The Beginner’s Guide to Microsoft Outlook 2013 (Part 1)

Many of us crave organization and productivity. If you already use Microsoft Office, then you already have the ultimate tool to sate that craving: Outlook 2013.

Outlook is vital in many organizations, not simply for its obvious email skills, but it’s calendaring, tasks, and contacts talents as well. A typical company can connect Outlook to an Exchange server, and everyone can share the same address book and calendars, making it a great tool for enterprise level collaboration.

Unfortunately, most folks don’t have an Exchange server set up in their home and probably don’t even know what that is. But, that’s okay, Outlook functions just as well on your home computer, and will still provide all the features that make it such a powerful productivity tool: e-mail, tasks, appointments, address books, and much more!

 

Working with Outlook – A Tiny Primer

Outlook isn’t going to dazzle you when you first open it. For all intents and purposes, it’s another application in the Microsoft Office ecosystem and as such, it’s going to have quite a few familiar elements.

Unlike other popular Office apps, however, Outlook is largely built around its different functions – Word is primarily for creating text documents, Excel is all about spreadsheets, PowerPoint does presentations – but Outlook is a app of many hats.

Outlook’s default view is the inbox, along the top is the Ribbon, which is hidden in this view to save screen space.

Love them or hate them, Ribbons are everywhere throughout Office. We don’t need to spend any more time going over the relative merits of their existence, obviously they’re here to stay. That said, always remember, if you want to quickly hide or show the Ribbon, just use CTRL+F1.

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If you click on any of the menu functions at the top, the Ribbon shows and you can choose functions and tools. If you want the Ribbon to persist, you can use “CTRL+F1″ or click the small pushpin icon in the bottom-right corner.

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The Home tab on the Ribbon changes contextually depending on the mode you’re in. In the above screenshot, we see our options for Mail.

Below, the Home tab has changed to reflect the Calendar’s options. Note, the Ribbon is pinned so the pushpin has changed to an arrow in case you want to collapse it again (or use “CTRL+F1″).

The remaining Ribbon tabs – Send/Receive, Folder, View and, of course File – are all largely consistent for whatever mode you’re in. We’ll take a closer look at all of them in the next section.

Let’s take a quick look at how to move between modes and change your view. Along the left edge, you see the folder pane. At the bottom of this pane are shortcuts to Outlook’s modes. In this example, you see icons for the Inbox, Calendar, People, Tasks, and so on.

If you click on the arrow at the top of navigation pane, it will expand the pane, which will display the folder tree for your email account.
Similarly, if you switch to the Calendar mode, you will see the applicable view in the folder pane.

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Click on the three dots to access further Outlook modes, such as Notes, Folders, and Outlook shortcuts. Choose the “Navigation Options” and you can change the order in which the navigations elements appear.

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Turning off “Compact Navigation” will appeal to users with larger resolution displays. You can also increase or reduce how many items appear and the order they appear.

Send/Receive

The Send/Receive tab is geared specifically toward Inbox functions but it will appear in the other modes (Calendar, Tasks, etc.) too, though they won’t have the same functionality.

For example, here we see the Calendar’s Send/Receive tab, which eschews the Server section.

Depending upon what type of mail protocol you’re using (in the first screenshot, we’re working with an IMAP account), you may or may not have the ability to only download headers, or mark/unmark messages to download, etc.

Send/Receive options are thus dependent upon how you set up your e-mail accounts, but we recommend using services based on Microsoft Exchange like Hypermail.

 

Folder

Overall, the Folder tab is fairly consistent across all modes, with the notable exception of the Calendar. Below, you see the Inbox Folder tab, which lets you do all sorts of folder administration (if you’re not using an IMAP account, then you won’t see the IMAP tab).

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The AutoArchive Settings button is a little confusing since it doesn’t really affect how your inbox automatically archives old mail. If you want to keep your mail footprint small and easier to manage, you’ll need to open the options and attend to the AutoArchive setting there. Open the Options and select the “Advanced” category.

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Once you locate the AutoArchive option, click the “AutoArchive Settings…” button to open a far more helpful dialog than what you’re given from the Ribbon.

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As we mentioned, most of the Folder tabs are fairly consistent throughout Outlook, except the Calendar, which caters to calendar-specific functions. For example, you don’t copy or move folders, you copy or move calendars, and so on.

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For the most part, you’ll do a lot of folder administration with regard to your inbox because obviously e-mail can quickly become unwieldy and overwhelming if you don’t have a good folder structure and organization.

 

View

The View options contain the following essential functions. This is the View tab as seen from the Inbox.

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Note the Reminders Window button, which you can open at any time to check your reminders, such as if you missed one or absent-mindedly dismissed another. If you had any reminders showing, you could choose to dismiss each one, hit the snooze button, or simply dismiss everything in one go.

The other View tabs will vary according to the mode. The following is attributed to the Calendar, which adds the ability to change the current view, arrangement, color, and layout. Again, the Layout section does a lot of the same stuff throughout Outlook, but it’s important to note that it’s not universal, so what you enable in the Tasks, or Calendar, or Email modes will not be replicated throughout the entire application.

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Also, it’s important to pay attention to the Arrangement section. Here’s what the Arrangement section looks like in the Tasks mode. Notice how you can sort and change the Tasks view for maximum impact.

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Using the View tab per your preferences will allow you to cut through and sort information quickly as it increases and builds over time. Your calendar won’t stay empty, your tasks will multiply, mail piles up, and so using different arrangements and layouts can help you be a great deal more productive instead of blindly flailing about.

This is it for this now. Don’t forget that there will be part two of this tutorial.
Keep practicing the things you learn from this article and  check in a few days for Part 2.

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