Home | About Us | Feature | Programs | Support | Training | Development | Downloads | Free Tools | Newsletter | Links | Contact

Microsoft Outlook Tips and Tricks, and Code

For other tips, why not subscribe to our free monthly newsletter: Subscribe now!

In most browsers, you can press Ctrl+F, or Edit > Find, to search this page for keywords.


Tip: Use BCC for Mass e-mails
Tip: Save Typing, Look More Professional – Use Signatures
Trick: Apply your Default Font
Tip: Automatically Check Spelling
Organise your Microsoft Outlook into Folders
Organise your Microsoft Outlook with Rules
"PLEEEEEEASE READ!!!! it was on the news! & CarteBlanchh"
The Microsoft Outlook Out-of-Office Assistant
Automatically Check Spelling
Tools > Find > Find
Tools > Find > Advanced Find
Tools > Find > Related Messages
An Outlook e-mail Signature
Multiple Outlook e-mail Signatures
Outlook e-mail Signatures for "Boilerplate" Text
Check Spelling of Outlook e-mail Signatures
Stay Organised in Outlook
Insert Accent Marks in Outlook and Word
Rekenaarwenk Vir Ons Afrikaanse Lesers
See the "To" Field in Outlook
Field Order in Outlook
New Files and Backups

Code: Check If You've Forgotten your Attachments ("Attachment Nanny")
Code Tip: Searching Outlook Folders with AdvancedSearch
Code Available: Transfer Outlook e-mail Addresses from a batch of e-mails to Maximizer


Tip: Use BCC for Mass e-mails

We suggest you use BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) instead of CC when you send out mass e-mails to many of your contacts.  That way you don't get everybody seeing everybody else's e-mail address –and possibly using them for spamming purposes!

If you have created your e-mail in Outlook and can't see the BCC box, click View > BCC Field.

Tip: Save Typing, Look More Professional – Use Signatures (Nov 2008 Newsletter)

It looks professional if all your e-mails have your contact details at the bottom.  You can set Outlook to automatically fill in a "signature" for you at the bottom of new e-mails, and a different (e.g. shorter) one for replies.  In fact it is a legal requirement that your company registration number appear on all official correspondence.  Some companies use it for their e-mail disclaimer, too.

To set up signatures, use Outlook's Tools > Options > Mail Format (tab) > Signatures.

You can use this for much more than just some automatic text at the foot of new e-mails and replies:  You can set up as many "signatures" as you like, and drop them into e-mails using Insert > Signature.  This is useful for any "boilerplate" text (text that you use repetitively and don't want to retype).  Examples: Your signature in Afrikaans, Sotho or Zulu, directions to your offices, disclaimer notice, favourite quotations, tip of the day.

Trick: Apply your Default Font

In the Outlook e-mail editor, if you change a text e-mail to an HTML e-mail (Format menu > HTML), Outlook in its wisdom changes the e-mail font to Times New Roman even if all your settings (in Tools > Options > Mail Format > Fonts) are Arial.  Microsoft have acknowledged this as a bug and may fix it sometime this millennium.  In the meanwhile, they suggest as a workaround that you select all text (Ctrl+A) and then press Ctrl+spacebar, an undocumented shortcut that will apply the default font to the text.  You could also use it on any selected text, instead of the whole document.

Tip: Automatically Check Spelling

You can set Outlook to automatically check your spelling before sending: Use Tools > Options > Spelling, the second option.

On the subject of spelling, the error I see most often is "its" vs. "it's".  Note:
It's = "It is" or "it has".
Its = belonging to it – no apostrophe!.
Here's how to remember it easily: You don't write Her's or Hi's, do you?

January 2009 Tip: Organise your Microsoft Outlook into Folders

Do you have an Inbox containing 500+ items, many of them unread?  (Including this newsletter?)  Here's a way to start getting organised for 2009.  The principle is to group things together in folders, using the same structure as you would use with a physical filing system.  You move items to these folders (leaving them unread or re-marking as unread) and deal with them at the appropriate time.

You might create a folder named "Customers" containing sub-folders for your regular customers, and use the "Customers" folder for and customers that don't have sub-folders.  I have Inbox sub-folders for Company matters, Business enquiries, Microsoft, etc.

To create a new folder, right-click on any folder in the tree view on the left of Outlook.  From the pop-up menu choose "New folder".  Type the name; check below that the new folder will be in the right place (if you right-clicked on the parent folder it will already be correct).  Click OK.

In the next tip we will see how to use Rules to automatically move inbound items to the correct folders.

February 2009 Tip: Organise your Microsoft Outlook with Rules

In the last tip we suggested that you organise your Inbox using sub-folders to mimic your physical filing system.  We talked about how to create these folders.  Now we will set up Rules to automatically move inbound items to the correct folders.

Click Tools > Rules and Alerts.  Click the button New Rule.  The Rules Wizard pops up.  The radio button "start creating a rule from a template" is selected.  In the list below ("Step 1"), choose either "Move messages from someone to  a folder" or Move messages with specific words in the subject to a folder". In Step 2 below, click on the underlined blue hyperlinks and fill in the data or select the folder.  Click Next > and make any changes or additions. Click Next > for the actions, and Next > for any exceptions.  Give it a name, set it to run on existing items if you want, and click Finish.  The rule will appear in the list, where you can change the order of processing.  Finally, click OK to save.

