Creating Contact Groups in Outlook

Creating a Contact Group in Outlook is an excellent way to streamline workflow for anyone who sends e‑mails to multiple recipients on a regular basis.  This is particularly useful when you have teams of people that you need to contact.  When you create a Contact Group in Outlook, you add the names of multiple recipients to a list, which can then be saved for future use.  When creating the Contact Group, you may select recipients from your personal contacts, the global address list, or you may input new information from scratch. The next time you want to address an e-mail to those recipients, you simply address the e-mail to the Contact Group, instead of each individual recipient.

You may further streamline workflow by creating a Contact Group that contains other Contact Groups; Groups within a Group, if you will.  As an example, perhaps you have 10 Contact Groups created for each department in your organization, representing over 150 employees.  However, you also need to send e-mails to each individual employee on a regular basis.  You don’t want to address the e-mail to each person individually, nor do you want to address the e-mail to 10 different Contact Groups.  Instead, you create a new Contact Group for the entire organization and simply add the pre-existing Groups for each department.  If for any reason you need to protect the privacy of the individuals in the Contact Group, you can add the Contact Group to the BCC field, which will be discussed in the next post.

The next time you have an e-mail that needs to be sent to multiple recipients on a regular basis, consider creating a Contact Group first, then use that Contact Group each time you need to send an e‑mail to those specific recipients.  You will save time and energy in the long run and work more efficiently in Outlook as well.

Posted in MS Outlook Tips

Flagging E-mails for Follow-up

Flagging e-mails for follow up is a great way to add reminders to your inbox that will prompt you when important e-mails items must be addressed.  You may also Flag outgoing messages for follow-up by either the recipient, yourself or both.  When you Flag an outgoing e-mail it will also create a reminder on the recipient’s computer as well.

Every time you flag an e-mail in Outlook, it is turned into a simple Task that will show up on your To Do bar.  You may use the default Flags that Outlook provides or you may customize the Flag to meet your specific needs. 

Flagging Incoming Messages in Outlook

To apply a Flag to incoming messages in Outlook 2007, 2010 or 2013

  • Locate the e-mail in your inbox
  • Right-click the e-mail and select Follow-up from the drop-down list
  • Select a follow-up period from the drop-down list (i.e., Today, Tomorrow, etc.)

To apply a custom Flag to incoming messages in Outlook 2007, 2010 or 2013

  • Locate the e-mail in your inbox
  • Right-click the e-mail and select Follow-up from the drop-down list
  • Select Custom from the drop-down list
  • The Custom Dialog Box will launch

In the Flag to field, click the down arrow and select an action for Follow-up from the list of available choices (i.e., Follow up, For your Information, Forward, No Response Necessary, Read or Reply)

  • In the Start date field, click the down arrow and select a start date
  • In the Due date field, click the down arrow and select a due date
  • Cilck the Reminder check box
  • Select a date for the Reminder
  • Select a time for the reminder (in this case if the item was due at the end of the day on May 6th, I have chosen 2:00 pm as a reminder)
  • Click the OK button when done

By default, Reminders are set to appear 15 minutes before the time you have specified

Flagging Outgoing Messages in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013

From Outlook 2007

  • Open a new message form
  • On the Message Tab, in the Follow Up Group, click the Follow Up button
  • Select Flag for Recipients from the drop-down list
  • The Custom dialog box will launch

  • Check the Flag for Me checkbox
  • In the Flag to field, click the down arrow and select a follow up item (i.e., Follow up, For your Information, Forward, No Response Necessary, Read or Reply)
  • In the Start date field, click the down arrow and select a start date
  • In the Due date field, click the down arrow and select a due date
  • Click the Reminder check box
  • Select a date and time for the reminder
  • The Flag for Recipients box should be checked by default, if it is not, click it to check the box
  • In the Flag to field, click the down arrow and select a follow up item (i.e., Follow up, For your Information, Forward, No Response Necessary, Read or Reply)
  • Select a date and time for the reminder
  • Click the OK button when done
  • Complete the message and send it

From Outlook 2010 and 2013

  • Open a new message form
  • On the Message Tab, in the Tags Group, click the Follow Up button
  • Select Add Reminder from the drop-down list
  • The Custom dialog box will launch

