Love it or hate it, you have to admit that Microsoft's Outlook makes many of the menial tasks involved in running a business -- from its automatic integration with NetMeeting and other conferencing tools to easy lookup of contact information -- much, much easier.
But with a seemingly endless supply of features and functions, sometimes Outlook can seem a little burdensome. Here are a few tips Microsoft provides when its clients come to them with e-mail headaches.
1. Crush Spam
According to Postini, a message management company that maintains an extensive database of information about unwanted and malicious message activity, spam is up 65 percent since the beginning of 2002, to the point where 77.6 percent of all messages are spam. That's almost seven billion messages in the past six months alone.
Microsoft's integrated junk mail filters can help to reduce user spam overload if they're used effectively. It's important to look at the junk e-mail filter options and make changes as necessary. Microsoft recommends setting the filter to "High" and to ensure that you flag every unwanted message with the "Junk E-Mail" button on the toolbar.
2. Delegating Tasks
Outlook's Tasks section is a great place to make a to-do list with specific due dates for each entry. However, it's also a great way to bury yourself in a mountain of reminders should you fall behind. If this happens to you, Microsoft recommends finding a delegate. Just pick a task that someone else can perform, click the "Assign Task" button on the toolbar, type in the name of the lucky recipient, make sure that you click the "keep an updated copy" prompt and "send me a status report" box, then send it away.
You'll still have a copy in your task list, but it won't be yours to worry about any longer. When the delegate completes the task, you'll receive notification and your list will get one item shorter.
3. Find It
While reading and responding to e-mails take up the lion's share of a user's time in Outlook, finding that message you forgot to respond to yesterday can take time too. Microsoft recommends the creation of Search Folders, or folders with rules that contain rules to highlight received mail of a certain type. You can create a search folder to, for example, display only messages from a certain sender. Or, to display unread messages older than a certain date. By creating a series of these folders with different rules you can quickly sift through mails that need your attention.
And, if you need to find specific e-mails, try Lookout, a free download. Lookout inserts a small Toolbar into Outlook with a text box. Type in whatever you want to search for, click the button, and Lookout will immediately tear through all of your folders and bring up a list of every e-mail containing that word or phrase. You can even configure it to search through folders on your hard drive or even across the network