Outlook can handle about 20 such rules before it starts ignoring them, so you might need to make some of the less-frequent moves manually.

"PLEEEEEEASE READ!!!! it was on the news! & CarteBlanchh"

"Dear Friends;
Please do not take this for a junk letter. Bill Gates is sharing his fortune. If you ignore this, You will repent later. Microsoft and AOL are now the largest Internet companies and in an effort to make sure  that Internet Explorer remains the most widely used program, Microsoft and AOL are running an e-mail beta test.  When you forward this e-mail to friends, Microsoft can and will Track it (If you are a Microsoft Windows user)? For a two weeks time period. For every person that you forward this e-mail to, Microsoft will pay you $245.00 For every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, Microsoft will pay you $243.00 and ! for every third person that receives it, You will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, Microsoft will contact you for your address and then send you a check.

...thus reads this hoary old hoax received again recently.

Friends, please check the truth of chain-letter e-mails you get, and don't just forward them!  You look a right charley when someone points out that you've been had.  This hoax is documented on Snopes at http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/nothing/billgate.asp and TruthOrFiction at http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/m/msoffer.htmm as you can check in seconds.  No, Bill Gates was not sharing his fortune four years ago, and he isn't now either.  Microsoft can't track e-mails sent to third parties and they are not going to pay you over a thousand Rand for forwarding an e-mail!  Did you see it on the news?  Or CarteBlanchh (sic)?  Forget the testimonials from people you can't verify: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Let's use a little common sense, please!

March 2009 Tip: The Microsoft Outlook Out-of-Office Assistant

We continue to look at ways that Outlook 2003 can help you be more organised...

Holidays are coming up.  When you are going to be out of the office for a day or more, you can have Outlook automatically respond to e-mails you receive.  Just before you leave, click Tools > Out-of-Office Assistant.  Click the radio button "I am currently Out of the Office".  In the text box underneath it, type or paste a message: When you will be back and whom to contact in the meanwhile.  If you want someone else to receive your e-mails you can have them forwarded: Click Add Rule. This is similar to the Rules Wizard we discussed in an earlier newsletter.  When you are done, click OK.

Outlook is clever enough to warn you the next time you start it up, if you have the Out-of-Office Assistant on, so that you can turn it off.

April 2009 Tip: Automatically Check Spelling

You can set Outlook to automatically check your spelling before sending: Just use Tools > Options > Spelling, the second option.

On the subject of spelling, the error I see most often –which Outlook will not pick up– is "its" vs. "it's".  This is how it works:
It's = "It is" or "it has" (the apostrophe is because of the contraction).
Its = belonging to it – no apostrophe!.
Here's how to remember it easily: You don't write Her's or Hi's, do you?

July 2009 Tip: Tools > Find > Find

Ah, the idiosyncrasies of Microsoft Office!  In the other Office 2003 programs, you find "Find" in the Edit menu.  Not so in Outlook: It is under Tools.  Simple Find is Ctrl+E, Advanced is Ctrl+Shift+F.  You might remember the shortcut Ctrl+F from the other programs, but in Outlook it does a Forward instead.

Let's look at Simple Find (Ctrl+E).  A jolly useful "Find" it is too.  It adds a little bar above the e-mail pane.  Here you can type in text you want to search for, the folder in which to search (or a selection), and click "Find Now".  The list in the e-mail window filters by mail that contains the selected word or phrase.  Click "Clear" to remove the search –not the e-mails!

August 2009 Tip: Tools > Find > Advanced Find

Last time we looked at Outlook's Tools > Find > Find (Ctrl+E).  Also on the Tools > Find sub-menu is Advanced Find: Ctrl+Shift+F.

Advanced Find lets you find almost anything in Outlook.  Firstly, you can choose the type of item (Messages, Contacts, Tasks, etc. or Any type of item).  Then, with the Browse button, you can select the exact folders to search, and specify subfolders if you like.

The first tab lets you specify text to search for, and where (subject, message body, etc.) and other conditions.  On the second tab, "More Choices" you can choose read/unread, items with/without attachments, importance, flags, etc.  Finally, the "Advanced" tab lets you set up your own search criteria using any Outlook fields.  What more could anyone want?

September 2009 Tip: Tools > Find > Related Messages

Here we have another nugget in Outlook's Tools > Find sub-menu: Related Messages.  To use it, first click on a message.  Then click Tools > Find > Related Messages. Outlook will search for messages that have the same Subject as the one you chose.

One warning, though: If anyone altered the subject in any way, this search will not pick up messages with the changed subject.  If in doubt, rather use Simple Find (Ctrl+E) and search for a specific keyword.

