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5 Tips for Using Microsoft Outlook More Effectively

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on May 26, 2015 11:54 AM

Love it or hate it, Microsoft Outlook is here for the long haul. Like cockroaches, Twinkies, and the leather jacket, it was here before we got here and it will keep going long after we're gone.

Rather than rage, rage against the Outlook, embrace it. Sure, it's part of a somewhat clunky suite of giant enterprise-level software, but you can bend it to your productivity will -- with the right tools, of course.

1. Templates

Are you sending basically the same email over and over again? Good news: You can spend more of your time practicing your ukulele. Like Word, Outlook allows you to create templates. Instead of retyping the same message over and over again, save the email as a template and then open it when you want to send that boring form email again.

2. Unsubscribe

Did someone in your office fail to take our advice (and the advice of everyone else on the Internet) and hit "reply all" instead of "reply"? Instead of deleting the ten thousand follow-up emails -- including the ones begging to be removed from the mailing list -- use Outlook's "ignore conversation" feature to automatically delete future replies to that same thread.

3. Categorize!

Folders are old and busted. Categories are the new hotness. With categories, you can virtually sort messages instead of moving them around from folder to folder. For example, you can create separate categories for each client, or separate categories for particular matters. Categories make life easy because you can then search by particular categories instead of searching the vast, undiscovered country of your entire mailbox.

4. Quick Parts

Quick Parts are like pieces of templates. You can create and save Quick Parts as "blocks" of text and then combine these blocks in new emails any way you want. For example, if you have a standard boilerplate block of text you insert into discovery request emails, but the emails themselves vary, use the Quick Parts feature to insert the boilerplate rather than creating a template.

5. Plugins

If you want to join the echelon of Outlook power users, consider some of the many third-party (i.e., non-Microsoft) plugins others have created. There are plugins to make Outlook behave more like Gmail and plugins to enhance Outlook's search functionality (like our favorite, dear-departed Xobni, which was discontinued in 2013). There are tons of plugins available, but be warned that not every plugin works with every version of Outlook, and poorly written plugins can slow Outlook to a crawl.

What are your favorite bits of advice for getting more out of Outlook? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter (@FindLawLP).

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