How to use Microsoft Outlook - email single-handedly

How to use Microsoft Outlook - email single-handedly
Articles and interesting facts

Writing e-mails, deleting e-mails and, of course, forwarding e-mails - in the IT Crowd series these skills were enough to get the position of the head of the IT department. We won't hide the fact that in reality, you'd probably need a bit more than that, but fortunately our goal is a bit more modest - to have a handle on everything related to the aforementioned mail handling in Microsoft Outlook.

Basic orientation in Microsoft Outlook

As we mentioned in the introductory part of the tutorial, for examples and demonstrations we will use the Outlook 365 for Windows version, which is one of the applications of the Microsoft 365 subscription office suite (formerly known as Microsoft Office or Office 365). Other versions may differ in graphical design or slight differences in the placement of some user interface elements, but the layout and control principle are basically similar.

So a basic view of Open Mail might look something like this:

Microsoft Outlook

What are we looking at?

The vertical (navigation) bar on the far left

Contains the basic functional signpost. We describe the icons from top to bottom:

  • Outlook 365 icon - opens the normal Windows system menu (minimize, maximize, close, etc.).
  • Envelope icon - opens the mail preview, as you can see in the image above, where the icon is checked.
  • Calendar icon - launches Outlook calendar for detailed scheduling of events and happenings.

Tip: for a quick preview of events, we recommend turning on the mini calendar (which you can see in the right third of the image above). How to do it? Right-click on the calendar icon and select Anchor preview from the context menu.

  • Character icon - opens the contact list. If you just hold the cursor over the icon, you will be able to quickly search your contacts.
  • Dashboards icon - launches an overview of priority emails, and especially tasks - only functional with ToDo, which is also part of Microsoft 365.
  • Blue checkmark icon - launches the ToDo (Tasks) app directly in the Outlook 365 environment.
  • Square icon at the bottom - opens quick access to other Microsoft 365 apps, including links to shortcuts, folders, and notes.

Second vertical bar from the right - Favorites section

No need for a long description here - the features are clear from the image. Clicking on the miniature arrow icon at the very top will expand the section into full view, including subfolders. You can customize and configure the entire section to your personal preferences, including the ability to add folders from all the email accounts you are logged into in Outlook 365.

You can see the default entries in the image above, but you can also add any custom folder here - right-click and select "Add to Favorites". Follow the same procedure to remove folders from your favourites.

Third vertical bar from the right - list of emails in the selected folder

This shows the emails contained in the folder you currently have selected in one of the left-hand bars. Above the bar, notice the "Priority" and "Other" tabs - Outlook automatically sorts incoming emails into these to separate important messages sent by real people from emails generated by bots. By clicking the "Sort By" option (pictured above Under: Date), you can set the parameter by which incoming emails are sorted.

The first horizontal bar at the very top

It contains several handy features:

  • The "Quick Access" toolbar - pictured above - contains two items represented by arrow icons (specifically, the Receive and Send All and Undo functions). By clicking on the miniature beak button pointing vertically downwards, you can add your own shortcuts for the most common actions (e.g. printing).
  • The "Search" field - a handy full-text search for emails, contacts, documents and attachments as well as Outlook 365 commands and actions.
  • Bell icon - displays a list of notifications.

Second and third horizontal bars from the top - tabs and tab strip

Tabs are text menus grouping tools according to their functional grouping. Clicking on any of the items (Home, View, etc.) will change the contents of the tab strip.

The tab strip (starting with "New Email" in the figure above) then represents the menu, which changes depending on which tab you have selected (see above). Here you will find basically all the tools and options you need to work with emails. If you want to expand the tab bar so that you can also see the corresponding text name of the tools, click on the small arrow (the beak pointing vertically downwards) in the bottom right corner of the current tab bar.

Writing emails, replying to emails... and of course forwarding emails

Finally, we're at the "heart of the matter", so to speak, which is actually creating, sending and forwarding messages in Outlook 365.

