlook 2007 and plenty of new tools to help you be more productive. Here are our ten best tips for working with the new Outlook 2007:


» 1) Get organized

The new Outlook To Do bar is highly visible on the right side of your Outlook screen. If you use a large display there is plenty of room for the To Do bar to sit there as you work. If you're using a small screen it can be collapsed by clicking the double chevron indicator in its top right corner, but it stays handy so you can access it with a single click.

The To Do bar gives you the tools you need to organize your day all in one place. It contains mini calendars as well as a list of upcoming appointments and tasks awaiting completion.

For the first time the Outlook task list is where it should be right in front of you so it's a tool you can easily use. To add a new task, click in the 'Type a new task' box, type the task description and it will be added as a task to be performed today. To configure more detail about the task, double-click it to open the task dialog and make your changes.

A task that you don't complete today is automatically rolled forward to tomorrow and will continue to appear in the list until it is complete this is a new and much overdue feature. You can color code your tasks to show the category it relates to (see below) and the Follow Up flag color indicates the task's urgency ? the darker red the flag color, the closer is its due date.


» 2) Using Quick flags

Often when you are reading your email you will encounter a message that needs attention but not right away. You can flag the message for attention using the Flag Status indicator to the right of the email in the Inbox panel.

A single click of the Flag Status turns the flag red and automatically adds the message to your To Do list for attention today. In either the To Do list or the Flag Status column you can right click the flag and choose a different due date for the task.

If you'd like to see a reminder, right click the flag to add a reminder for that task. You're sure to find this integration between follow up items and the task list invaluable in ensuring that everything that needs to be attended to is marked as such and is visible and easy to track.


» 3) Searches made easy

One of the most lauded improvements in Outlook 2007 is its search feature. If you use Windows Vista you have it built-in; if you use Windows XP you must install the Windows Desktop Search 3.01 tool to make use of it. You can download the app directly here.

This tool uses word-wheeling functionality, which means it begins to search for matches for your text as soon as you start typing. To narrow the search, type more letters in the search box and the results will show only those that match the text you've typed. This is a much faster way of searching than in older versions of Outlook, and because the search results are right in front of you, it's very intuitive and useful.

You can improve the quality of your searches using keywords, so From: Kevin with To: Helen and Subject: CHA will return messages from Kevin sent to Helen where the subject contains CHA. Use the options on the drop-down list to the right of the search box to configure what is searched.

You can then click the double down pointing chevrons to open a small search box to enter a more detailed search. Given the amount of time that you'll likely save from constantly looking for missing emails, Outlook 2007's new and improved search tool is sure to become your new best friend.


» 4) Calendars

Outlook 2007 supports the iCal calendar format, which lets you share your calendar with others using this format. It can also import calendars that are available in the iCal format. So, for example, if you find a calendar for your favorite TV show, sports team's games, or even eagerly anticipated DVD releases on a site like iCalShare.com, you can import the calendar into your Outlook.

The items from the calendars you subscribe to appear either side-by-side or overlaid over your Outlook calendar. To subscribe to a calendar, click the ICS subscription link for the calendar on the calendar Web site and answer Yes when Outlook asks if you want to subscribe to it.

To change the calendar from side-by-side to overlay, right click the calendar in the Calendar list and choose the desired View option. Now you'll always know what's coming up so you can make your plans around it.


» 5) Manage your RSS feeds

If you like to stay in touch with what's happening in the world and your industry, chances are that you subscribe to RSS feeds and you use a standalone feed reader such as FeedReader or SharpReader. Outlook 2007 can now manage your RSS feeds for you so you have a one-stop shop for all your email and news information.

You configure your RSS feeds as accounts from the same Tools, Account Settings dialog and the feed will be checked for new items whenever the All Accounts group is checked. You can also configure feeds as a separate group for checking at a different frequency. Once a feed item is received it appears in the RSS feeds folder in your Personal Folders list.

Click a feed item to open it in a window and click the View Article link to view the original feed if desired.


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