Secret ingredients to quality software


Rules to Better Outlook

15 Rules

  1. Do you avoid "Recall this message..." by not sending emails immediately?

    Occasionally you will send an email and want to make changes to it after it's already gone. Microsoft Outlook has the option to "recall the message" but this is not recommended mainly because you cannot guarantee the recipient hasn't seen the message already.

    What you need to do is to set a rule to delay sending your emails in 15 minutes for example, which gives you time enough to correct it in most of the cases. If you only realize your mistake after this amount of time, just use "reply to all" mentioning your changes.

    Here is how you do it in Outlook :

    1. Click the File tab.
    2. Click Manage Rules & Alerts .
    3. Click New Rule .
    4. In the Step 1: Select a template box, under Start from a Blank Rule, click Apply rule on messages I send , and then click Next .
    5. In the Step 1: Select condition(s) list, select the check boxes for any options that you want, and then click Next . When you don't select any check boxes, a confirmation dialog box appears to confirm that the rule you are creating will be applied to all messages that you send.
    6. In the Step 1: Select action(s) list, select the "defer delivery by a number of minutes" check box.
    7. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description (click an underlined value) box by entering the number of minutes you want the messages to be held before it is sent. Delivery can be delayed up to 120 minutes.
    8. Click OK , and then click Next .
    9. Select the check boxes for any exceptions that you want. Click Next .
    10. In the Step 1: Specify a name for this rule box, type a name for the rule (E.g. "Delay sending emails").
    11. Select the Turn on this rule check box.
    12. Click Finish.

    Now when you click Send, each message remains in the Outbox folder for the time that you specified and you can make changes to it until then.

    recall message
    Figure: Bad example - Recalling a message when you want to change an email after sending

    create rule to delay sending
    Figure: Good example - Delay sending in 15 minutes (make it less or more if necessary)

  2. Do you avoid Outlook Rules?

    Some people make extensive use of the rules wizard so that as email messages arrive they already appear in the appropriately created folder.

    "I basically think this doesn't work as you never look at these emails."- Adam Cogan

  3. Do you avoid using Auto Archive?

    If you use Exchange Server, Auto-Archive moves the archived items from the Exchange Server to a local drive on your notebook or desktop. While this keeps your Exchange Server nice and small, if you happen to use email to store legal documents, or want to search for emails you've sent a year ago, Auto-Archive is like throwing data away.

    Outlook Auto Archive
    Figure: Turn off AutoArchive so your emails do not get thrown away I promise you'll be thankful you never deleted your Sent Items.

    We have a program called SSW LookOut! for Outlook to check for this rule.

    SSW LookOut! for Outlook can tell you if you have archive on.

    Contact or No Aging
    Figure: SSW LookOut! for Outlook warns you if Outlook is set to archive your emails

  4. Do you group your emails by Conversation and Date?

    You may be involved in different tasks simultaneously every day. The best way to organize your tasks and follow each task individually is grouping your emails by conversation. By default, Outlook groups the emails by Date.

    Figure: Bad example. Email messages are grouped by Date

    Figure: Good example. Email messages are grouped by Conversation

    Follow these steps to group by conversation:

    1. Open Outlook and select the Mail View.
    2. Right-click any column and choose the "Customize Current View..." option.
    3. Select the "Group by..." option as displayed in the image.

    Figure: Steps to group by conversation field

    1. Select the "Conversation" field from the list. (Leave empty the remaining groups)

    VIDEO - Top 10+ Rules to Better Email Communication with Ulysses Maclaren

  5. Do you know how to make your CC’s grey?

    Cut down the noise in your inbox by visually filtering emails not sent directly to you.

    Figure: Good Example - Cut down the noise in your inbox by visually filtering emails not sent directly to you

  6. Do you know how to recall an email?

    Even though you may check your emails before sending, use SSW lookout to help you avoid mistakes, and even if you send/receive manually, there will still be times where you will send out an email with mistakes or incorrect content.

    But all is not lost.

    With Outlook 2007

    If you go into your sent items, open up the offending email, and go into Actions | Recall this Message, outlook will attempt to delete the message from the recipient's inbox before he has a chance to read it.

    Recall a message
    Figure: Actions | Recall this Message (Outlook 2007)

    With Outlook 2010

    If you go into your sent items, open up the offending email, and go into file | Info | Resend Or Recall | Recall this message, outlook will attempt to delete the message from the recipient's inbox before he has a chance to read it.


    Figure: File | Info | Resend Or Recall | Recall This Message (Outlook 2010)

    Outlook will tell you whether it was successful or not

  7. Do you manage your Deleted Items?

    Your deleted items can become quite out of hand if you don't manage them. First, it can waste a lot of space on your hard drive, and second, after accidentally deleting a mail item, it can take days to find it again amongst the 30,000 messages in your Deleted Items Folder.

    Here's a couple of solutions:

    • Permanently delete your deleted items. This is based on the theory that once you have deleted a mail item, you should NEVER HAVE TO LOOK AT IT AGAIN. This is a good theory, but unfortunately, we don't always follow it in practice and there's no recovery
    • Move the items into subfolders under Deleted Items. This is a good solution as you can manually archive items, making it easier to search. You can permanently delete items when they reach a certain age.