Creating emails

To compose a new message, press the CTRL+N keyboard shortcut or click the "New Email" button in the top left corner and a new window will open that looks something like this:

Nová zpráva v MS Outlooku

First, enter an address - click in the box next to the "To" button to see a listing of recent recipients; click directly on the button to see the complete address book synced with your email account. You can search the address book full-text.

The second line next to the "Copy" button works similarly, which is for secondary recipients of the message (i.e., you are initially sending it to them for their information or information).

Tip: How to make a hidden copy in Outlook that is not displayed by default? Click on the "Copy" button to open the directory. At the very bottom, you will see the "Hidden" item, where you can either select recipients from your contact list or insert a space and close the address book - Outlook will then display the hidden copy directly in the new message window, and you can insert the recipient in the same way as we described above for the "To" item:

Jak na skrytou kopii v MS Outlook

Don't forget to fill in the subject line - by ignoring it you are committing a slight offence against email etiquette. By filling in the subject, you will help the recipient to determine the subject and content of the message at a glance, as well as search back through the inbox.

Now you can get on with the actual composing of the email message. You can use the tabs on the top bar and their menus to format text, insert attachments, and more; you can open the emoji and smiley menus in Outlook the same way you do elsewhere in Windows, with the Win + . (dot) keyboard shortcut.

Tip: If you want to display more tools in the toolbar (e.g. in the picture above we have the option to format text into bullets, but we don't see the numbering option anymore), simply expand or maximize the window to display more items.

You can probably get by with the basic "Message" tab, where the most important tools are available - basic formatting, setting the importance of the message or attaching an attachment. Remember that large files (7-20 MB) are not advisable to send by email - the server may not accept them at all.

Tip: You can attach an attachment in two ways:

  • Click on the paperclip icon - here Outlook will very conveniently offer you a list of the last opened documents.
  • Drag and drop the file with the mouse, e.g. from Explorer, directly into the opened message window.

When the message is finished, you can send it by clicking on the "Send" button or by pressing the CTRL + ENTER keyboard shortcut.

How to set a signature in Outlook

A signature in Outlook can include text, of course, but also images or even a scan of your own signature. You can also have multiple signature variations. You can set Outlook to automatically add signatures to all outgoing messages, or just prepare and insert signatures into messages individually. How to do it?

  • Open a new email.
  • In the "Message" menu, select "Signature" and choose "Signatures".
  • Under "Select signature to edit", select "New". The New Signature dialog box opens, where you enter the name of the signature.
  • In the Edit Signature dialog box, you create your signature.

Tip: It is easier to create a signature in Word and just copy it to Outlook. For corporate signatures, the easiest method is to get the signature from the corporate directory. If the signature is not available there, simply copy it from an incoming message from a colleague, edit the information in Word, and paste it into Outlook.

  • Under "Choose a default signature", you set which email account to use the signature for, whether you want it to be used automatically, and whether it should also appear in replies and forwarded messages.
  • Save your settings by clicking OK.

Replying and forwarding messages

To send a reply, click on the email you want to reply to and then select one of the arrows in the top right corner (from left to right they have the functions: reply, reply all, forward). This will automatically insert a section for the text of the reply into the draft email. In this mode, the "Message" tab will open, but if you need to use a function that is not there, click on "Open in new window", which will display the environment as in the picture above.

How to set up an automatic reply

We mentioned where to find the autocomplete function in the introductory part of the tutorial, where we discussed, among other things, the various settings. Just click on the "File" tab and click on the big "Auto Answer" button. Then follow these steps:

  • In the "Autoresponders" section, select the "Send autoresponders" option. Here you can also set the time range - this will automatically stop sending automatic replies on the date and time you specify as the final date and time. Otherwise, you will have to turn off the automatic replies manually.
  • On the Inside tab, specify the reply you want to send automatically to colleagues and co-workers while you are away.
  • Save the settings by clicking OK.

That's it - you're ready to start writing, deleting... and of course, forwarding messages. In the next installment of this guide, we'll discuss the more advanced features of Outlook 365: how to deal with spam, setting rules, automatic filters, priorities, etc.

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