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8 Outlook Hints Everyone Should Know

8 Outlook Hints Everyone Should Know

Outlook hints

While studying and teaching productivity habits, I’ve noticed that many people use Microsoft Outlook for their e-mail and calendar, but have no idea that this tool has many useful features built in. Here’s five hints that could improve your productivity when using Outlook.

1. Public Holidays

If you don’t want to miss public holidays, Outlook can automatically add them to your calendar and it has nearly 100 different locations to choose from!

You will not forget that October 2nd is Gandhi Jayanti in India while November 11th is Veteran’s Day in United States and Independence Day in Poland.

Outlook - Public Holidays

    To enable this, simply go to: Options (File – Options) – Calendar – Add Holidays, and choose the countries that you are working with.

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    Outlook - Public Holidays set

      They are added as All Day Events, so you can freely set reminders, apply colors and mark yourself as, Out of Office.

      2. Two Time Zones

      When you are working across multiple time zones, before you schedule any meeting it’s important to know the time on the other side to avoid setting up a meeting that might be too early or too late. Instead of fumbling around Google trying to figure it out, Outlook can help you by showing two time zones at the same time.

      Outlook - Two time zones

        To enable it, simply go to: Options – Calendar – Time zones – Show a second time zone.

        Outlook - Two time zones set

          3. Automatic Colors

          Your email and calendar can automatically apply colors to your emails and meetings based on pre-defined rules. For example, emails sent to you, when you are the only person on the “To” line, can be colored red. To do that, simply choose: View – View Settings – Conditional Formatting (or Automatic Formatting), and you can add a simple rule as shown below:

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          Outlook - Automatic Colors

            Your calendar and email have separate set of rules, but they are accessed the same way.

            4. Search Function

            A lot of people have used the search mechanism that’s available in Outlook but many people do not know how to use it effectively.

            Outlook - search

              There is a quick introduction how you could do this. It is a powerful mechanism that can save you hours and it’s definitely worth learning!

              5. Desktop Alert

              Your brain is unable to do two things at the same time effectively and every context switch costly. However, I still see many people using Desktop Alert, a distracting function that alerts you every time you receive a new email. This alert can make it hard to focus on your tasks and prevent you from working efficiently. I strongly suggest switching this off and reading more about the Pomodoro Technique.

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              To disable Desktop Alert in Outlook, simply go to: Options – Mail – disable “Display a Desktop Alert” option.

              Outlook - Disable Desktop Alert

                6. Manual Mark as Read

                By default, Outlook marks items as read when your selection changes. Often times, you can get lost in what you did or did not read which can be really annoying, because you want to keep track of the things you’ve already processed. I strongly recommend disabling that feature by going to: Options – Mail – Reading Pane – disable “Mark item as read when selection changes”.

                When you are done and want to manually mark the item as read, use Ctrl+Q.

                Outlook - Auto mark as read

                  7. Sharing Calendars

                  When you are working in a team, especially when you are not sitting close to each other, scheduling a meeting can be hard. When choosing a time, you can only see if someone is busy or not, but you will not see any meeting details. This can be solved by sharing your Outlook calendar. You may ask the whole team to do this.

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                  Outlook - Share calendar

                    After your calendar was shared, everyone will be able to access all the meetings details you have in it. If you want to prevent it for showing certain meetings and events, simply use “Private” flag and only you will be able to access it.

                    Outlook - Private Meeting combined

                      8. Keeping a Declined Meeting

                      Sometimes you want to “decline” a meeting, but still have it in your calendar. To quickly solve this problem, you may copy&paste this meeting (Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V), decline the original meeting and keep the copy.

                      Summary

                      When used effectively, Microsoft Outlook many useful features that will enable you to do your work seamlessly and as efficiently as possible.

                      What are your best hints and tricks when using Outlook? – share them with me!

                      More by this author

                      Piotr Nabielec

                      Author, CEO, Consultant

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                      Last Updated on May 14, 2019

                      8 Replacements for Google Notebook

                      8 Replacements for Google Notebook

                      Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

                      1. Zoho Notebook
                        If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
                      2. Evernote
                        The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
                      3. Net Notes
                        If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
                      4. i-Lighter
                        You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
                      5. Clipmarks
                        For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
                      6. UberNote
                        If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
                      7. iLeonardo
                        iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
                      8. Zotero
                        Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

                      I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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                      In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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