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Getting work done without workarounds

Nothing is more exciting for me than talking to Microsoft Office 365 customers. This experience is more special when they tell me Office 365 provides the features they need to stay organized and productive, rather than having to find workarounds in other products they’ve tried.

I recently hit the road to talk to customers who had tried using Google Apps for Business, but switched to Office 365 because they experienced too many workarounds to get work done. I could completely identify with the customer who was told she could not use “folders” in Gmail to organize her email, like she can with Microsoft Outlook. Instead, she had to use “labels” as the workaround.

Outlook Folders: Organize Email the Way You Expect

Each week, my third-grader brings a red folder home with his homework. We use blue and green folders to keep the Math and English homework packets separate as we work through his homework during the week. When the homework is completed, the folder goes to school for submission. In the same way, I use a red bin to keep all my invoices and bill payments and a green bin for personal subscriptions to magazines and deals that I sort on a weekly basis.

Folders in Microsoft Outlook are intuitive containers that can hold email similar to how you’d use folders for your own mail at home or homework at school. As you sort your inbox, you can move email to the relevant folder for future use.

Categories: A Colorful Way to Organize Email in More Ways

Outlook users who need to manage email that belongs in more than one place, can use “categories.” Categories help you classify email into various buckets that you can color code to spot them easily. You can define multiple categories and assign them to different email. You can assign more than one category to an email if you need it to be tagged as such. You can even assign these same categories to other items in Outlook such as “events” and “tasks” to keep all related items organized.

For millions of users worldwide, Outlook folders help keep email organized. The power of inbox rules helps them take organizing to the next level. Inbox rules help users automatically sort email into specific folders, categorize email, and get notified proactively as to when they need to break their routine to look at important email.

Unlike Outlook folders, Gmail “labels” does not follow the container approach. You are expected to categorize all your mail with labels. Sometimes I wonder whether these labels were designed to help users stay organized or to help improve Google’s search algorithms.

To think we all pile all our email in one place and only use labels to search and find is a crazy idea. It is as crazy as expecting a department store to only sell black shoes!

Searching Email: Several Ways to Find What You’re Looking For

With Outlook, finding email stored in folders is easy. It’s as easy as opening the folder you filed the email in and looking for it. The email in the folder can be sorted using various attributes of email. You can sort the email by sender’s name, subject of the email, date which the email was received, email with attachments, email with categories, and many more.

Search FoldersFor those of you who prefer to search for email rather than organize email in folders, searching for email in Outlook is easy. You can search using the “search box” at the top, choosing whether to look in the current folder, current mailbox, subfolders, all mailboxes, or all items in Outlook. You can even search based on sender’s name, subject of the email, whether or not the email has attachments, whether an email was flagged, whether an email was marked important,  and by many other attributes. Search capability is not just limited to email; you can even search for calendar events and tasks. Those of you who are looking for advanced options can also dig into some of the advanced search capabilities around Indexing as well.

And for those who get excited by the power of folders and search, “search folders” in Outlook is the perfect feature for you. Search folders are virtual folders that contain the view of email items that match a specific criterion that you define. You can easily create a search folder by clicking on search folders in the navigation pane in Outlook. For those who use categories for their email, the “categorized mail” search folder helps you locate the email that you had categorized previously. Similarly, for those of you who had flagged emails for follow up, “for follow up” search folders will help you find them all in one place.

With a feature-rich Outlook, every one of you can get your work done without using workarounds.

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2 comments
  1. Categories are great when you want to classify your emails without moving them around and when you want to classify in several categories. I’m a little bit frustrated to see that OWA doesn’t allow anymore to search and filter on categories in the new O365. Why did you drop this feature ?

  2. @pydel – Thank you much for your feedback on searching and filtering Categories in Outlook Web App. You can search for categories by using the following query format in OWA search box – “category: xyz" where ‘xyz’ is the name of the category you are searching for.

    We appreciate your input.

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