Moving to Microsoft Outlook

Switching email clients isn't a popular chore, but sometimes the reasons for doing so are compelling. For example, if your company switches to Microsoft Exchange Server from another mail server, Outlook is definitely your best client choice. Or perhaps you've been using Eudora, Outlook Express, or another POP/IMAP mailer and now want to take advantage of Outlook's calendar and task features.

I recently helped a friend move from Outlook Express to Outlook 2002. She had already set up her mail accounts, so we concentrated on organizing her Inbox, Calendar, and Contacts data with features that deliver the most "bang for the buck" to new Outlook users.

My friend, who has her own business, uses one email address for business and another for personal mail. She wants to respond quickly to client messages but knows that email from family and friends can usually wait until she has free time. Because she has two separate email accounts, we created a new By Account view for her Inbox so she can use the E-mail Account property to group messages. Outlook 2002 lists the E-Mail Account property in the Field Chooser under All Mail fields. (In Outlook 2000, you can group mail by account only in Internet Mail Only mode, not in Corporate/Workgroup mode.) Now business and personal messages are clearly separated in her Inbox.

Next, we organized her contacts by category. Like many new Outlook users, she wondered whether it was better to keep everyone in one Contacts folder or to create separate folders for business and personal contacts. I recommended the single-folder approach, because some really useful Outlook features work only with the default Contacts folders (e.g., the Add to Contacts command in a mail message, the toolbar's Find a Contact feature, reminders for flagged contacts).

Categories provide an easy way to organize contacts. I showed her how to press the Ctrl key and click to select multiple contacts and then right-click and choose Categories to mark a group of contacts with the same category. I also explained that an individual contact can belong to multiple categories. We then looked at the By Category view, which groups contacts by category. With a grouped view, you can select one or more categories and choose Actions, New Message to Contact to create a message addressed to all the selected contacts. You can also drag a contact to a different category group to add the target category to the contact's record. All versions of Outlook let you organize contacts by category.

In the Calendar folder, I demonstrated Outlook 2002's new color labels and how to right-click any appointment in the Day/Week/Month view to add color-coding. As an example, I explained how I use one bright color for my writing deadlines to distinguish those items from others in my calendar.

Finally, to make sure she could find her way back to Outlook's original views, I showed my friend how to use the View, Current View command to access a list of saved views for the current folder. I also showed her how to use the Define Views command to create new views. She had some trouble with toolbars and menus, so I had her click Toolbars, Customize. Then, on the Toolbars tab of the Customize dialog box, I showed her how she can select any toolbar or menu and click Reset to restore it to its default appearance.

After just an hour's overview of these key features, my friend is well on her way to becoming a very productive Outlook user. I can't wait to show her how to drag mail messages to Tasks to create new to-do items, to use journal items to log phone calls, and to use the Rules Wizard to organize incoming items in different ways.

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