  • Check the Flag for Me checkbox
  • In the Flag to field, click the down arrow and select a follow up item (i.e., Follow up, For your Information, Forward, No Response Necessary, Read or Reply)
  • In the Start date field, click the down arrow and select a start date
  • In the Due date field, click the down arrow and select a due date
  • Click the Reminder check box
  • Select a date and time for the reminder
  • The Flag for Recipients box should be checked by default, if it is not, click it to check the box
  • In the Flag to field, click the down arrow and select a follow up item (i.e., Follow up, For your Information, Forward, No Response Necessary, Read or Reply)
  • Select a date and time for the reminder
  • Click the OK button when done
  • Complete the message and send it

When you need to make sure you do not miss important follow-up items in Outlook, consider this great tool and give yourself and automatic reminder!

Posted in MS Outlook Tips

Sorting and Grouping E-Mails in Outlook

Sorting and Grouping e-mails in Outlook is a great way to quickly identify e-mails by Subject, Date, Sender, etc.  Sorting and Grouping e-mails also makes it very easy to view, copy, move and delete e‑mails in large blocks, further streamlining workflow.

Reordering, Adding and Removing Column Fields

The Column Fields are located on the Message Pane which is found beneath the search field and above the first e-mail in the inbox.

By default, Outlook will only display a small portion of the column fields available on the message pane.  You can re-arrange the order of column fields and add or remove column fields to reveal or hide information such as importance, attachments, size, categories, etc.

This is one instance where the location of the Reading Pane can make a difference.  When the Reading Pane is located to the right of the inbox, it restricts that number of columns fields that can be viewed.  By choosing to view the Reading Pane below the inbox, you allow more room for column fields to be viewed.

One simple way of re-arranging the order of column fields is to click a column field with your left mouse.  Then, with your left mouse held down, drag the column field to its new position on the message pane.  You may drag either to the left or the right, but you will need to keep the column field on the same vertical plane as you drag.  The column field will turn black and you will see a red, down arrow that indicates its new position.  Let go of your left mouse to drop the column field in its new position.  You may also remove a column field by dragging it either up or down, effectively deleting it from the message pane.

If you want more control over your column fields, right-click the message pane and select Customize Current View.  The Customize View dialog box will launch.

From the Customize View Dialog box, click the Fields button.  The Show Fields dialog box will launch.

On the right hand side of the Show Fields dialog box, under the “Show these fields in this order”, you will see a list of the column fields currently enabled on the message pane.  On the left hand side of the dialog box, under “Available fields”, you will see a list of column fields than can be added to the message pane. 

To add fields to the message pane, select the field on the left and click the Add button in the middle of the dialog box.  To remove a field from the message pane, click the field on the right and click the Remove button in the middle of the dialog box.  You may also re-arrange the order of the fields currently enabled on the message pane by selecting the field on the right and clicking the Move Up or Move Down buttons to change the order of the field.  Click the OK button when done.

Once you have your column fields arranged to your liking, simply click a column field on the message pane with your left mouse to sort e-mails by that field (To, From, Sent, Received, etc.)  Click once and the e-mails will be shown in ascending order, click again and the e-mails will be shown in descending order.

Viewing E-mails in Groups

Viewing E-mails in Groups is another great way to streamline workflow and manage e-mails.  This differs slightly from simply sorting by a column field.  The beauty of grouping e-mails is that you need only click the main group header to select all the e-mails associated with that group, making it very easy to view, move, copy or delete e-mails in large blocks.

To Enable Grouping in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013

  • Right-click the Message Pane
  • Click Arrange By from the drop-down menu
  • Click Show in Groups

To disable Grouping simply repeat the same process.  Show in Groups is a “toggle” switch.  Click it once to turn it on, click it again to turn it off.

Once you have Grouping enabled, simply click a column field on the Message Pane and all e-mails included in that field will be grouped with a main header created for each group.  The main header for each group will have either a plus sign or a minus sign beside it and can be expanded or collapsed to show more or less content.  If you want to select the entire group, simply click the main header and all e-mails for that group will be selected.

Next time you need to quickly view, move, copy or delete e-mails in larger blocks, consider these great time saving features in Outlook.

