Outlook and its Many Wondrous Features – Colton Jones

My experience with Outlook has always been one of both love and hate. There are days when I log in and all my emails are where I left them, the folders are neatly organized, and there is a very small number of emails to read. And, of course, some days it is the exact opposite. You know the days where the first thing you see after opening Outlook is the dreaded “no connection to Exchange” warning, and then when you finally get connected and start searching through emails, the ones you want are nowhere to be seen.

For people like me, who find any distraction from their morning coffee and regular routine very annoying, dealing with these sorts of issues is painful. Let me tell you with the experience of talking with numerous people about their Outlook issues, you can be assured that this little article will be worth your read. I will quickly note that I am going to center this article around the 2013 and 2016 versions of Outlook.

Let me present my top 5 personally most used tips and tricks regarding some things you might not have known about Outlook. If you already know all of these, I am pretty sure you are quite the Outlook wizard.

  1. The first tip is my most frequently used one, even though I only discovered it a few weeks ago (no judgment here). Did you know that you can take a screenshot using a built in feature in Outlook, without having to use the Snipping Tool?

All you need to do is open a new email, select the “Insert” tab, and click the Screenshot button right in the middle.
Outlook Features Pic 1
After you click Screenshot, you are even presented with a few options for either a whole window or just a specific snippet of your choosing.

  1. Now let’s get onto some neat commands you can use in the search menu. Outlook does give you the ability of filtering between “All” and “Unread” messages, by selecting the options in the top of the main window. What you may not have known, is that you can filter even further by using key search terms such as attachments, subject, cc, bcc, message size, and date/time received.

Some of the simpler commands can go a long way. Say you’re looking for a message from Mike and it had something to do with a vacation request. You can go in your search box and type “from: mike vacation” and it will likely bring up the message you’re looking for. A quick tip – use a term that is as specific and uncommon as possible. For example, if you receive a lot of messages with the word vacation, perhaps you should instead use the word Florida if that was also in the message.

There are also many more advanced search options. Let’s use the situation where you are looking through previous emails and you remember receiving that important word document and need to find it. So we simply type “attachments:ImportantDocument.docx” which would bring up emails containing that document name. I, for one, know that typing that instead of another co-worker’s name and sifting through dozens of emails from that one person would take much less time.

To go even farther with this, say you receive that document every single week with the same name, but you need that specific one from June many weeks ago. By inserting a logical operator in the filter we can actually combine different filters to refine our search. Logical operators such as NOT, AND, OR when put together with the above commands give us power to type “attachments:ImportantDocument.docx AND received:=06/01/2016”.

If you want to read even further into this, I recommend checking out this site which shows you every command possible from Microsoft!

  1. Don’t you absolutely despise it when you get stuck in a chain of emails that make you think “why am I even included in this”? It would be rude to say please cut me out of this chain, and you can’t just ignore every email address in the list. Better answer is just to mute yourself out of it and delete.

Select the email chain you wish to mute, look in the home tab on the top of your menu and you should see an “Ignore” option in the left.

Outlook Features Pic 2

Clicking it will reveal a prompt saying “The selected conversation and all future messages will be moved to the deleted items folder”. So, worst case scenario, you realize you did need those emails after all, you can recover them from your deleted items.

  1. The number of daily tasks you can complete without even touching your mouse is incredible with the power of shortcut keys. Outlook offers a fair number of options that you can use ranging from starting a new email to flagging an email for follow up.

Below is a table of my most frequently used commands that I am sure would be the most practical for a typical user.


Command Key Press
Create new email CTRL + N
Print an email CTRL + P
Reply to an email CTRL + R
Delete an email CTRL + D
Forward an email CTRL + F
Create a task CTRL + SHIFT + K
Create a Calendar Appointment CTRL + SHIFT + A
Mark as unread CTRL + U
Open Advanced Find CTRL + SHIFT + F


This is just a few of my favorites, there are many more shortcuts out there. Outlook features a vast number of different commands that covers any specific function you can think of performing. Once again I will have to credit Microsoft with having the entire list of shortcuts available online for your viewing pleasure.

  1. Every person’s Outlook I have ever seen, in their own way has been set up differently. Some people like to have the preview layout enabled so they can preview messages without needing to open them, some turn it off and need to open the message to do so. Different views offer people various advantages and disadvantages depending on their scope of work in Outlook. The ability to save different views and to change within a push of a button allows for different styles of work to get done throughout the day.

By default, the three basic views are pre-configured. Click the “View” tab in the top of your outlook pane, and select “Change View” which is the first option in the list.

Outlook Features Pic 3

You will notice that the three views are as follows:

  • Compact – shows the sender, folder pane, reading pane.
  • Single – same as above but hides the sender and shows the category of the email
  • Preview – Removes the reading pane and allows the email message to cover the whole window.

Say if you wanted to configure which headers/columns you wanted to display in the email message.  Select “View Settings” on the view tab, and then click “Columns”. You can adjust the few columns that it shows by default to add a whole array of different options.

Outlook Features Pic 4

After finding the correct configuration of the Outlook window and columns, simply select “Change View” and click the option to “Save current view as a new view”. After giving it a name and deciding who can use it, you can select the “Change View” option again and then select “Manage Views” where you can see your newly saved view and the other views you may have created.

As you can see, Outlook has a bit more complexity and efficiently then you might think at first use. Hopefully these tricks were new to you and I was able to show you a neat feature or two.

Colton Jones
Operations Technician

One Response to Outlook and its Many Wondrous Features – Colton Jones

  1. Mallory says:

    Great article, Colton! Very useful. Thank you for putting this together, I have shared it with our entire team.

    Much appreciated!

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