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Microsoft Outlook Tips

Although I’m a Mac guy, as promised in my previous post, here are four email handling features in Microsoft Outlook that I love.

Drag to Create Calendar Appointments.
Has someone requested a meeting in an email and not as a calendar appointment?  The nerve!  If you drag your email to the calendar (to a specific date or to the Calendar view icon), Outlook will pop up an appointment dialog box with the content of your email in the body.  That way, you can immediately pop it into your calendar (and then delete the message).  As an added bonus, you could invite that person to the new appointment so that the two of you are in sync and you know you got the time right.
Similarly, if you need to spend longer on an email (maybe because it requires a more thoughtful response), you can drag it to your calendar to  schedule time to work on it.
Drag to Create Tasks
Just received a task via email?  Again Outlook has nice features to help you here.  Just like you can drag a message to the calendar, you can drag a message to the “Tasks” box to schedule a reminder to follow up on that message.  Note that if you file it now, Outlook will delete the reminder.  Instead, move the message to a subfolder of your Inbox (call it “Follow-Up” if you’d like) to preserve it but still get it out of the way and keep your inbox clean.
When the task reminder pops up and you complete the task, delete the email.
Control-Shift-V to File
Although the mouse is convenient for certain tasks (fewer than you might think, though), using a mouse often slows down the filing process.  Instead, use Control-Shift-V (press all three keys at the same time) to open the dialog for filing a message.  Use the arrow keys or the mouse to select a folder and click OK or hit the return key.  The message is filed and you can deal with the next one.
Order by Conversation
If you’re faithfully practicing my zero-inbox system and scheduling email time or even if you step away for a meeting or lunch, you’ll often open your email client and find several emails as a conversation about a specific topic.  Rather than hunting through your messages for all the related messages, right-click the top of the message list (where From, To, Subject, etc are) and select Sort by Conversation.  Magically, Outlook with group all your email by subject and order the messages by time.
Ideally, you can just read the most recent message to get the entire conversation.  Sometimes, though, people don’t reply to the latest message.  So, while you can start at the end, you should check the others quickly to make sure there isn’t an out-of-sync message.

Sadly, I don’t use Microsoft Outlook for my personal email.  I mostly miss Control-Shift-V because it is so efficient.  Apple’s Mail client does have Order by Conversation and some clever stuff with dates and times that it detects in a message, but (shh! don’t tell anyone I said it) I prefer Microsoft’s solution without a doubt.