Useful but hidden Outlook features

There are some things people do in Outlook that are very useful, but not obvious to others. We detail some of these “hidden” features.


It’s easy to resend a message you’ve sent in the past either to the same people or others. This is handy if the original message got lost but also if you need to send the same or similar message to other people or other addresses.

Go to your Sent Items folder, and open the message you want to resend. Under the Actions menu you’ll see Resend this message.

This option creates a new outgoing message window with the same settings as the older one. If you just want to resend the message, click Send and it’ll go.

Or you can change the message, alter the TO, CC or BCC names plus the text of the message itself.


You can edit the text of an incoming message. Open the message then under the Edit menu choose Edit Message. The message window might not seem to change but if you click in the text of the message and type you’ll see that it is now editable.

You can change the format of a message from plain text to HTML from the Format menu. To see the formatting options right-click on a empty space on the toolbar and select the Formatting Toolbar.

Now the big question – why would you do that? I expect there’s plenty of reasons here’s some of mine:

– I have a folder of ‘reference’ items, login names and passwords for various web sites, account numbers for Fedex, bank accounts and the like. The most common source for items in this folder is incoming messages (welcome messages etc). Sometimes the info I want to see is way down in the message or not clear. With Edit Message I can move the relevant info into the preview pane view. If necessary I can change the format to HTML then increase the size and boldness of the important into so I can see it easily.

– Much the same reason can apply to a normal incoming message. If I’m going to refer to it again I may edit it so the vital info is easy to see. This is also handy for the, thankfully few, people who reply to a message _under_ a quote from your message – so their words are below what you said to them in the first place.


Some people are very concerned about the size of attachments taking up room in their Outlook data file. Usually the PST/OST file size isn’t that much of a concern – but that’s a story for another time.

You can delete any incoming attachment by opening the message, right-click on the attachment and choose Remove. Of course you can choose Save As first and save a copy to your hard drive before deleting the Outlook copy.

But think twice about removing an attachment – if you’re just doing it for the sake of tidiness or worry about your mail data getting too big remember that Outlook data files can be well over 1GB and even larger with the newer file format in Outlook 2003.

Many of the new generation of desktop search tools can find in seconds attachments either by name or the contents of the attachment (depending on the search tool’s options). Our Desktop Search Handbook covers all this and lots more.

Even before these tools came along, an old attachment buried in Outlook has been a life saver. Too many times a file has become lost, corrupted or a previous version is missing. A look through the in and outgoing Outlook attachments has often recovered a copy of a file thought lost for good.

The chance of finding an ‘accidental backup’ plus the relatively large capacity of Outlook means savvy Outlook users rarely remove attachments without good reason.


Yes, you can create appointments in Outlook and you can also put extra info into the large notes/comments field at the bottom of the entry page.

For example with any flights I copy itinerary from the airline or GDS web site ( etc) into the comments field. It should include all the details of the flight including duration, seat allocation etc.

You can also attach any file including a picture that you might want. The pictures only appear as an attachment and you have to open them to view.

To attach a file, just click on the file and drag it into the comments field. Or copy the file from Explorer and paste it into the field (right click in comments and choose Paste).

I use this to directly link relevant documents to an appointment.

For example, when booking a cruise I’ll attach to the appointment the PDF file my agent sends me with the booking confirmation / receipt etc.

You can do the same in Tasks or Contacts. With Contacts I can have more than one photo of a person. For restaurants I can attach a PDF scanned image of the menu, map to the eatery or even a photo of the establishment. The latter is handy for sending to people who are going there for the first time.


There is a default task list in Outlook and you can filter that list by categories. But you can also create a whole new Task list for special occasions.

For example a big event like a party might deserve a separate list.

I use a separate task list for recurring sets of things to do. For example a list of things to do before going away on a trip. I can add to this list at any time and check the items off in the day or two before I go.

Then, after I’ve left I can reset all the tasks back to ‘Not Completed’ ready for my next trip. I still leave things behind but that’s the fault of the operator, not Outlook.

To create a separate Task list, right-click on the parent folder (I put mine under the main Tasks folder but you can put it anywhere). Choose New Folder then give the folder a name (eg Departure Checklist). Make sure the ‘Folder contains’ is set to Task Items’. You then have a new tasks folder you can use just like the normal one.


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