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Suffering from Information Overload? Try the Outlook 2002 Cure

Posted: January 16, 2002
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The digital information revolution is a great thing, right? Through the magic of e-mail, you are communicating with friends, family, and work colleagues more efficiently then ever before. But does it sometimes feel like too much of a good thing? Microsoft Outlook® version 2002 has some features and options that can bring a little order back to your chaotic life. With a new year upon us, now is a perfect time to get started.

Put an End to E-Mail Chaos

Access multiple e-mail accounts from one place

Odds are good that you have at least two e-mail accounts—one for work and one for home. With Outlook, you can send and receive all of your e-mail from a single inbox. To receive e-mail from all of your accounts in your Outlook inbox, use the E-mail Accounts command on the Tools menu to define each account, including the specific information for each account. To send e-mail, simply click the Accounts button on your unsent e-mail message to choose the e-mail account you want to use to send the message.

Animation of multiple e-mail accounts setup

Use rules to run your inbox

Make Outlook do the work of filing, deleting, highlighting, forwarding, and prioritizing incoming and outgoing messages. With the Rules Wizard, you can automatically send undesirable e-mail to a "junk" folder or be alerted by a specific sound when you receive an urgent e-mail message. Once you set the rules, you can apply them to clean up the backlog of messages already sitting in your inbox. To get started, open the Tools menu, click Rules Wizard, and then follow the instructions on your screen. To get specifics on how to use rules effectively, read Tips for Managing Your E-Mail Using Rules in Outlook 2002 from the Assistance Center.

Use Personal Folder files to store information

When you create messages, appointments, tasks, and journal entries, Outlook saves the information on your computer in a data file known as a Personal Folders file, which has the file extension .pst. (However, if you use Microsoft Exchange Server, your e-mail messages, calendar, and other items are delivered to and stored on the server). The Personal Folders file can be a useful way to organize and back up Outlook items.

For example, if you want to organize Outlook items into specific folders, you can create an additional data file for each category. One possibility would be to keep all messages from a specific company in a separate data file. When you create the data file, you can use any name for the file.

To create a new data file and move or copy items to it:

  1. On the File menu, point to New, and then click Outlook Data File.
  2. Under Types of storage, click Personal Folders file (.pst) and then click OK.
  3. In the File name box, type a name for the file, and then click OK.
  4. In the Name box, type a display name for the .pst folder. Select any other options you want, and then click OK. The name of the folder associated with the data file appears in the Folder List. (To view the Folder List, from the View menu, click Folder List.)
  5. Drag any item from your current folders to the new folder. To copy items instead of moving them, press CTRL while dragging the items.

A utility called PST Backup enables you to make an exact copy (in the same file format) of a .pst data file, copy the backup file to your hard disk or to a network share, and specify a time interval at which Outlook will prompt you to back up a file. If the .pst file is damaged or deleted, you can use the backup file to restore it. To use this utility, you must download it from the Office Download Center.

Put junk mail in its place

If you find that the amount of junk mail in your inbox has gotten out of hand, Outlook offers a number of features that make it easier to control the influx of unsolicited messages.

For example, Outlook can search for commonly used phrases in e-mail messages and automatically move messages containing these phrases from your Inbox to either a junk e-mail folder created by Outlook, to your Deleted Items folder, or to any other folder you specify.

To automatically remove junk mail from your Inbox:

  1. On the standard toolbar, click Organize.
  2. Click Junk E-Mail.
  3. In the bulleted items for Junk and for Adult Content messages, in each of the first lists, click move. When you click move, the second list on each line will change from a list of colors to a list of folder destinations.
  4. You can leave the default destination (Junk E-Mail), click Deleted Items, or click Other folder and choose or create one.
  5. Click Turn On to enable the feature.
  6. Repeat steps 3 through 5 for both the Junk and Adult Content lines.

You can also filter unwanted messages by e-mail address. As you receive unwanted e-mail messages, just create a list of the e-mail addresses of these senders. To do this, right-click the message, point to Junk E-Mail, and then click Add to Junk Senders list or Add to Adult Content Senders list.

When you first begin using these features, or when you make modifications to them, you should review messages that are automatically removed from the Inbox to make sure that any wanted messages are not accidentally removed.