    Figure: Good Example - Deleted Items ordered into time periods

    Note: A hot tip for making it easy to search for an accidentally deleted item is to add the "Modified" field into your Deleted Items view and sort by "Modified". The item from two months ago which you just accidentally deleted will be sitting at the top.

    Figure: Sort by "Modified"

  8. Do you minimize your Outlook Distractions?

    Getting in the zone is pretty challenging in any work environment. Outlook in particular likes to offer as many distractions as possible to ensure you can never forget you've got it open. Set your options so that Outlook:

    Figure: Good Example - Turn off Outlook distractions on Windows

    minimize outlook distractions mac
    Figure: Good Example - Turn off Outlook distractions on a Mac

    • Doesn't play a sound
    • Doesn't briefly change the mouse cursor
    • Doesn't show an envelope
    • and DOESN'T display a New Mail Desktop Alert

    Here are a few more distractions tips:

  9. Do you sort your emails by "Received" and "Important"?

    OK - so now you've got your important emails identified, don't let them get lost in the quagmire. If you use Outlook make use of its inbuilt functionality. Always sort your emails by the Received, but add a secondary sort by "Important". This way your important emails always stay at the top to haunt you until they are done.

    Figure: Good Example - Sorted by Important and Received Date

    The Red Exclamation Mark is a good start, but the Blue Arrow keeps getting my attention.

    Use sort by importance to sort the items with the blue arrow to the bottom.

  10. Do you use Offline Email?

    And remember to periodically select "Check All Subfolders" to make sure all folders are being synced in your .ost file.

    Figure: Periodically check that all your mail folders are being synced in your offline.ost file

  11. Do you use spelling and grammar checker to make your email professional?

    Improper spelling, grammar, and punctuation on your emails give a bad impression of your company. It looks unprofessional and can result in your message not being conveyed correctly. To ensure this doesn't happen, use Microsoft Outlook Spelling & Grammar Checker on the 'Editor Options' window.

    outlook spelling
    Figure: You should also check “Always check spelling before sending” to ensure your message doesn't have mistakes

  12. Do you use the search tool to find emails in Outlook?

    Looking manually through your Outlook sent items is something you shouldn't be doing. The better way is to use Outlook "search" functionality.

    Learn to narrow your search criteria for better searches in Outlook.

  13. Do you use the security options in Outlook?

    When you distribute important information by email all you can do is put "Do Not Forward this please". Important corporate information should be protected better than this.

    Figure: You can protect your email messages

    This solution exists in Microsoft Office and is built into Outlook. Entitled 'Information Rights Management', a file level security application built onto Windows Server. The capability enables you to prevent recipients of your emails (and attachments) from forwarding them on, copying any text, or printing the document (be aware that determined chaps could use a lower level screen shot program to get past this).

    Additionally, it encrypts the file as it's sent away. As an added basis - you can secure on a group level (based on Active Directory groups). To prevent an email being forwarded simply create a new email and select the "options" tab and click on "permission" in the ribbon and select "do not forward".

    outlook prevent FW
    Figure: How to prevent emails being forwarded in Outlook

    Note: You may be interested to know that every mail item that you send gets a file saved with these credentials so you can still open the emails when you are offline. To see: go to Start - Run %USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\drm.

  14. Do you use the voting option appropriately?

    Usually when an employee from the company wants to make a decision about either a naming convention, a button style, using user-controls or forms, or even something as simple as changing a font; there should always be reassurance from the rest of the team that it should/should not be done.

    Outlook Voting
    Figure: Good Example - using the voting buttons option.

    1. The subject should start with "VOTE: ..."
    2. The sender should reply with a summary after either everyone has replied or after a certain period of time to let the group know how significant their input was.
    3. The voting options should be short, to the point, and provide a distinct difference for each option.

      i.e. option1;"option1";option2;"option2" is not appropriate.

    4. There should also be an extra option to allow a flexible result if a member of the email group does not want to vote. i.e. yes; no; un-opinionated.

      This will provide an accurate result of the vote and will not force anyone to select an option just for the sake of giving a reply.

    5. Voters should be allowed to add their extra comments along with their vote when replying to all, regardless of whether or not they think it is their "two cents", simply because the person who initially voted is looking for any and all opinions to assure the right decision is made.
    6. When making a vote, try to make the options clear enough so that voters would not have to spend too much time deciding.

      A good voting system is one that allows the voters to choose an option quickly and carry on with their work, unless of course it is controversial.

  15. zz_Do you use Word as your editor?

    In Microsoft Outlook you have the option to use Word as your Email editor.

    Outlook Word As Editor
    Figure: Make sure you have this check box on This has a few advantages:

    1. It automatically compresses images which you paste into your email (meaning a much smaller size email)
    2. You get all the benefits of Word e.g. Formatting and styles, spell checking smart tags, thesaurus - the list goes on and on.
    3. With the emergence of some great 3rd Party Smart Tags you can integrate your database in your email program. Companies often forget that improving their users' ability to handle email efficiently can be one of the biggest productivity gains you can achieve.

    Outlook Using Word As My Editor
    Figure: See the difference in size

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