7 things you didn’t know you could do in Outlook

Chances are good that you’ve used Microsoft Outlook one way or another for sending an email or scheduling a meeting. But while these are the most common tasks that you can get done in Outlook, there are some tricks that you can leverage to improve your experience.

Recalling an email is one which we’ve covered before, but there is also color-coding emails or setting different time zones. We’ve spent some time digging through the menus for you, and to show you all that plus more.

Without further ado, here are seven things you didn’t know you could do in Outlook on the desktop, and Outlook on the web.

Set two time zones

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We’ll start first with time zones because time is everything! This s useful if you’re based in a different location from your job — say you’re in New York, and your job is based in Portland, Oregon. To help keep your emails on the same page, and avoid being late to meetings, you can set multiple time zones in the Outlook desktop app.

This is one of the easiest things you can configure in Outlook. All you need to do is head into your Calendar potion of the Outlook desktop app, then visit the File menu. From there, click Options and then click on Calendar. You’ll then want to look for the Time Zones option. You should see a check box for Show a Second Time zone. Click the check box, and then choose your desired second or third Time Zone. You’ll now see this across Outlook.

Set colors for emails from certain people

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Want your emails to look a bit different so your inbox is fancier or easier to read? Outlook has your back with what’s known as conditional formatting. This feature is a way to make messages that meet your own defines conditions stand out in the message list by using color, fonts, and styles. It lands at No. 2 on our list.

You can tell Outlook to change the color of certain messages based on a sender’s name or email address; say, if you want to make all emails from your boss appear in red.

To set up a conditional formatting rule, toggle to your inbox, in the Outlook desktop app and visit the View tab. From there, select the Current View setting. Then, after that, select View Settings. You’ll then want to click in the Advanced View Settings dialog box and select Conditional Formatting. Microsoft has a list of steps you can follow here, but we’re focusing on how you can make messages from certain people appear in a certain color.

To accomplish this, click Add and then enter in a name for the rule. Select Font, and then under Color choose a color that you want and then click OK. After that, select Condition and choose a Condition. In the From box, type out the contact or sender name you want to see appear in a different color in your inbox. Then, in Filter, Conditional Formatting, and Advanced View Settings dialog boxes, select OK.

Use the Outlook hotkeys

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You’re probably familiar with keyboard shortcuts like CTRL+C and CTRL+V, but did you know that the Outlook desktop app also has a set of hotkeys you can use? These keys can help you save time during your busy day, by avoiding having to drag your mouse over icons and menus to do common tasks like composing, replying, or forwarding messages.  We collected our favorite Outlook hotkeys for number three on our list. Keep in mind these are for Windows 10.

Keyboard Shortcut Task
CTRL + Shift + M Create a new message
CTRL + R Open the reply Window
CTRL + F Opens the Forward window
CTRL+ Shift+ R Open the reply window, to reply to an entire group
CTRL+K Insert hyperlinks into emails
CTRL+ Shift+ G Flag a message
F4 Search for text in an email
CTRL+ 3 Opens the contacts list
CTRL+ 2 Opens Outlook calendar

Again, we just collected some of the most common hotkeys. Microsoft has a full list on its website, covering the Outlook shortcuts for MacOS, as well as the Web. Their list is a bit more comprehensive, covering dictation, folders, reading panes, printing, and more.

Resize your files to send large picture attachments

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A common roadblock you might face when sending emails with images is that the files you might want the recipient to receive are a bit too big for the limits of the web. When this happens, you can try to resize your image attachments through the Outlook desktop app so they’re not too large.

You can resize your image attachments in a few steps. Once you composed a fresh message, you must first attempt to attach all the images you want to send. You’ll likely get an error message, but don’t worry. Just head into the File tab of that email, and then look for the error message on the top. Choose the option that says Resize large images when I send this message.

Outlook will attempt to mail out the message by compressing your images down to a smaller size. In the event that the message still doesn’t go through, then you can try Zipping your files in Windows 10 or MacOS to make them smaller and then attaching the ZIP file in an email message.

Start Teams meetings, open Sticky Notes and OneNote right from Outlook on the web

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Though we’ve focused on the Outlook desktop app, Outlook on the web has some secrets, too. While you’re probably already spending time sorting through your Calendar or your emails in Outlook on the web, Microsoft did plug in some integrations with Sticky Notes, as well as OneNote there, too.

With the integration, if you sign in with the same Microsoft 365 email you use for work (or even a personal Microsoft account email) on Sticky Notes in Windows 10, or in the OneNote app, you’ll have quick access to the same things with that account Outlook on the web. This is known as the OneNote feed.

You can toggle to this at any time by heading up top and clicking the OneNote icon on the right side of the screen. This works with both personal Microsoft Accounts, as well as work Microsoft 365 accounts. So, give it a try and take notes while emailing!

We also want to note the ability to “Meet Now.”  This option shows at the top of your inbox in Outlook on the web. If you click this, you’ll be able to instantly start a Teams meeting (with work accounts) or a Skype meeting (with personal accounts.) It’s a quick way to jump through some hoops and not have to go through a lot of menus to get into a meeting right away.

Get to inbox zero with conversation cleanup

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If your inbox is full of messages, then you might want to try the Conversation Cleanup feature in Outlook. It is yet another feature that you might not have known exists.

As Microsoft explains, the Conversation Clean Up feature in Outlook is designed to help you reduce the number of messages in your folders. Redundant messages throughout a conversation that are cleaned up are moved to the Deleted Items folder. Just keep in mind this is for conversations in an email thread or a collection of messages.

You can use conversation cleanup by going to your Outlook inbox on your desktop and then click the Home tab. From there, you can choose the Delete group and then choose Clean up.

You can choose to Clean up the Conversation to clean up the current conversation. Then, choose to Clean up Folder to clean up an entire folder, with the redundant messages being deleted. You also can opt to Clean Up Folder & Subfolders. With this option, all conversations in the selected folder and any folder that it contains are reviewed, and redundant messages are deleted.

Set rules to move, flag, and respond to email messages automatically

While conversation cleanup is one way to get to a clean inbox, setting rules is another. You can move, flag, and respond to emails automatically if you set rules in your Outlook desktop app. These rules can even be used to play specific sounds when you get messages, too.

To set up a rule, all you need to do is right-click on a message in your inbox and select Rules From there, you can select one of the options. Outlook will automatically suggest creating a rule based on the sender and the recipients. If you want to create more rules, you can right-click it and choose Create Rule.

Follow the on-screen prompts, and in the Create Rule dialog box, select one or more of the first three checkboxes. Microsoft has a complete guide on Outlook rules here if you need further assistance.

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