To review, add, edit, or delete e-mail senders on your junk e-mail list:

  1. On the Standard toolbar, click Organize.
  2. Click Junk E-Mail.
  3. Click the underlined phrase click here.
  4. In the second bulleted item, click Edit Junk Senders or Edit Adult Content Senders.

In addition to using the built-in Outlook filters, you can create custom rules to filter out specific types of unwanted messages. You can use custom rules to search for words or phrases that are not included in the Filters.txt file.

For other useful tips on how to keep junk mail under control, read the Manage Junk and Adult Content Mail in Outlook 2002 article from the Assistance Center.

Save space—and important messages—with Auto Archiving

As you create and receive e-mail messages and other items, your Outlook mailbox will grow and expand. To keep your mailbox manageable, archive old items that are important enough to keep but that you don't access frequently. The Outlook AutoArchive feature takes care of these processes for you automatically.

AutoArchive runs at scheduled intervals, clearing out old and expired items from folders; it is turned on by default. An item is considered old when it has been in your inbox for a period of time that you specify (say, six months). Expired items are mail and meeting items with content that is no longer valid after a certain date, such as a meeting you had four months ago that still appears on your calendar.

After Outlook archives items for the first time, you can access items in the file directly from Archive Folders in your Folder List. (To view the Folder List, from the View menu, click Folder List.) If you want, you can have separate archive files for individual folders.

When you open Archive Folders, you'll see that Outlook maintains your existing folder structure, making items easy to find. If you want to move archived items back into your main mailbox, you can move or copy them into their original folders or into other folders.

Use Advanced Find to clear out your inbox

If there is a limit to the amount of material you can store in your inbox, there's an easy way to find and delete messages that take up the most space, such as those with large files attached. Use the Outlook Advanced Find feature:

  1. On the Tools menu, click Advanced Find, and then click the More Choices tab.
  2. In the Look for box, click Messages.
  3. In the Size list, click greater than, and then type a number such as 500 (for files that are 500 kilobytes or larger).
  4. Select the remaining search options you want, and then click Find Now.
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Make Outlook Your Personal Assistant

Use Word as your e-mail editor

If you're not the world's best speller or grammarian, don't worry. You can use Microsoft Word as your e-mail editor in Outlook and take advantage of features such as:

  • AutoCorrect. Automatically correct common typos, such as transposed letters and extra or missing letters.
  • Automatic spelling and grammar checking. Misspelled or misused words are underlined as you type. So, when you see a mistake, you can fix it immediately by right-clicking it and locating the right word from a list of correctly spelled words.
  • Automatic bullets and numbering. Add bullets and numbering to call out important points. Also, use a picture or other graphics as bullets.
  • Tables. Use tables to organize your information. When you use Word as your e-mail editor and HTML as the default message format, Outlook preserves table formatting, even for recipients who do not use Word.
  • Conversion of e-mail names and Internet addresses. Automatically convert e-mail names and Internet addresses to hyperlinks. Smart hyperlink formatting can even convert Web site addresses that contain spaces.
  • Themes. Word themes provide visual consistency and make your messages stand out.
  • AutoFormat. Format your message automatically as you type, and add formatting to plain text messages that you receive.
Color-code your appointments

If your family shares a home computer, you can color-code the items entered in your Outlook calendar to make it easier for everyone to find their own appointments.

To color-code your family's schedule in Outlook:

  1. Click Calendar, and then click the Calendar Coloring button on the Standard toolbar.
  2. Click Edit Labels.
  3. In the text box beside each color, type a family member's name.
  4. When you schedule your next event for a family member, select the family member's name you want from the Label drop-down menu.

Animation of color-coded calendar

Schedule time to respond to e-mail messages

As much as you'd like to, you can't always respond instantly to every e-mail message. If you did, you'd never get any work done. To make sure that you don't forget to answer important messages, move them to your calendar so you can set aside a specific time to respond, or add them to your task list as a reminder.

To turn an e-mail message into an item on your calendar or task list:

  1. Drag the message from your Inbox onto the Calendar icon or Tasks icon on the Outlook Bar or onto your Calendar or Tasks folder in the Folder List. This will create a new appointment item.
  2. If you are moving the item to the calendar, enter the date and time you want to reply and specify any additional options you want. (The body of the e-mail message is automatically added to the appointment.)
  3. Click Save and Close to add the appointment to your Calendar or Task list.

