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14 handy tips for Microsoft Outlook 2010

Like other Microsoft Office software, the email application Outlook is one of those programs that many people depend on so dearly that they learn its basic features, but they never fully master the software. Once you know how to read and send email, it's easy to get wrapped up in your day-to-day work, leaving you no time to learn how to customise your Outlook settings, or discover ways that the application could save you time by making your work more efficient. Outlook can get rid of repetitive tasks, save printer paper, and let you recall a message that you didn't mean to send – if you know how.

So we’ve taken the time to put together this list of 14 tips for those of you still using Outlook 2010 – they take a minimal amount of time to learn and set up. They're meant for the more novice user, which includes experienced professionals who simply haven't had an opportunity to customise their email settings.

We'll show you how to automatically add your business card to the end of every email you send, save your contact info as a Vcard, and much more.

The features and how-to information in this article will not only save you time, but also keep your inbox, outbox, and trash bin cleaner and more organised. With a little colour-coding and some automated rules, Microsoft Outlook 2010 will practically be running itself.

Other Office apps let you print the current page (or one or more numbered pages) directly from the Print menu in Backstage view by clicking the down arrow next to the Print All Pages button to see the page-range options. Outlook doesn't offer those options on its Print menu; instead, you must click the tiny Print Options button on the Print menu, then select a Page Range option.

Ignore conversations in Outlook

While viewing messages in Outlook's Conversation View, which groups messages and replies under a single heading, you can right click the conversation and choose Ignore. The existing thread and all future messages in it will be deleted. If you merely want to clean up the clutter in a conversation where each message includes the quoted text of earlier messages, you can choose Clean Up Conversation, and Outlook will remove all the repetitive quoted parts of the messages.

Insert a screenshot in an Outlook 2010 message

When you want to save a thousand words by emailing a picture of a dialog box, browser screen or anything else that appears on your desktop, begin writing your message, click on the Insert tab on the Ribbon, then click Screenshot. A tiny dialog box shows you all the current windows open on your desktop so you can choose the one you want to insert, or click on Screen Clipping and click to draw a box on screen. Press Enter, and the contents of the box will be inserted into your message.

Fine-tune Outlook 2010's clean up options

To fine-tune Outlook's Clean Up Conversation feature, select a conversation or folder as described in the second tip above, but instead of choosing the Clean Up button, click on the Settings button to open the relevant section of Outlook's Options dialog. Among other options, you'll find one that lets you specify or create a folder for storing messages deleted by the Clean Up feature until you're certain you want to delete them. If you don't specify a folder, the deleted messages go into the Deleted Items folder. By the way – you can access these options at any time by clicking File, then Options, then Mail.

Auto-close Outlook 2010's message window after you reply

When you've replied to a message you probably don't want to keep staring at it, so let Outlook close the message window automatically after you send a reply. To make Outlook do this trick for you, click on File, then Options, then Mail, then scroll down to Replies and Forwards, and add a checkmark next to "Close original message window when replying or forwarding." While you're here, don't press OK just yet, because the next tip uses the same dialog box.

Use Outlook 2010's reply and forwarding options

You can tell Outlook how and whether to include the original message when you reply, and how to manage the original message when you forward it to someone else. Click File, Options, then Mail, then scroll down to Replies and Forwards. Choose the option you prefer for "When replying to a message" and "When forwarding a message." Unfortunately, you can't specify these options only for the current message, so if you want to make a change that applies only to the current message, be sure to change the options again after the message is sent.

How to resend or recall your Outlook 2010 message

Older versions of Outlook included the ability to recall or replace an already-sent message if you and the recipient were both connected to a Microsoft Exchange server – and when it was introduced, Outlook 2010 extended that ability to any recipient who uses Outlook. Whether or not your recall or resend succeeds depends on the settings in the recipient's version of Outlook, but it's certainly worth trying when you’ve sent a message that contains the wrong information, or indeed something that you shouldn't have sent at all. To use this feature, open the message in your Sent Items folder, choose File, Info, click the Message Resend and Recall, and follow the prompts. Outlook will try to report back to you on the success or failure of the resend or recall.

Empty Outlook 2010's trash on exit

Tired of seeing hundreds of messages pile up in your Deleted Items folder? Click on the File menu, then Options, then Advanced, and find the Outlook Start and Exit section. Add a checkbox next to Empty Deleted Items Folder when exiting Outlook. While you're here you may also want to change the default folder that Outlook starts in, so that it opens in (for example) your Calendar instead of your Inbox.

Outlook's mobile options

If you work for a large corporation, your IT manager may have set up Outlook 2010's mobile options for sending reminders, calendars, and messages to your mobile phone. But individual users can take advantage of this feature too. Use File, Options, Mobile, and click any of the buttons. A menu opens with a link that lets you select an SMS Service Provider; some offer free trials with no credit card data required. Set up the service to connect to your mobile phone number – you'll get instructions for setting up your SMS account in Outlook. Then choose one of the buttons on the menu and set up Outlook to send you the reminders, messages, or calendars that you need.

Categorise by colour

Many of Outlook's advanced features – for example, the mobile services described in the previous tip – use the categories that you assign to messages and tasks. By default, these categories are named for the colour that appears in a box next to the message item when you assign the message to a category. You should give these categories more useful names like "Urgent" or "Weekend" or anything else. Rename the categories by going to the Home tab; in the Tags group, click Categorise, then click All Categories… In the dialog that appears, select a colour name and click Rename.

Flag outgoing messages

While writing a message, you can create a reminder for yourself to follow up on the message later. With the message editor window open, go the Ribbon's Message tab, and in the Tags group click Follow Up. From the dropdown menu select a time for the follow-up. If you click Custom, the menu shown here will appear and you can fine-tune all the details of the reminder.

Put a business card in your signature

Outlook lets you add an electronic business card to the signature attached to your email messages, so your contacts can click on the card and enter all your data into their address book. Create a business card by editing your own contact information in your Outlook Contacts, making sure to fill in all the data you want your contacts to have. Then go to File, Options, Mail, and click Signatures. On the Email Signatures tab, click New to create a new signature and give it any convenient name. In the Edit Signature pane at the foot of the tab, click Business Card and select your own contact information from the list of Outlook contacts. Finally, in the top right of the tab, assign the new signature that you've created as the default for either new messages or replies and forwards, or both.

Save your contact info as a vCard

You might want to save your contact information in the standard vCard format so you can post it on a website or drag it into some email messages but not others. Simply select and open your own contact information in Outlook's contacts, click File, then Save As. Outlook will offer to save your contact information in vCard format.

Use Outlook 2010's advanced search features

When you click on the Search field at the top of Outlook's message list, the Ribbon displays a new tab labelled Search Tools. In the Search Tools tab, find the icon labelled Search Tools (it's the second icon from the right), click the down arrow and choose Advanced Find to open a dialog that lets you fine-tune your search. While this tab is open, you might also want to click on the Search Tools icon, then choose Search Options to add further controls to your Outlook searching. The same Search Options dialog is also available from anywhere in Outlook by using the File menu, then Options, then scrolling down to Search.