Posted in MS Outlook Tips

The Outlook Reading Pane

The Reading Pane is an essential Outlook tool.  To many, this may seem like an optional item, but I would recommend having the Reading Pane enabled at all times.  What is the purpose of the Reading Pane?  The Reading Pane allows you to see the contents of an e-mail before you open it, enabling you to delete suspicious e-mails and prevent the launch of any associated virus.  Once you have double clicked an e-mail and opened it, if there is a bug in it, you’ve got the bug!  You can view the contents of an e-mail from within the Reading Pane by simply clicking the e-mail once with your left mouse.  This selects the e-mail only and does not open it, allowing you to safely view the contents from within the Reading Pane. 

The Reading Pane can be shown either below or to the right of the Mail view.  You can also adjust the size of the Reading Pane by clicking the dividing margin once with your left mouse, holding your left mouse down and dragging until you have re-sized the Reading Pane.

To Enable the Reading Pane in Outlook 2007

  • From the Mail view, click the View Menu
  • Click Reading Pane once with your left mouse
  • Select Right or Bottom from the drop down menu that appears
  • The Reading Pane will be enabled

To Enable the Reading Pane in Outlook 2010 and 2013

  • From the Mail View, click the View Tab
  • Select the Layout Group
  • Click the down arrow on the Reading Pane Button
  • Select Right or Bottom
  • The Reading Pane will be enabled

The Reading Pane also contains another great security feature that actually allows you to view the contents of an attachment before you open the e-mail.  To view the contents of an e-mail attachment from within the Reading Pane:

  • Select the e-mail (one left mouse click)
  • View the contents of the e-mail from the Reading Pane
  • Right Click the attachment from within the Reading Pane
  • The Reading Pane will display a standard security warning and enable the Preview Button
  • Click the Preview Button located within the Reading Pane
  • The contents of the e-mail attachment will be displayed

Next time you are in Outlook, consider using these essential tools to enhance your security when working in your Inbox.

Posted in MS Outlook Tips

Navigation and Selection Techniques in Outlook

Ok, we’ve taken a look at some of the short-cut keys available in Outlook, now let’s take a look at how we can navigate the Inbox a little easier.

I’ll start with some selection techniques and then move on to navigation techniques.  Remember when you want to select an e-mail without opening it, one single click with the left mouse will do it.  If you double click an e-mail in your Inbox, you will open the e-mail.  These selection and navigation techniques work across all versions of Outlook.

Selection Techniques within the Inbox

The Shift + Click method is great for selecting large blocks of contiguous (or adjacent) emails.  To perform the shift click method:

  • Single click the first e-mail
  • Hold the Shift Key down and keep it held down
  • Single click the last e-mail
  • Let go of the Shift Key

You should see all adjacent e-mails highlighted between your start point and your end point.  You may also hold the Shift Key down and use the up or down arrows to select adjacent e-mails as well.

The Control + Click method is great for selecting e-mails that are non-contiguous (or not adjacent to each other).  To perform the Control + Click method:

  • Single click the first e-mail
  • Hold the Control Key down and keep it held down
  • Single click the second e-mail
  • Keep that Control Key held down
  • Single click all the other emails that you want to select
  • Let go of the Control Key

You should see all the non-contiguous e-mails in your selection highlighted. 

Selection Techniques within an E-Mail

Once an e-mail has been opened you may use either the Shift + Click method or the Control + Click method to select blocks of text that are either contiguous or non-contiguous, respectively.  You may also click once with your left mouse, keep your left mouse held down and then drag the mouse to select text.  You may also use one of the following methods to select text within an e-mail.

  • Shift + Control + Home – selects text from the insertion point to the beginning of an e-mail
  • Shift + Control + End – selects text from the insertion point to the end of an e-mail
  • Control + A – selects the entire text of an e-mail

Navigation Techniques in the Mail View

The Navigation Pane (found on the right hand side of the Outlook Mail view) opens by default when you launch Outlook.  This is a great way to not only navigate between the different folders in your Inbox but to also switch between your Inbox, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks.  You may re-size the Navigation Pane if you’d like more room for your Inbox.  Simply click the dividing margin on the Navigation Pane, hold your left mouse down and drag to the left to minimize the Navigation Pane. 

