2 Easy Ways to Improve Your Productivity Using Outlook 2007
People say that it’s the little things that make all the difference.
The same holds true when using Microsoft Outlook. With just a few simple changes you can increase your productivity in Outlook like you never thought was possible.
Do you work in a big office where you’re part of a large mail group? Does it always seem that you’re getting emails that don’t pertain to you?
Well I’m going to show you how to prioritize those emails so that you only get the emails that are meant for you.
The next improvement that I’ll talk about involves a workaround to allow Outlook to accept certain file types as safe. This is handy for coworkers who need to pass a certain file type back and forth over Outlook.
It basically makes sure that you get all of the attachments that your coworkers are sending to you and that your coworkers are getting the ones you send them.
This article is in the spirit of taking a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and cleaning your house from top to bottom after a long winter. It takes you until you‘re done to realize how out of place and unorganized things were.
That’s why today I want you to get out your virtual mop and bucket to do a little spring cleaning with your Microsoft Outlook.
Get Emails Meant for You … And Forget About that Other Stuff
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You sign onto your work computer and open up your email only to see 60 messages, of which only 20 are directed specifically to you and need to be handled right away. The other 40 are directed to your email group.
Going through each email one by one to find the emails you need to answer right now can be time consuming and tedious. You need something that will show you which emails are meant for you (and only you) and which ones are sent to everyone in the group.
Well break out your Crayolas because we are going to color code your emails!
To set this up: Open up Outlook and go to Tools, then click Organize
Click the Using Colors tab and click Turn On
Now, the default color is blue and from what I hear blue is a fairly pensive color. So, if you’re looking for a nice calming color then stick with the default.
Otherwise there are a variety of colors to choose from. My choice would have been Burnt Siena, but that color, unfortunately, didn’t make the cut.
Another nifty thing you can do (apparently I’m channeling Wally and the Beav; who says nifty anymore, honestly?) on that same tool is color coding messages you receive from a particular sender.
On the Using Colors tab type the email address that you want to color code next to the Color Messages From tab. The default color on this is Red. You can have a different color for each email address or you can group email addresses under the same color according to order of importance.
There is also a drop down box that allows you to change the Color Messages From tab to Color Messages Sent To, which in this case would color code the messages you are sending to a particular email address.
In either case, make sure you click the Apply Color button before you exit this screen.
Take advantage of this simple feature that will help you sort through the mass emails and let you get down to business.
Don’t Let Outlook Do Your Thinking for You
If you’re like me, then you collaborate with colleagues several times a day through email. Sometimes the only way to get things done in a timely manner is to email a file back and forth so that multiple people can work on it and get it ready for what you need to do.
The problem with this is that sometimes Outlook doesn’t like the file type or doesn’t know what it is and just decides to remove your attachment. You’ve seen the dialog box telling you that your attachment poses a potential security risk and asks you if you want to download the file.
So, you click yes and move on. But, sometimes you don’t even get the attachment and you end up sending a message back to your coworkers telling them you didn’t get it.
What happened to the attachment? Well, the short answer is that Outlook "frisked" your email on the way through "security" and "confiscated" some "contraband".
Outlook is more thorough than the Puerto Vallarta, Mexico airport, where I was once searched head-to-toe 4 times in a 30 minute span. Which by the way, after the 4th time they dumped out my bag and asked me if I had anything in there that shouldn’t be in there … I was thinking, "Well maybe I do." Are pants illegal? Take my pants; whatever gets me on the flight home.
The more involved answer is that Outlook has three "risk levels" that it can apply to attached files, that will determine what happens to the attachment. You may get a message that warns you about downloading attachments.
A lot of times Outlook does what it can so that you don’t get the attachment at all, and every now and then you actually get the attachment without any fanfare, which is pretty rare. For me this happens only during a lunar eclipse, on a leap year.
So when you and your coworkers are sending a particular type of file back and forth, it would be nice to make sure you get it 100% of the time. There are two ways to accomplish this.
For all of you tech savvy veterans, I’ll show you a way to modify your registry to allow certain file types to be passed through Outlook. And for all of you novices, or even you veterans that don’t feel like messing with the registry (it can be dangerous so don’t feel like you don’t have options), I’ll show you a free product you can download that will help you accomplish this using a GUI (Graphical User Interface).
Warning: Registry Changes Are Not For the Meek
To add certain file types to Outlook’s "low risk" watch list we need to start out by opening up the Registry Editor.
Before you do this I want to stress that changes to the registry are very serious and should not be done unless you know exactly what you are doing. Also, and this is the most important thing, back up your registry before you make any changes. Even if something is done incorrectly you can always get things back to the way they were.
Now that we have the disclaimers out of the way, go ahead and go to your Windows Start Menu and Click Run. Type regedit and click OK
This will open your Registry Editor.
– Click the Plus Sign next to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER folder (if it’s not already clicked)
– Click the Plus Sign next to the Software folder
– Click the Plus Sign next to the Microsoft folder
– Click the Plus Sign next to the Windows folder
– Click the Plus Sign next to the CurrentVersion folder
– Right click the Policies folder
– Move your cursor over New and select Key from the menu and name this key Associations
– Right click the Associations folder and move your cursor over New and select String Value
– Name the String Value LowRiskFileTypes
– Double click the LowRiskFileTypes string and enter the file types that are frequently attached in Outlook. For example .exe;.flv
This will include all executable files and Flash player files, although, I wouldn’t recommend adding executable files to the list.
Registry Editing is Not My Thing
If you’re like most people, you’re not going to want to make changes to your registry through your registry editor.
In an effort to make things easier, there is a free program called OutlookTools that will allow you to make the registry changes you need to make without the hassle of going into the registry itself.
To start out, click this link and once you reach this page you will see screen shots of each tab in the OutlookTools program. Under the screenshots is a brief description of what each tab does.
– Scroll about half way down the page and click Download
– Once you have OutlookTools downloaded and installed, open it, and the main screen will default to the General tab
– Navigate to the last tab called Blocked Attachments
– Each check box you check will allow that type of attachment to be unblocked, so you can attach those file types in Outlook emails
– Click Save
Now, I know this seems incredibly easy compared to manually editing the registry, but I don’t ever want to give you the quick fix without first explaining why it works.
What you do in OutlookTools is changing your registry, just like you did manually within the Registry Editor. It’s always good to know what’s behind the GUI, and it’s always good to take some of the hassle out of using Outlook.
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