Q: What is the Outlook 2010 Backstage view?

A: The User Experience Team for Microsoft Office 2010 made some changes to the Office Ribbon that significantly affect Microsoft Outlook. First, Outlook was one of the last applications in the Office suite to fully adopt the Ribbon across all standard Outlook forms. (For information about Outlook forms, see "What is an Outlook form?") But the biggest change was probably the addition of the Office Backstage view.

Microsoft separated tasks completed within the application (e.g., changing the Inbox view in Outlook, switching fonts in a new email message) from tasks you need to perform outside the application (e.g., adding accounts, configuring archiving). Many of these outside tasks were traditionally located in Tools, Options or Tools, Accounts. They're now located in the Backstage view, which is accessed using the File tab at the top left of the Outlook Ribbon. Figure 1 shows the Backstage view for the main Outlook window. It looks similar to the Backstage view of other applications in the Office 2010 suite.

Figure 1: The Backstage view for the main Outlook window (click image for larger view)

The Backstage view holds configuration options and settings you would access outside of a specific email message or other Outlook form (e.g., task, appointment) you're working on. The Options button in the left pane opens a window similar to the Options dialog box in Outlook 2007 and earlier.

The options available in the Backstage view are slightly different depending on where you were in Outlook when you accessed it. If you access the Backstage view from the File tab in a new email message, the options include things you might want to do with the message itself, apart from manipulating the content of the message. These options include moving folders, setting permissions, or saving the message as an .msg file. Add-ons can also leverage the Backstage view. For example, if the Outlook Business Contact Manager (BCM) is installed, it will be visible in the navigation pane on the left of the Backstage view, and configuration options for BCM are available there, including database backup options, as Figure 2 shows.
Figure 2: Configuration options for BCM in the Outlook Backstage view (click image for larger view)

Moving configuration options to the Backstage view has helped keep the Outlook Ribbon options simpler and focused on the work you're doing, and hopefully that keeps you more efficient.

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