You may also choose to have more than one Outlook item open at a time.  For example, if you switch frequently between your Inbox and your Calendar, simply right click the Calendar in the Navigation Pane and select “Open in a New Window”.  This will open your Calendar in a New Window and you may switch off between the Inbox and the Calendar on your Task Bar (the blue bar at the bottom of your Operating Window).  You may use this right-click method to open your Contacts and Tasks in a new window as well.

The Vertical Scroll Bar on the right hand side of the Mail View or the Centre Scroll button on your mouse are easy ways to navigate through the e-mails in your Inbox. You may drag the Vertical Scroll up and down by clicking with your left mouse, keeping your left mouse held down and then dragging up and down or by simply rolling the centre scroll on your mouse to move the Vertical Scroll Bar up and down.  You may also click the empty space either above or below the Scroll Bar with your left mouse to navigate up and down.  Alternatively you may use the up and down arrows located to the top or bottom of the Scroll Bar to move it up and down.

The F6 key on your keyboard is also a handy way to switch off between the folders list and the Main Outlook window.

Navigating within E-mails

Once an e-mail has been opened you may use one of the following methods to navigate through the content of the e-mail.  The Home Key, End Key, Page Up and Page Down Keys are all found between the Alpha and Numeric keys on any standard keyboard, as are the arrow keys.

  • Control + Home – Navigates to the beginning of an e-mail
  • Control + End – Navigates to the end of an e-mail
  • Page Up – Navigates approximately one screen view up
  • Page Down – Navigates approximately one screen view down
  • The Arrow Keys – Navigate up or down, left or right within an e-mail
  • Control + , – Navigates to the next e-mail from within an open e-mail
  • Control + . – Navigates to the previous e-mail from within an open e-mail

You may use the “Find” feature to find specific text within larger e-mails.  You will find the “Find” button on the Message Tab of an open e-mail, within the “Find” Group.  To use the “Find” feature:

  • Click the Message Tab of an open e-mail
  • Navigate to the “Find” Group
  • Click the “Find” button
  • The Find and Replace dialog box will launch
  • Select the Find Tab
  • Enter your text in the “Find What” field
  • Click the “Find Next” button
  • Outlook will navigate to the inputted text
  • Click the “Cancel” button when done

Whew!  Hope all that information helps you out.  Happy Navigating!

Posted in MS Outlook Tips

Outlook Shortcut Keys

Shortcut keys are an excellent way to streamline workflow in Outlook.  Using the shortcut keys keeps your hands on the keyboard and free of the mouse, which can help speed up productivity as well. 

Basic Navigation

Control + 1 Switch to Mail
Control + 2 Switch to Calendar
Control + 3 Switch to Contacts
Control + 4 Switch to Tasks
Control + 5 Switch to Notes
Control + Y Go to a Folder

Creating a File or Item

Control + N New Mail Message (from the inbox only)
Control + Shift + M New Mail Message (from anywhere in Outlook)
Control + Shift + L New Distribution List
Control + Shift + A New Appointment
Control + Shift + C New Contact
Control + Shift + K New Task
Control + Shift + Q New Meeting Request
Control + Shift + E Create New Folder
Control + Shift + P Create New Search Folder
Control + Shift + Y Copy Item
Control + Shift + V Move Item

 For E-Mail

Control + S Save
Alt + S Send
Control + R Reply
Control + F Forward
Control + D Delete
Control + Z Undo
Control + P Print
Control + ALT + J Mark Message as “Not Junk”
Control + O Open a Message
Control + M or F9 Check for New Mail
Control + Shift + B Display the Address Book
Control + Shift + G Display the Flag for Follow Up Dialog Box
Control + Q Mark as Read
F3 Find Items
F7 Check Spelling

Formatting an E-Mail

Shift + F3 Switch case (with text selected)
Control + B Bold
Control + I Italic
Control + U Underline
Control + C Copy
Control + X Cut
Control + V Paste
Control + E Centre
Control + L Left Align
Control + R Right Align
Control + T Increase Indent
Control + Shift +T Decrease Indent
Control + Shift + Z Clear Formatting

 By adopting some of the short-cut keys above, you will navigate more efficiently in Outlook and increase the speed at which you can complete tasks.

