Organizing the email pile in Outlook


Whether you get 5 emails a day or 500 – everyone feels that they get a lot of email. And the more email that we get, the more important it becomes to organize the email.

ORGANIZE YOUR EMAIL

Whether you get 5 emails a day or 500 – everyone feels that they get a lot of email. And the more email that we get, the more important it becomes to organize the email.

Outlook in its various incarnations has some features to organize incoming mail. Some of these features don’t really do enough to be really useful, and as result Office users are expected to be grateful for what they get and pine for more.

Here’s some suggestions and overview of what you might use …


COLORS

The simplest feature is to change the color of the listing so it is more or less visible in the Inbox listing.

Go to Tools | Organize and choose Using Colors and you have some options:

You can change the text color of message according to whether the messages are



  • to a particular address (handy if you have multiple email addresses or aliases)
  • from a certain email address or name.

The details from the currently selected message are inserted automatically but you can change the ‘to’ or ‘from’ details before applying the color.

The normal use for this feature is to highlight important messages but you can also use Grey or Silver to mark less important messages.

When choosing a color remember that the list defaults to a selection in the middle of the color list. There are color choices above as well as below the drop down list.

The other color option is to highlight messages that are only sent to you. ‘You’ is defined as your name and email address (as defined by the selected message).

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MOVING OR CHANGING ON ARRIVAL

A related option is to move a message when it arrives.

You can do this by choosing Tools | Rules and Alerts (in Outlook 2003). Click on the ‘New rule’ button and use the wizard to make a new rule. There are some ‘templates’ for what Microsoft has deemed to be commonly used tasks.

There are options to move messages according to the sender, certain words in the subject or to a distribution list. You can delete an incoming message or flag message from a particular person (like your boss).

If you choose ‘blank rule’ at the start of the New Rule wizard you’ll get many more options such as …


CATEGORIES

Any Outlook object can be linked to a category by right-clicking and choosing Categories …. You can define your own categories and certainly trim down the long ‘Master’ list to just the ones you want to use.

For example – I have a category for ‘Travel’ – all emails, contacts and appointments related to flights, hotels etc are linked to that category.


APPLY CATEGORIES AUTOMATICALLY

You can do this by choosing Tools | Rules and Alerts (in Outlook 2003). Click on the ‘New rule’ button and then ‘Start from a blank rule’.

Choose the message parameters then select the ‘assign it to the category’ plus any other changes you’d like to make to those messages.

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FLAG

Flagging a message is a nifty addition in Outlook 2003 but it really doesn’t go far enough.

You can click on the flag icon on the side of a message in the Inbox list and it’ll change to a colored flag. By default it is a red flag but if you right-click on the flag icon you’ll see there’s a range of six flag colors available.

In theory you could choose a meaning for each color. Red for urgent, Orange for not quite as urgent. Green for good news. Whatever you like – but it’s up to you to remember what they mean.

This is an example of an Outlook that doesn’t go far enough. It would have been much more useful if each flag could have editable text so the user could put their own definitions against the colors. For example change ‘Red Flag’ to “Urgent”.

Such a change would not have been difficult and nor was it such a new idea. All the Outlook team had to do was look at what their colleagues on the OneNote group had done in their very first implementation of the same idea! Hopefully the next release of Outlook will catch-up but we paying customers really should not have been expected to wait.

In the meantime, Flags are there though I expect most people only use one or two colors.

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SEARCH FOLDERS

Search folders are new in Outlook 2003. With them you can setup filters on your mail which are constantly updated. This means you can view them instantly instead of waiting for Outlook’s painfully slow Find option.

Search folders have their uses and will be a topic for another Office for Mere Mortals.

 


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