You can drag items between all Outlook folders, including Inbox, Tasks, Calendar, Contacts, and Notes. For more options, right-click before you drag.

Create a meeting request with a contact

Don't have a lot of time to spend arranging appointments? Take advantage of a feature in Outlook that makes it easy to set up meetings using the contacts in your Outlook address book.

To quickly schedule a meeting with an Outlook contact or members of a distribution list:

  1. Open your Contacts folder, and drag a contact or distribution list onto the Calendar icon on your Outlook Shortcuts bar or onto your Calendar folder in the Folder List. This will automatically create a new meeting request addressed to the person or group.
  2. Enter start and end times for your meeting, and select any other options you want. Then click Send.

You can also drag contacts into your Inbox to create new messages addressed to them or into your Tasks folder to assign them a task.

Use Flags, Notes, and Tasks to get work done on time

Outlook includes a number of tools that make it easier to keep track of important work items. If an item comes in that will require your attention in the not-too-distant future, you can add a flag as a reminder. Just click the Flag icon in the Outlook toolbar. The flag will appear next to the message in the inbox or folder where it is stored.

Notes are the electronic equivalent of those ubiquitous little sticky notes that everyone uses to jot down notes and ideas. To create a note, click the Notes icon in the folder list or Outlook Shortcuts bar, or, from the File menu, point to New, and then click Note. Once you've typed a note, you can leave it open on screen, or drag it to a document or Outlook item. You can open notes you've already created by clicking the Notes icon, and then selecting the note you want to access.

If you are a list-maker, the Tasks feature will help you keep your life organized. You can add a one-time job to the list, or set up a recurring task that repeats at regular intervals that you set. To create a task, click the Tasks icon on folder list or Outlook Shortcuts bar, or, from the File menu, point to New, and then click Task. In the Subject box, type a task name, then select the options you want and click Save and Close. If you are creating a recurring task, after selecting options, go to the Actions menu and click Recurrence. Then choose frequency (Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly) at which the task recurs. Do not click Regenerate new task, or the task will not recur at regular intervals.

Help protect your system with the latest security features

Outlook now helps users and organizations safeguard against malicious viruses by:

  • Blocking e-mail attachments associated with unsafe files.
  • Preventing programs from gaining programmatic access to your address book or sending mail on your behalf. (When such actions occur, Outlook notifies you and gives you the option of continuing with the action.) This feature helps prevent the spreading of viruses to other users.

These features are available by default in Outlook 2002, but to ensure that your software has the very latest security updates, Outlook 2002 users should download Office XP Service Pack 1, available free* from the Office Download Center. If you use Outlook 98 or Outlook 2000, you will need to download the free* Outlook E-Mail Security Update to take advantage of these features.

* Internet service provider fees and connect-time charges may apply.
Create your own virtual business card

Now you can extend the ritual of passing out business cards to the digital world. With Outlook, you can add a virtual business card (vCard) to your e-mail signature, ensuring that your business contact information is included in each e-mail message you send.

To include a vCard with your e-mail signature:

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options, and then click the Mail Format tab.
  2. Under Signature, click Signatures, and then click New.
  3. Select the options you want, and then click Next.
  4. Under vCard options, select a vCard from the list or click New vCard from Contact.
Access files, folders, and Web pages from within Outlook

Outlook is more than just a great program for keeping in touch with colleagues and friends, and for managing your appointments and tasks. It is also a useful tool for accessing and managing the information on your computer, and for surfing the Web.

To view or open any of the folders or files on your computer, as well as on any network drive you are connected to, on the Outlook Bar, click Other or Other Shortcuts, and then click My Computer.

You can also view Web pages in Outlook. Here's how:

  1. Point to Toolbars on the View menu and click Web toolbar.
  2. Type a Web site address in the Address box, and then press ENTER.
  3. Once you've opened a Web page, you can move among Web pages in the Outlook window just as you do in a browser. Just use the Forward and Back buttons, Address box, and other buttons on the Web toolbar to navigate.

You can also add frequently visited Web pages to the Favorites menu in Outlook so you can get to the Web pages you most want to visit in one click.

