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7 Underused Microsoft Outlook Features


Sometimes you get so caught up in checking and writing emails that you don’t have time to explore the rest of your inbox. Microsoft Outlook has several features that are underused by many but can be quite helpful for daily tasks.

1. Read Aloud for Listening to Emails

Multitasking is much simpler when you can work on something else while listening to the emails you need to read. This is when the Read Aloud feature is a handy one.

Select an email in your inbox or open it in a new window. Click “Read Aloud.” You’ll find this button on the Home tab in inbox view and on the Message tab in email view.

Read Aloud in Outlook

You’ll see a small toolbar appear with buttons to play, pause, move forward, and rewind. You can also use the gear icon to adjust the speed or voice.

Check out the Read Aloud feature on your mobile device for listening to emails on the go!

2. Message Preview for Seeing More or Less

While the Message Preview feature isn’t an earth-shattering one, it is something many people don’t know about. When viewing emails in your inbox, you can display one, two, or three lines in the message list, for all folders or just one. You can also turn the feature off completely.

RELATED: Change The Number Of Lines Shown For Message Previews in Outlook 2013

Go to the View tab in inbox view and select the Message Preview drop-down arrow. Select the number of lines you want to see.

Message Preview on the View tab

You’ll be prompted to apply the setting to all mailboxes or only the current folder. Make your selection and you’ll see your inbox update.

Message Preview prompt

This is a handy feature for seeing more of an email without actually opening it. You might see that it’s one that can wait until later or one that needs immediate action.

Message previews in Outlook

3. Mentions for Getting Someone’s Attention

When you send an email to a large group of people, you can use the Mentions feature to get a specific person’s attention just like on Facebook, Twitter, or Slack. Mentioning a person in the email body highlights their name, automatically adds them to the To line, and displays the @ (At) symbol in their inbox email list.

RELATED: What’s the Mention Column for in Microsoft Outlook?

Start by typing the @ symbol followed by their name or even the first few letters. You’ll see suggestions displayed, so simply select the correct contact.

Mention in an email

If others mention you in emails, you can see all of these messages easily. You can add the Mention column to your inbox. Alternatively, use the Filter button at the top of your inbox to pick “Mentioned Mail.” You’ll then see those emails where someone mentioned you.

Filter by Mentioned Mail

4. Email Templates for a Jumpstart on Composing

If you use templates in Word or Excel, then you know their value. You can get the basics you need and then insert your own details without the need to create a document or sheet from scratch. You can do the same thing in Outlook by creating your own template.

Compose a new message as you normally would. Select File > Save As. In the dialog box, enter a File Name and in the Save As Type drop-down list, pick “Outlook Template.”

Note: By default, Outlook templates are saved to c:usersusernameappdataroamingmicrosofttemplates.

Save as an Outlook Template

To use your template, go to the Home tab and open the New Items drop-down menu. Move to More Items and pick “Choose Form.”

Choose Form in the New Items menu

In the Look In drop-down list at the top of the pop-up window, select “User Templates in File System.” Choose the template from the list and click “Open.”

Choose the template

Your template then appears in a new message box for you to complete and send.

5. Drag and Drop for Fast Actions

If you want to use an email you receive as the basis of an event or task, you can simply use drag-and-drop.

Drag the email to the calendar or task icon in the left-hand Navigation Pane and release.

Dragging an email to Tasks

You’ll see a new event or task appear with the email in the body. Complete the event invitation or task as normal.

New task from an email

6. Quick Steps for Accomplishing Tasks with a Click

Quick Steps is a fabulous feature for performing several tasks on an email at one time. You can customize a preset Quick Step or create your own.

RELATED: A Guide to Quick Steps in Microsoft Outlook

Go to the Home tab and you’ll see the Quick Steps collection in the same named section of the ribbon. To use a preset, select it in the box. You’ll then see the First Time Setup window where you can add the required details and click “Save” when you finish.

Quick Step First Time Setup box

To create your own, pick “Create New” in the Quick Steps box or use the New Quick Step pop-out menu to choose a starting point.

Create New in the Quick Steps drop-down

Select your first action and complete the details. For another, click “Add Action” and do the same. Pick “Finish” to save the Quick Step.

Quick Step creation box

To use a preset or custom Quick Step, select the email and then choose the Quick Step from the ribbon on the Home tab or right-click and pick an option from “Quick Steps” in the shortcut menu.

Quick Steps in the ribbon

7. Missing Attachment Reminders for Forgotten Files

If you use Outlook for business, then sending an email where you mention an attachment and then forget to attach the file is quite common. To save time from having to resend an email later with the attachment, take advantage of Outlook’s built-in warning system.

To turn on the feature, go to File > Options. Select Mail on the left and scroll down to Send Messages on the right.

Check the box for Warn me when I send a message that may be missing an attachment and select “OK” to save the change.

Attachment reminder setting marked

With this warning enabled, when you compose an email that has the word “Attachment” or “Attached” and there isn’t one, Outlook will display a pop-up message letting you know you forgot to attach the file.

Email with attached in the text

You can then choose “Don’t Send” to attach the file or “Send Anyway” if you don’t need an attachment.

Attachment reminder in Outlook

Take advantage of one or more of these underused features and see if they make your Outlook tasks a bit easier. If you’re also making presentations with the Office suite, take a look at our list of underused PowerPoint features as well.

RELATED: 7 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do in PowerPoint


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