5 Microsoft Outlook 2010 tips and tricks for intermediate users

Just because you use Outlook every day – nay, every hour, if not every waking moment – that doesn't mean you're getting as much out of Microsoft's email program as you could. Outlook contains some hidden gems of features that you won't stumble across unless you go looking for them.

And we're going to point some of them out, for those of you still using Outlook 2010, in this feature. There are six tips here which will make Outlook work better, faster, and more efficiently for you. Whether it's a way to make your own Quick Steps, or how to create a new search folder, these tips can save you a lot of time in the long run, while bringing more value to the conversations you're having via email in the short term.

Each tip is accompanied by an image to help illustrate exactly where the feature is hidden in the ribbon, and how to enable or customise it.

Make your own Quick Steps in Outlook

Outlook's Quick Steps feature lets you create one-click (or one-keystroke) email actions – for example, moving a message to a folder you use for archiving messages.

You create a new Quick Step by going to Outlook's Home tab, then clicking Quick Steps, Create New.

There you'll assign a name, shortcut key, and tooltip for your Quick Step, then use the dropdown menus to select one or more actions. When you're done, your new Quick Step will be available from the gallery of Quick Steps in the Home tab, or via a shortcut key.

Understand how calendar preview appears in meeting requests

When you email a meeting request to a co-worker or client, if the recipient uses Outlook, then the request they receive looks different from the message that you sent. Between the headers and your actual message, part of the recipient's Outlook calendar appears in the message, showing the proposed meeting and anything else that is already in the recipient's calendar. This saves the recipient the trouble of checking his or her calendar for potential conflicts.

Bear this feature in mind in case the recipient calls you about the emailed request and starts talking about the calendar embedded in your message. You didn't embed a calendar in the message you sent – but it's visible in the message that the recipient received.

Right click for jumplists

In Outlook 2010, if you right click on the Outlook icon on the taskbar, you'll pop up a "jumplist" menu that lets you create an email message, appointment, meeting, contact, or task by selecting an item. Outlook doesn't need to be open when you click on an item, and the only part of the Outlook interface that opens is the part you need to perform the task you select.

Create a new Search Folder

An underused feature of all modern email apps is the "search folder" – a virtual folder that displays all messages that fit specified conditions. Outlook comes with four search folders built-in; you can find them in the navigation pane under "Search Folders." You can create a new search folder either by right clicking on the Search Folders folder on the navigation pane or by going to the Folder tab on the ribbon and clicking New Search Folder. In the dialog box shown here, create your new search folder by specifying the criteria for the messages that you want to see inside the folder – for example, messages to and from your boss might go into a search folder named Urgent Mail, especially if the boss is in the habit of looking over your shoulder when you work.

Add web page shortcuts

If you visit the same web page often for information you need while writing your email, it's easiest to look at that page in Outlook itself. Create a shortcut for the web page in Outlook's Shortcut list by following these steps. Open the web page in your browser and click on the icon to the left of its address in the address bar; drag that icon to your Windows desktop to create an Internet shortcut. In Outlook, open the Shortcut menu by clicking on the upward pointing arrow on the Navigation Pane, or by pressing Ctrl-7. Drag your Internet shortcut from the Windows desktop to the word "Shortcuts" in the Navigation pane. Your new Outlook shortcut appears beneath Shortcuts, with its name displayed as its URL; you can give the shortcut a descriptive name by right clicking on it and selecting Rename Shortcut. Whenever you click on the shortcut, the page displays in Outlook's main window. You can now delete the Internet shortcut from your Windows desktop.

For more tips, see our 14 handy tips for Microsoft Outlook 2010.