Bar Bulletin

November, 2004



"Improving Your Outlook"
By Pat Yevics

Most people who use e-mail use Outlook, but most people do not use it to manage their time and help themselves be more effective. This month, we will offer some tips on using Outlook more effectively. (Unfortunately, the space limitations of the Bulletin do not allow me to show Outlook screens in this article. To see step by step instructions for all of the following tips, please go to LOMA Articles. Go to “Tech Stuff” and click on “Improving Your Outlook.”)

Most of what I know about using Outlook I have learned by using the (drum roll, please) “Answer Wizard” or “Table of Contents”; you can get to both by clicking on the “Help” button. The “Answer Wizard” allows you to ask a question and it will take you to a topic. The “Table of Contents” is a listing of various topics and subjects; try this if you are not sure how to do something.

Adding E-mails to Your Address Book

It is very easy to automatically add an e-mail address from an e-mail that you receive to your address book. This will allow you to have easy access to all e-mails.

To add an e-mail address, open the message of the e-mail address you want to save and right-click on the e-mail address in the “From” line. A box will pop up and you will click on “Add to Contacts”. It will then go directly to your list of contacts and put in the e-mail address. (For details on how to alphabetize your contacts by last name, please go to this article on the MSBA website.)

Customize Your Outlook Start Screen

When most people start their e-mail or log into Outlook they simply get a list of all their e-mail messages. It is possible to customize the opening screen to include your calendar and task list as well as your folders and information about new e-mail messages. Since I use my Outlook calendar and tasks, this is extremely helpful. I also sync it with my Palm Pilot so that I have all of my tasks listed in chronological order.

To change your screen, click on “View”, “Current View”, “Outlook Today”. It will allow you to choose which folders to see, how many days in the calendar you want to see, how tasks could be listed and the number of columns. I find it to be very helpful in starting the day.

Places to Put Your E-Stuff

If you have not set up folders in your mailbox, you should start using them to help you manage your e-mails. To set up a folder, click on “File”, “New Folder”. A box will pop up and you will give it a name. You will then decide where you want it to be located. It can be a main folder in your inbox or it can be a subfolder of an already-existing folder. Once you decide on a location for the new folder, click on “OK”.


If a folder has a + sign, it means it has subfolders. If a folder is in bold, it means that there are unread messages, and the number in parentheses indicates the number of unread messages. This can be extremely helpful if some of your e-mail messages are filtered directly to some of your folders, as you can see which ones have new and unread messages.

Filtering your mail. Although it is not very easy, it is possible to filter some of your e-mails directly to specific folders, or even directly to your delete folder. This will only work, however, when you can define a specific address or keywords. It is not a perfect solution to the problem with spam, but it can be helpful in filtering messages from Email Lists or other known senders. You can also use the filter to send messages with keywords such as Viagra to the delete folder. Do not include too many words because you may miss some legitimate messages (this may hold especially true for family law or criminal law lawyers).

To start the process of filtering your mail, go to “Tools”, “Rules Wizard”. At the next box, click “New” to create a new rule. It is best to start with one of the templates that they have created. There are many choices. Choose the one you want and click on the box. (For details on filtering mail, please go to this article on the MSBA website at LOMA Articles - go to “Tech Stuff” and click on “Improving Your Outlook”.)

Finding that e-mail. Most of us keep too many e-mails thinking that we will need that information later, but when we need it we cannot find it. However, it is very easy to find e-mails because you can sort by 1) the person to whom you sent the message (in the sent folder) 2) the person from whom you received the message, 3) the date on which the message was received or 4) the subject. You do this simply by clicking on the headings; it will then sort that category. When you want to go back to sorting by date, simply click on “Received” again.

I keep a lot of information from Email Lists that I am on, and being able to sort by “Subject” helps me find information quickly.

E-mail from that special person. If you have a client or person whose e-mails you want to notice immediately upon arrival, you can assign that address a color so that any e-mail from that person will be in that color when it arrives. Go to “Tools”, “Organize”. A screen that says “Ways to Organize Inbox” will pop up. Go to “Using Colors”. It will ask “Color messages from (name of person or e-mail) in (color)”. There are many colors from which to choose. This works best if you only use a few colors. If you use too many colors for various people, the feature will lose its impact.

Letting people know you are not available. We should already be using our voice mail to let clients and potential clients know when we are not in the office. It is also possible to do that with e-mail. Using the “Out of Office Assistant” is a good idea if 1) you use your office e-mail regularly to communicate with clients 2) clients expect you to return e-mails and/or 3) you will not be checking your e-mail while you are out of the office.

Go to “Tools”, “Out of Office Assistant”. A box will pop up and you will be listed as being “currently in the office.” There is a box in which you can type in your message. This message will be sent to everyone who sends you an e-mail. You can also create a rule that will forward your e-mail to another e-mail address. You might want to consider forwarding some messages to your assistant or to an address where you will be. It is very flexible.

Before you leave the office, click on “I am currently out of the office” and log off. When you get back to the office, you will see a screen that will remind you to turn off your message when you first log back into your e-mail.

Quickly connecting to a group. You may have a situation in which you want to send messages to a group of people on a regular basis. Rather than taking the time to type in each individual address each time, however, you can create a distribution list. A distribution list is a collection of contacts. It provides an easy way to send messages to a group of people. I use these all the time for speakers for conferences and other small groups.

Click on “File”, “New”, “Distribution List”, or you can also click on the “Address Book” and then “New Entry”. You then set up a “New Distribution List”. In the box that pops up, you will be asked to name the new list, and then you will click on either “Select Members”, which you will use if you already have the addresses in your “Address Book”, or “Add New” if the addresses are not currently in your address book but you want to add them to the list. When you have finished adding the names, click “Save and Close”.

When you want to send a message to everyone in that group, simply type in the name of the distribution list and one message will be sent to everyone. (Please note that when the message is sent, the names of all the people on the list are included in the TO: line of the message.)

These are just a few tips to help you use Outlook more efficiently in managing your e-mail. Again, to see step-by-step instructions (with Outlook screens) on how to perform all of these actions, please go to LOMA Articles. Go to “Tech Stuff” and click on “Improving Your Outlook”. If you would like this e-mailed to you, send a message to and put “Improving Your Outlook” in the subject line. This is a PowerPoint presentation, and I will e-mail it to you.

In the coming months, we will pass along other tips on using other aspects of Outlook.



Publications : Bar Bulletin: November, 2004

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