Quick Steps in Outlook

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Quick Steps is an Outlook for Windows (not Mac) feature that lets you combine common or oft-repeated actions into a single clickable icon.  It can be a time saver.  There’s no programming involved so you don’t have to worry about VBA or the Developer tab.

The Quick Steps are very prominent, right in the middle of the Home tab.

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But first, a warning …

The too-short list of options and lack of expandability can make Quick Steps quite frustrating.

Microsoft boasted about Quick Steps when they were released with Outlook 2010 for Windows but have done little since then.  Customer feedback on Quick Steps has been ignored.  Quick Steps may disappoint you by not having enough options to meet your needs.  It’s really a ‘version 1.0’ that’s not been improved.

Supplied Quick Steps

Microsoft gives you some Quick Steps to get you started.  Go to Manage Quick Steps to see them in detail, though their names make their purpose clear.

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Options like ‘New email to’ are too simple and offer little more than the existing Outlook feature.  But you can change ‘New email to’ to make something more useful.

Buttons like ‘Flag and Move’ are a good example of how Quick Steps can combine multiple Outlook features (Microsoft calls them Actions) into a single process.   ‘Flag and Move’ does three things with one button click;  Flags the message, moves it to another folder and marks the message as read.

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There are also a small range of shortcut keys plus some tooltip text that should appear when you however over the button (thought it doesn’t in our Outlook 2016 for Windows).

Move to Folder

A very simple Quick Step is ‘Move to Folder …’.  If you regularly move messages to a specific folder, you can make this a one-click operation.

From the Quick Steps gallery choose New Quick Step | Move to Folder (which is one of some presets from Microsoft).

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This preset needs to be personalized to choose a specific folder and probably change the Quick Step name.   This quick step has two actions, move to folder and mark as read.   As you can see we’ve chosen a folder and changed the name.

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The Option button opens the full Edit Quick Action dialog.

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New Email To ..

The default ‘New Email to …’ Quick Step’ just opens a new, blank email which isn’t anything special.  But you can change it (or make a new Quick Step) which can be very useful.

Let’s say you often send a message to certain people.  Some directly, others CC and BCC.  Outlook group contacts don’t help because they can’t only be added to one email field (eg TO) not a mix of the three receiver types.

A Quick Action can do this for you.  From the Quick Steps gallery, choose ‘Create New’ then give the Quick Step a name and choose ‘New Message’ as the first action.

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At first you only see a TO: field to choose message recipients but click on ‘Show Options’ to see more.

Now you can add CC and BCC fields plus a subject link and text for the email.  There’s no option to add an attachment or prompt for an attachment.

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Normally, a New Message will open a new email pre-populated for you.  Then you can change the message and Send when you are ready.

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But if you choose ‘Automatically send after 1 minute delay’ then the message will go out after 60 seconds without any human help.

The New Email action will automatically add a signature to the email (if available).  Unfortunately, you can’t choose a specific account to use for the message, it will always use the default account.

All the Actions

Here’s all the Quick Step actions available to combine.   The New Quick Step menu offers some preset options for you to personalize (like ‘Move to Folder’ and ‘New E-mail To …’

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The full set of options is under ‘Custom’

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Where are Quick Steps stored?

Quick Steps are stored with your Exchange Server account or .PST data file for non-Exchange accounts.

That means your Quick Steps should appear on other Outlook for Windows/Mac computers which login to the same Exchange account.

Moving a .PST to another computer will move the Quick Steps, along with everything else.

What we’d like to see in Quick Steps

A lot more Actions.  The currently available Actions are pitifully limited.

More appropriate action options.  For example, the Flag action doesn’t let you set a reminder.

Some ability to change some settings each time the Quick Step is done.  Maybe a popup to set the reminder date or days each time a certain Quick Step is run.

Some variables please so some details like <sender> etc can be added.

Add a From: option to the New Message action so the user can choose the correct outgoing account (and signature).

Import / Export so people can separately backup or even share Quick Steps.

Link Quick Actions to Outlook Rules.  A nominated event can trigger an existing Quick Step.  This would allow the same actions to be run as a Quick Step both manually or automatically.

A Quick Step should be undo-able.  At the moment, if you accidently click on a Quick Action, there’s no simple way to reverse it.  Even the individual actions aren’t saved in the Undo list.

Run a Quick Step from the command line.   We’d like this so a Quick Step could be added to an Explorer right-click action.  For example, choose a file, right-click and choose a Quick Step that would email the selected file to certain people.

From Office-Watch.com reader, Dave C.  “I would like to see the ability to move the quick step option within the right click menu. I use it often and would like to have the option near the top so that I don’t have to scroll half way down the list of options. I would also like to have a feature to automatically sort the quick steps list so that I don’t have to manually put them in alphabetical order.

Quick Steps could be a much more effective and powerful part of Outlook.  But Microsoft seems content to leave it promising much but failing to deliver the daily needs of customers.

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