Master Microsoft Outlook 2013 with these tips

Microsoft Outlook 2013 introduces new features that change the way you zip through your inbox, calendar, and contacts.

Keeping track of email messages, calendars and contacts can consume lots of time every working day. If you use Outlook, anything to speed up your work can boost your productivity measurably.

Imagine if your inbox only shows the messages you want to see. Consider if you can locate the vital contact information in seconds. What if we finally know why some of the features in Outlook do not work as advertised?

These 10 Microsoft Outlook 2013 tips will help you move between your message and your schedule and work more effectively in general.

1. Display the inbox your way

The first time you open your inbox, the default view of your inbox appears but it does not have to be that way. To see the many customization options in Outlook, click the View tab in the toolbar ribbon, select Change View. There are several predefined views that you can choose from such as one that shows the most recent posts only.

Also on the View tab, you can select preview messages or disable the preview. Choose either 1, 2 or 3 for the number of lines of the message under your header. You can configure any of these options, either to the current folder or all mailboxes.

Click View Settings for options to customize a view, and add columns or rearrange their order. Organization options allow you to sort emails by date, subject, etc. Design options allow you to customize the folder pane and the reading pane.

Once you’ve organized your inbox according to your liking, click Change View > Save Current View as a New Vista. Then type a name for the view, and specify which folders can be used and by whom. In the future, return to this screen by selecting Change View and select the saved view.

2. Redefine what defines an email as “already read”

Outlook unread colors are different from those which are already read. However, it is very easy for an email to be marked as “read” when you’ve just had a look in passing, which can make you overlook something important.

To avoid this, you can have Outlook less sensitive. To start, select File > Options > Mail and then click the button of Reading Panel. Check the box “Mark items as read when viewed in the Reading Pane” and set the number of seconds you want the message to appear in the Reading Pane Outlook check before you read. The default is 5 seconds.

After that, the preview messages in the reading pane that appear there longer than the predetermined time period is automatically marked as read.

3. Apply conditional formatting to messages

Outlook 2013 has a new way to indicate that messages have not been read. There is a blue bar to the left of the message in your inbox, and the message header also appears in blue.

This blue is applied by conditional formatting. However, you can change the color and font. Better yet, you can write your own rules and format your email messages using colors of your choice.

You can assign a color to the emails based on the poster, or based on words that appear in the subject line. To do this, select View > Settings > Conditional Formatting. You’ll see the rule of unread messages and selected blue color. You can change the font or color you want.

You can also click Add new rule. Start typing a name for the rule in the Name box. Then click Font, select a font and font color to apply to the mail header. Finally, click the Condition button. When you open the Filter dialog box, select the options that describe how emails will be formatted with the new settings.  Click OK three times to save the settings.

4. Resets Taskbar

Outlook 2013 disables the taskbar by default but is easy to retrieve. Click the View tab, select Task Bar, and in the drop-down list, select the elements that should appear in the taskbar.

The options are Hide Taskbar (default) or show a combination of Tasks, Contacts, and Calendar. The order in which these options are selected determines the order in which they appear in the taskbar. For example, tasks, selected first, is on top. The second element, Contacts, below and the third Calendar appears at the bottom of the bar.

However, the taskbar no longer works as it did in earlier versions of Outlook. Whatever the width of the bar, you will only see a calendar month. Also, if you do not have appointments scheduled for today, then no appointment is displayed, even if you have scheduled some for tomorrow.

5. Connect to your social networking accounts

Outlook can connect to your social network accounts, the People module can display data about your contacts and activities.

To link a social network account to Outlook 2013, select File > Info > Account Settings > Social Network Accounts. Connect to LinkedIn and Facebook by selecting the desired service, writing your account information, and giving permission to Outlook to access your account. Now the details of people in your contact list of the social sites you added will appear in the Contacts area of Outlook.

6. Clean the contacts

The new features of Outlook Contacts module allow you to access the contact information from places like Facebook and LinkedIn. In some cases, you can have multiple contact entries in the contact list for a single person, with different details in each place.

You can link these multiple entries for a single contact to unify the data in one place. Click on the contact that interests you and sees its information by selecting Start > Contacts.

To the right of the screen, click Link Contacts, and a dialog showing the contact entry or entries for that person appears. In the Search, People write some identifying information of the person and bring other Outlook contact entries that could be of that person. If they are the same person, click the entry to bind the data.

7. Controls where Outlook looks by default

When looking for emails in Outlook, the default is your current mailbox. However, this is often too limited. If you want to perform a search for all matching entries in all mailboxes, for example, you have to select the option from the list in the search box to each search you make.

Alternatively, you can change the default location that Outlook uses to search. To do this, select File> Options> Search. In the results area, you can choose one of four options: Wallet Actual (Current Folder), Current Mailbox when looking from the inbox; Actual Mailbox; All Mailboxes. Select the option you want to use and then click OK. That will then be the default place of searches of Outlook but of course, you can alter when you require.

8. Decide whether to use the quick steps or rules

Quick Steps were introduced in Outlook 2010 to give a method to quickly perform Outlook tasks. However, one might wonder why you would use a quick step instead of a rule? Quick steps are flexible so you can choose when you want to use it to apply, the rules are less flexible and are fixed once applied automatically.

The answer to which one you should use depends on your task. For example, you can use rules to identify when a message should always be handled in the same way. So you could use a ruler if you want to move all incoming messages from your boss into a folder. A rule works well here because the emails from your boss will be easily identified by the unique email address.

On the other hand, if you store incoming press notes in a special folder, this may be a task for a quick step if you do not know in advance who these emails are. Without a way to uniquely identify an email containing a press release, you cannot write a rule to automatically process the message.

However, you can create a quick step in which you can click to move any selected message to a specific folder. The Quick-Step cannot identify that an email contains a press release – you have to do that – but accelerate the process of moving the email if you decide what needs to be moved. You can create Quick Steps and Rules in the area of Outlook Mail using the tools on the Home tab.

9. You use the favorites

If you have many email accounts, your panel folder can get full so you will take time to navigate to find those folders you use frequently. You can simplify the search in those folders if you add those as Favorites. Favorites appear at the top of the folder list when in the Mail module.

If the area of Favorites does not appear, switch to Mail, select View > Folders panel and click to select Favorites. Now you can add any folder favorites by right-clicking on the Folders panel and select Show in Favorites. You can even set a search folder to be a favorite, resulting in easy to find and use.

10. Understanding the consequences of using IMAP

If your email account uses the IMAP protocol, certain common functions do not work in Outlook 2013. This will be a problem for a growing number of users of Outlook since IMAP is used to access email from any device. Most people who use services such as Hotmail and Gmail, for example, use IMAP for email.

When you’re using IMAP, in Outlook you can no longer download only the message headers, and decide from there which messages to download. Instead, now all emails are downloaded automatically. Furthermore, you cannot add IMAP messages to detailed flags.

The flags are either lit or off, and cannot be adjusted so that they mean different things. Nor can you assign categories to messages except messages from your Hotmail account. If you have the option of using POP3 or IMAP, and if you do not need to access your email from multiple devices, you can consider using IMAP instead of POP3.