What Are Some Useful Features of Microsoft Outlook?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Sep 21, 2020 3:01:40 PM ET
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Microsoft Outlook is the proprietary email client and personal information-management system that’s included in Microsoft’s Office suite of programs. While you might primarily use Outlook to send and receive email messages, there’s a variety of other features included in this program that can help you organize and manage your digital life. From listening to audio to updating calendars to dictating messages, Outlook’s functions are varied and helpful. Learn more about some of these key features and how they can streamline your time online.

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Email Scheduling

Have a message you want to send out — but not right after you’ve written it? Whether you have some news you want to wait to share or you want to send out a blog post notification after it’s published, Outlook allows you to schedule dates and times when you want emails to go out to recipients.

To use this feature, write an email like you normally would. Then, click on “Delivery Options,” where you’ll see a checkbox labeled “Do not deliver before” along with date and time drop-down menus. Click the box and enter the date and time when you want the email to be delivered. Finally, close the Options dialogue box and send the email. It’ll look like it’s been sent, but it won’t be delivered to your recipient until your specified date and time.

Quick Parts

Do you need to send form letters for client invoices, event invitations to many people or other messages that frequently use the same portion of text? Save this section (and others) into Outlook’s Quick Parts so you can easily access it and add it to a message easily whenever you need it. You won’t have to go searching through your sent messages so you can copy and paste the writing in a new email.

To use Quick Parts, type out an email as you normally would. Before sending it, highlight the portion of text that you want to save. Then, click the Insert tab, select “Quick Parts” and choose the option labeled “Save selection to Quick Part gallery.” You can save it as-is or select the option to save it as auto-text; with auto-text, you can type the first few words of the saved section, and Outlook will automatically insert the full text into your email message.

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Tasks and Calendars

If you work in an office among other employees who use Outlook or you like to keep friends and family on the same page when it comes to scheduling activities, the program’s Tasks and Calendars features can make life easier. Sure, these help you keep track of appointments and your to-do list, but you can also share them with other people, which makes collaboration so much easier. Giving your recipients different permissions and levels of access means you alone can edit the Tasks list and your Calendar, but you can also allow other people to edit and add things to the documents.

To share your Calendar, open it up, click “Share Calendar,” add a recipient’s name along with the type of access you’re granting them and click “Send.” If you want to share Tasks with other people, you’ll do so when creating a new entry on the list. After adding all the relevant details, click “Assign Task” on the menu bar and add the recipient’s information before clicking “Send.” They’ll be able to accept or reject the task.

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Offline Access

If you’ve enabled the Offline Access feature in Outlook, you can do exactly what it sounds like: access your emails even when your computer or device doesn’t have an internet connection. Whenever you’re online, Outlook will update with the latest changes, including new emails. Then, when you’re offline, you still have the ability to open the program, read and write emails, draft and send new messages, respond to meeting requests and view and edit entries on your contacts list. The 20 folders you’ve opened most recently are accessible when you’re offline, and you can also access your drafts and calendars. However, you can’t add attachments to messages unless you have internet access.

To use Offline Access, open your settings in Outlook and choose “Options.” Then, open “Settings” and select the checkbox labeled “Turn on offline access.” Save these new preferences, and you’ll be able to view your inbox and complete some tasks even without internet access or Wi-Fi reception.

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Getting Graphic

And now for something fun — colorful, engaging graphics. Huge blocks of text aren’t always the most attention-grabbing tools for keeping someone engaged in a longer email. That’s why Outlook allows you to insert different types of graphics throughout your messages. These include pictures stored on your computer, pictures you find online via Microsoft’s search engine Bing, animated GIFs, shapes, charts, screenshots and SmartArt graphics. You can also create decorative text with the WordArt feature and change the background color of each message.

To include any of these fun additions in an email, click on the Insert tab and find the Illustrations group. Selecting the option you want will bring up the appropriate dialogue box that allows you to insert the graphic or text effect you’re looking for. Doing so may bring up a search bar that lets you plug in various search terms to find a GIF or image online through Bing.

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