 

Posted in MS Outlook Tips

The Busy Inbox

The “Busy Inbox (or should I say the insanely busy inbox), that is the topic of this next series.  How to streamline workflow and organize incoming mail within Microsoft Outlook.  It is not uncommon for me to see clients with literally thousands of e-mails in their inbox.  This can be information overload and make it difficult to identify important e-mails.  Below is a list of topics I will be covering in this series.  Though not an exhaustive list, these features can go a long way to making the “Busy Inbox” much easier to manage!

  • Keyboard Shortcuts in Outlook
  • Navigation and Selection Techniques in Outlook
  • The Importance of the Reading Pane
  • Sorting and Grouping E-mails
  • Flagging E-mails for Follow Up
  • Creating Groups and Distribution Lists for multiple recipients
  • The Importance of the BCC Field
  • Creating Folders and Moving E-mails
  • The purpose of Outlook Data Files
  • Applying Categories to Color Code and Organize E-mails
  • Creating Custom Search Folders
  • Implementing Alert Windows for Important E-mails
  • Using Rules in Outlook to Automate Workflow
  • Creating Quick Steps to Streamline Workflow
Posted in MS Outlook Tips

Consolidating Formatting and Formulas in Excel

Consolidating formulas and formatting in Excel is an excellent way to streamline workflow and reduce time spent writing formulas and formatting across spreadsheets.  This technique works for workbooks that have cell references in the same location from sheet to sheet (i.e., the title is in Cell A1 on all sheets, the data represented is in the same location, respectively, from sheet to sheet).

For example, you have a workbook that has 12 sheets for each month of the year (January to December) and then a Summary sheet at the end of the workbook.  To streamline workflow, you can link the sheets together and any formatting changes you make to one will be done on all the others as well.  To link the sheets together:

  • Click the first sheet tab (January)
  • Hold down the shift key and keep it held down
  • Click the last sheet tab (December)
  • Let go of the shift key.

This will link (or group) the sheets together.  At this point you may begin making formatting changes to modify the appearance of the sheets.  When you have finished your formatting changes, double click any one of the sheet tabs to ungroup the sheets or right click a sheet tab and select ungroup.  When you take a look at the sheets, the formatting changes made will be the same from the January sheet to the December sheet.  You have just saved yourself the time and energy of formatting 12 sheets individually.

In the same manner, you may also streamline writing formulas on the Summary sheet by linking the January to December sheets together.  As an example, if on the Summary sheet you want to write a formula that calculates sales totals for all months, you may do so by linking the sheets and then simply writing one formula.  To write a formula across spreadsheets:

  • Place your cursor on the summary sheet where you wish to write the formula.
  • Start the formula.  In this case it will be =sum(
  • (Leave the bracket open until you include all the criteria)
  • Click the January sheet tab
  • Hold down the shift key and keep it held down
  • Click the December sheet tab
  • Let go of the shift key
  • Click the cell reference that you want to include in the formula
  • As an example, if the sales totals for all months are in Cell B30 of each sheet, click cell B30
  • Close the bracket on the formula
  • Press the enter key

You should have written a formula that looks like this:

=SUM(‘January:December’!B30)

You can pick up additional streamlining power by auto filling this formula across by column or down by row on the Summary sheet if need be.  Excel will change the cell reference for you, relative to it’s new position on the sheet (hence the term “relative reference”).

Next time you need to consolidate formulas and formatting across sheets, consider this time saving technique to increase the speed and efficiency with which you work.

Posted in MS Excel Tips

Conditional Formatting in Excel

Conditional Formatting in Excel applies format to selected cells based on user defined criteria.  You can apply Conditional Formatting either by selecting the pre-set rules that Excel provides or by creating your own set of rules based on the specific criteria you need.  You can also use Conditional Formatting to color code information and then filter and sort on the colors applied.  Conditional Formatting is found on the Home Tab in the Styles Group across Excel 2007 – 2013.

What is the point of Conditional Formatting?   It is an excellent way to add visual emphasis to a worksheet, making it much easier to identify important information.  It is the equivalent of going through your spreadsheet with a highlighter to identify the information you seek (and who has time to do that).  As an example, you may have a fairly large spreadsheet that contains sales figures for the year.  You want to identify all the sales that are over $4500 for the year.  By applying a Conditional Formatting rule, you can quickly identify all sales over $4500 and assign those sales to a specific format, making them easier to identify.