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Get Things Done—Even When You're Out of the Office

Download only the mail you need with remote mail

If you want to access e-mail from your Exchange Server inbox while you are away from work, use the Remote Mail feature. Remote Mail makes it possible for you to screen out the messages you don't want to download by first downloading the message headers. Then you can decide which complete messages you want to download.

To use Remote Mail, you must first set up your computer to connect with your e-mail server. To do this:

  1. On the Tools menu in Outlook, point to Send/Receive Settings, and then click Define Send/Receive Groups.
  2. In the list, click a group, and then click Edit.
  3. In the list, select the Inbox check box. Follow the instructions on your screen to create the Offline Folder file (.ost). If no instructions appear, Remote Mail is already set up.
  4. When prompted to synchronize the selected folders to the new .ost, click OK.

Now you're ready to start using Remote Mail. To connect to a server and download message headers so you can decide which mail you want to read:

  1. On the Tools menu, point to Send/Receive, point to Work With Headers, and then point to Download Headers From.
  2. Click All Accounts or the specific account to download headers from.

When you download messages remotely, they are placed only on your computer. When you copy messages, one copy of the message remains on the server, and another copy is placed on your computer. When you delete messages, they are removed from both your computer and from the server. If you use a docking laptop, you should download the messages instead of copying them.

  • To mark headers for messages to download from the server: In Inbox, right-click the header, and then click Mark to Download Message(s).
  • To mark headers for messages to copy from the server: In Inbox, right-click the header, and then click Mark to Download Message Copy.
  • To delete messages from your computer and from the server: In Inbox, click the item to delete, and press DELETE. A red X will appear in the header column.
Read e-mail offline

With offline folders, you can work with the contents of a folder even when you are not connected to the network. You can also add, delete, and modify the contents of an offline folder exactly as you do with a folder on a server. Offline folders are stored in a file that has the extension .ost.

To get started, you need to create an .ost file:

  1. On the Tools menu, click E-Mail Accounts, click View or change existing e-mail accounts, and then click Next.
  2. Under Outlook processes e-mail for these accounts in the following order, click Microsoft Exchange Server, and then click Change.
  3. Click More Settings.
  4. Click the Advanced tab, and then click Offline Folder File Settings.
  5. In the File box, type the path to the file you want to use as the Offline Folder file.

The default file name is "outlook.ost." If this file already exists, you will be prompted to provide a new name.

When you set up folders to be used offline, a number of Outlook folders are automatically accessible, including your Inbox, Outbox, Deleted Items, Sent Items, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Journal, Notes, and Drafts.

To use any other folder offline, you must specifically enable it for offline use. Here's how:

  1. On the Tools menu, point to Send/Receive Settings, and then click Define Send/Receive Groups.
  2. In the list, click a Send/Receive group containing an Exchange Server account, and then click Edit.
  3. Under Accounts, select your Exchange Server account.
  4. In the list, select the folders that you want to use offline in addition to your default folders.
Synchronize your offline folders when you reconnect

When you've worked with your folder offline, you'll need to update the corresponding folder on your office computer or network server when you are reconnected. With Outlook, you can automatically synchronize your offline folders at a preset time or at preset time intervals. Here's how:

  1. On the Tools menu, point to Send/Receive Settings, and then click Define Send/Receive Groups.
  2. In the list, click a group.
  3. Then do either or both of the following:
    1. To automatically synchronize all folders at specified intervals while you're online, select the Schedule an automatic send/receive every [x] minutes check box under When Outlook is Online, and then enter a number between 1 and 1440.
    2. To synchronize all folders after every online Outlook session, select the Perform an automatic send/receive when exiting check box.
Synchronize e-mail with your Pocket PC

You can also synchronize the e-mail on your desktop computer with your Pocket PC. If you are using Microsoft ActiveSync® 3.5, your desktop Outlook Inbox and your Pocket PC Inbox will be synched automatically. ActiveSync is available for download from the Microsoft Mobile Devices site.

If you have upgraded ActiveSync from an older version, you can change your settings using this simple procedure:

  1. Open ActiveSync and click the Options button on the toolbar.
  2. Select the check box next to Inbox in the list of services.
  3. Click the Settings button, and select options for the Inbox synchronization.
  4. To receive attachments, select Include file attachments.
  5. To automatically send messages created on your Pocket PC as soon as you reconnect, select ActiveSync in the list of services for the Outbox Folder option.

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