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On the Outlook team, we are frequently asked: “what is the ‘right way’ to use Outlook?” Sure enough, there is no “right way” to work in Outlook—but, as the product team, we did design it with certain best practices in mind. Specifically, there are some best practices that make you more efficient at getting your job done while using Outlook, including:
The end result is a new article on Microsoft Office Online tailored towards end users for how to best use Outlook. (There is one long article that contains the full set of best practices and also a series of shorter articles focused on specific areas.) The last section of the article includes an FAQ to help explain some of the rationale behind the suggestions, along with help on how to migrate to this system from other ways of working.
The starting point of the entire document is based on some basic principles of good time management. Here is an excerpt (which can also be found in this article):
Basic principles of good time management
Outlook 2007 is a tool to help you manage your e-mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks. As such, it is at the center of not only your communications but also your time-management. To get the most out of Outlook 2007, we suggest a few basic principles:
Even if you don't subscribe to all of the best practices described here, following just a few will improve your experience with Outlook 2007.
Note for IT admins: the article includes Word and PDF versions of the online content which can be adapted to the needs of your customers. For example, if you don’t use SharePoint in your organization, you can remove all references to SharePoint in the Word copy of the document. You can then deploy the customized version.
Hopefully, you will find these best practices useful, and as always, we appreciate your feedback.
Melissa MacBeth Outlook Program Manager
This is a useful resource. Thanks for posting it.
Is it allowed to adapt this and pass on to students in a commercial training environment?
thanks really good, I shared with my full team.
Feel free to share it and adapt it for your needs! That is what it is for. I'm glad you like it!
Melissa, I assume your comment related to my question.. Good supporting document for existing course material...
I have created multiple .oft templates using 97-03 Outlook. When attempting to open these files I recieve a message stating that Outlook 07 is blocking these files. How do I convert these oft. templates so that I do not need to recreate them? They will open but not as originally created.
Melissa - an interesting read to see how a range of fairly common time management advice is "Translated" into Outlook usage, with a few nuggets in there I'd not thought about before! With apologies for a very long response, I was wondering if you've any "good/best practice" advice on how to work-around the few major usability issues I encounter using Outlook: 1. I follow one commonly recommended (e.g. in GTD) approach whereby only 'hard' deadlines are set as due dates for tasks - whereas Outlook seems to be designed with a strong assumption that due dates are used for "intended schedule" or "ideal target" dates (i.e. as a form of prioritisation). In particular, it seems to be impossible in Outlook to create the following types of tasks:
- A task starting in the future that has no specific deadline; e.g. I'd like to test a beta software app that's not released until the Mon after next
- A regenerating (or recurring) task that doesn't have a specific deadline; e.g. "wash car" starting again a month after it gets completed but there's no actual deadline for doing so This is because OL doesn't allow a start date without a due date (but does allow the reverse) - which is fundamentally the wrong way around: when you think about it from a basic conceptual viewpoint, every task has a start (when it's created if not otherwise defined) but not every task has a due date. "Regenerating but with no deadline" tasks apply to a whole range of cleaning/maintenance/website-following/touch-base style tasks, and account for perhaps 30% of all my 'active' tasks, so at the moment I've been forced into developing a set of macros to effectively replace/extend Outlook's regeneration functionality (but that'll bring its own issues when I use a Windows Phone &/or a 2nd PC with my Exchange account). If there any way to have these kinds of tasks other than to assign due dates way way off into the future and then just deal with the weird sorting that will result (they'll be at the opposite end to all truly-undated tasks, and will have a 'fake' order imposed between them as each successive occurence advances the due date) and having to "read but then mentally ignore" the dates when scanning the list? 2. (this may actually be a bug?) Instant search is great, and really useful, except that it completely ignores any character that isn't a letter or number (e.g. any of @ # & ! $), so using it in any of the following example scenarios fails:
- I try to find shopping-related items by searching for "£" since I always note an approximate target price; searching for just 1+ non-alphanumeric chars always returns "no results found"
- I want to quickly tag my "out & about" errands with "@E" in the subject (prefer not to use a category because of the issue below, and this would be quicker anyway); but searching for "@E" returns every task with an "e" character!
- I noted someone's email address in a task a while back, and now that I want to find it I can't remember the exact spelling of their name or the company, but I know their name ends in 'h' & the company starts with 'm'... but a search for "h@m" returns evry task with either 'h' or 'm' in it. It also only returns results that match the filter of the current view. I can see how this is "consistent", but I often want to add/lookup a piece of info recorded in a task that's starting in the future or a "someday/maybe" item, which I'd normally exclude from my main view - the problem being that when the search returns no results the option to "Try searching again in All Task Items" isn't restricted to the current folder so I have to wait while it trawls through several thousand archived items (and may return loads of extra unwanted results). To search all items in the current folder (only), you have to either use Advanced Find or else change the current view to an unfiltered one before searching (and then back again afterwards). 3. Using Categories for multiple dimensions - such as the GTD-style combination of context/location and project/topic recommended in the article, along with a couple of other uses - causes problems in the UI because there's no way to view tasks categorise according to only the single dimension of interest. For example any view of "tasks by location" cannot be separated from the intermingled "tasks by project" view, since both can only be done with grouping by categories - and the whole host of categories from the dimension(s) not of current interest will be present and causing distraction/confusion in the view. There's also no way to see "what tasks haven't got a location assigned?", for example, because if they have a category from a separate dimension assigned (e.g. project) they won't be in the "(none)" group - unless you want to create an entirely separate view for all such perspectives/questions, when some careful use of dimension-identifying characters in category names can be used. In the absence of a separate filter for "group by" that's applied to the groups presented (in addition to the current filter for tasks presented), is there a good way to achieve a multi-dimensional classification without these issues? In OL2003 the colour flags provided a very limited 2nd dimension, but in OL2007 flags have become just a shortcut method for assigning start/due dates. Again, apologies for the long response, but these are what stop Outlook being just about perfect (for me) and it's entirely possible I'm missing a clever trick somewhere to resolve them! Any advice/thoughts would be greatly appreciated,
I have heard the 4 D's before and definately reccommend everyone to employ this method. It will reduce alot of that email overload that I was feeling. You just need to ensure that you dont get in the habit of Deffering most of the emails ;)
In trying out the Office 2010 Beta, I selected the option to not replace my existing Office 2007. The installation replaced my Outlook 2007 anyway and after restoring it, my reminders no longer work.
Recently, unable to copy and paste word text into Calendar Body. Any suggestions?
I have two separate folders to be e-mailed to one recipient. One folder named “Justice” contains about 71 files. The second folder “Speeding” has about12 files. By the way some of those files have attachments.
Please forward itemized instructions on the complete process.
I am using MS Outlook 2007 and Internet Explorer
Please e-mail the steps involved to identify all messeges sent to my in-box in blue.