Q: What can you use the Notes field for in Microsoft Outlook forms?

A: Microsoft Outlook uses forms for inputting content into the message store. A new email message, contact, task, or appointment are all examples of Outlook forms. On several of these forms, there's an open field called Notes -- which is not to be confused with the form for Outlook Notes. The Notes field can be found in Contacts, Calendar items, and Tasks.

In my experience, this field isn't often used in companies. Perhaps the other labeled fields provide all the necessary information needed for the Outlook item being created or amended. In a few cases, however, I've seen people use the Notes field, especially in Contact items, as a form of contact management system with references such as "Called on Dec 30, 2011. No Answer. Call back after holidays." One good use of this field I've seen is for recording a contact's Twitter address, as Outlook doesn't currently provide such a field.

I've used the Notes area for content that didn't fit in the default input fields for my own reference, but you can use it for many different things. The Notes area supports text, images, clip art, Smart Art, and shapes, including charts. In Figure 1, I copied some biographical content from the web (in this case, from the Cycling Hall of Fame) as additional information on the contact.

Figure 1: Using the Notes field for additional information on a contact (click image for larger view)

This is now stored within the Contact item in the message store for Outlook. You can also format text in the Notes area as you would in any basic text editor, including choosing the font, color, and size; highlighting text; inserting hyperlinks; and changing paragraph alignment.

The Notes field is labeled Notes in Contacts but is just an open space in Calendar items and Tasks. Still, the space can be utilized the same. Figure 2 shows a meeting request with an image of the meeting location. The Notes field obviously can be used to elaborate on the description within the typical fields of the appointment.

Figure 2: A meeting request with an image in the Notes field (click image for larger view)

The Notes field in these Outlook forms is indexed by Windows Search! You can search Contacts, Tasks, or Calendar filtered for terms you included in the Notes field. This increases the value substantially as a tool for managing Outlook content. I have seen many users unaware of the versatility of the Notes area, and many people will find it useful to include content in the Notes field in support of Contacts, Tasks, and Calendar items.

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