You can also layer Conditional Formatting rules over top of each other so that cell formatting changes based on the information entered.  As an example, I have a client who works in Risk Assessment for a major industrial company.  He layered Conditional Formatting rules to identify levels of risk found on the job site.  Any cell with a value of 1-50 was yellow, representing a low risk while cells with a value of 51-100 turned orange, representing a medium risk.  Cells with a value of 101 – 150 would turn red, representing a high risk.  Once the Conditional Formatting rules had been applied, cells automatically changed color depending on the data entered.  Not only was he able to quickly identify levels of risk, he could then sort or filter based on the formatting applied.

These are just two examples of how Conditional Formatting can be applied.  You can also create your own rules based on specific sets of data or format cells based on the formulas they contain.  Below are just a few of the options that are available through the Conditional Formatting feature in Excel.

Highlight Cells Rule Applies formatting based on cells that are greater than, less than, between or equal to a value or that contain specific text, dates or duplicate values
Top/Bottom Rules Applies formatting based on cells that are in the top or bottom percentile (you may specify the percentage)
Data Bars Fills cells with gradient color based on their value in regard to surrounding cells
Color Scales Fills cells with two or three color formats based on their value in regard to surrounding cells
Icon Sets Tiny graphics placed within a cell which indicate the value of the cell.
Format All Cells Based On Their Value/
Format Cells that Contain
Formats Cells based on specific, user defined criteria
Use a Formula to determine which Cells to Format Formats Cells where a formula is found to be true

Next time you need to quickly identify information within a spreadsheet, consider using this handy tool to streamline workflow and save time and energy.

 

Posted in MS Excel Tips

Creating Pivot Table Reports in Excel

An Excel Pivot Table Report is a specialized table that draws information from a data source to create a brand new table.  This powerful Excel tool is an excellent way to summarize information and saves countless hours of re-configuring and reformatting data.  Simply select your data source and insert a Pivot Table Report.  The advantage of a Pivot Table Report over filtering data is that once a filter is cleared, the data rolls back to its original configuration.  However, with a Pivot Table Report, the Pivot Table is inserted on a new worksheet by default, at which time you may begin customizing and filtering the data contained in the report, saving the changes for further use.  The original data source does not change and can be updated at any time, with the updates being reflected in its associated Pivot Table Report.

An example would be that you have a very large spreadsheet, say 26 columns and over 2000 rows.  This spreadsheet details the sales of a company by sales person, country, product sold, extended price and date shipped.  If you want to include only certain subsets of the data in a report, you can select your range of data and then insert a Pivot Table Report.  Once the Pivot Table report has been added to a new spreadsheet in your workbook, you can begin adding the fields that you want to include.  You could, for example, only include certain sales people from specific countries, and then filter the data to show only their sales exceeding $500 per product.  Or you could decide to include only certain products with an extended price under a specific dollar amount.  The choices are numerous and the data can be configured by any number of user defined criteria.

Pivot Tables get their name from the ability to “Pivot” information once it has been included in the report.  If you have information in a row and want to pivot it to a column (or vise versa) that can easily be accomplished with the click of a mouse.  The new features available in Office 2007 through to Office 2013 also allow the user to quickly format the way a Pivot Table looks and achieve professional looking results with very little effort.  To create a Pivot Table Report in Excel:

  • Place your cursor anywhere within the data source you wish to use.  (When you place your cursor in the data source first, Excel will automatically select the range of data for you when creating the Pivot Table.)
  • Click the Insert Tab on the Ribbon
  • Select the Tables group
  • Click the Pivot Table button
  • In the Select a Table or Range field, ensure that Excel has selected the range of data correctly
  • In the Choose Where you want the Pivot Table report to be placed field, ensure that New Worksheet is selected
  • Click the OK button when done

Excel will insert the Pivot Table Report into a new worksheet and you will be ready to begin adding the desired fields.

Next time you need to summarize data, consider using this powerful tool to save time and energy, making the most of your working day.

Posted in MS Excel Tips
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