February 2014: An Outlook e-mail Signature

You can easily make your e-mails look more professional by adding a signature.  In Outlook 2010 or 2013, click File (menu) > Options > Mail (tab) > Signatures [button].  Click the [New] button to add a new signature.  Type, or paste from elsewhere, your standard closing, including name and company details.  Add a graphic if you like, but don't put contact details into the picture, because it can easily get lost.  Use your standard company font and colours.  Finally, at top right, set the signature as the default for new messages and replies/forwards.  Click OK twice and you're done.  All your messages will now be created with your standard signature.

March 2014: Multiple Outlook e-mail Signatures

Last time we mentioned how you can make your e-mails look more professional by adding a signature.  However, the Signatures feature can be used for more than just your standard signature.  You can create signatures for all sorts of purposes, perhaps corresponding to the various roles you play: One for business, another one for personal e-mails, a third for your spouse and/or lover, one for writing to newspapers, another when e-mailing as chairman of the PTA or Toastmasters, and so on.

To use any of these, in Outlook 2010 or 2013, create a new e-mail or a reply.  On the Message ribbon (the default), click the Signature button.  This will pull down a list of all the signatures in your Outlook.  Click on one, and it will replace the existing signature.

April 2014: Outlook e-mail Signatures for "Boilerplate" Text

Last time we mentioned how you can use different signatures for the various roles you play.

Since a "signature" can contain any text, it does not have to be limited to a signature.  It can contain any standard text that you use frequently: Just bear in mind that when you choose a signature, it will replace the current one!  It therefore should, in addition to the standard text, contain your signature too.

One pitfall is that Outlook helpfully marks signatures as excluded from spelling checks.  Hence, if you type inside the signature text, the program will not highlight errors there.

May 2014: Check Spelling of Outlook e-mail Signatures

Last time we mentioned how you can use different signatures to insert any standard text that you use frequently: One pitfall is that Outlook "helpfully" marks signatures as excluded from spelling checks.  Hence, if you type inside the signature text, the program will not highlight errors there.

To reinstate spelling checking for that e-mail only, select the signature. On the "Review" tab, click Language > Set Proofing Language.  Make sure that the correct language is selected (typically "English (South Africa)").  Clear the checkbox next to "Do not check spelling or grammar".  Click OK.  F7 checks spelling.

June 2014: Stay Organised in Outlook

You have an inbox with 5000+ items, this tip is for you. Using the "Rules" button on the "Home" ribbon, you can set up rules that will move messages into specified folders. Typically you might have separate folders for major customers, or for different categories.  Create the folders first, by right-clicking in the navigator tree and choosing "New Folder".

July 2014: Insert Accent Marks in Outlook and Word

  • Ctrl+', letter = letter with acute accent: á é
  • Ctrl+`, letter = letter with grave accent: à è
  • Ctrl+shift+^, letter = letter with circumflex: â ê
  • Ctrl+shift+:, letter = letter with umlaut: ä ë
  • Ctrl+shift+~, letter = letter with tilde: ã ñ

Thanks to Andy Lanning, Chief Nerd at Computer Super Secrets, for this tip.  Subscribe at www.ComputerSuperSecrets.com

Augustus 2014 se Rekenaarwenk: Vir Ons Afrikaanse Lesers

Nuwer weergawes van Word en Outlook het 'n Afrikaanse woordeboek. U kan daarvan gebruik maak as volg: In die epos of Word dokument, kies die plek waar die Afrikaanse woorde sal gaan, of woorde wat alreeds getik is. Kliek Review > Language > Set proofing Language . In die dialoogvenster, kies Language = Afrikaans.

September 2014: See the "To" Field in Outlook

In the pane where Outlook lists your emails, particularly for a new folder, the column headings typically include "From" (sender), "Subject", "Received" (date), "Size", and "Category".  If you store replies in the same sub-folder as received emails, which  makes sense, then it also makes sense to have a "To" (addressee) column.  Here's how you add it:

  1. Right-click on one of the column headings (Subject, Received, Size, etc.)
  2. On the pop-up menu, choose "Field Chooser".
  3. A small pop-up window, headed "Field Chooser", should open somewhere on screen.
  4. In the "Field Chooser" window, drag the right-hand scroll bar down until you can see the button with "To" on it.
  5. Grab the "To" button, drag it to the column headings area, and drop it between suitable columns: Between "From" and "Subject" is a good place (a red arrow indicates where the new column will go).
  6. Close the "Field Chooser" window by clicking the "X" at top right, or just click on another folder.

October 2014: Field Order in Outlook

This is intuitive, but some readers may not have noticed it: When you are viewing emails in column view, you can sort in order by any column by clicking on that column's header.  Click it a second time to reverse the sort order.  One normally views in "Received" order with the latest at the top. However, to group emails from a particular sender together, click on the "From" column header.  To then find a sender other than the one you were on, start typing the name of the sender (don't hesitate too much between letters, or it re-starts at the beginning).

November 2014: New Files and Backups

After a few years of business use, your PST file (in which Outlook stores your emails) can become enormous, possibly running to several Gigabytes.  This can slow down your Outlook and make the file prone to corruption.  A technique that Rick has used for several years is to start a new PST file each year: With a new year due shortly and unlikely to be cancelled due to the state of the economy, this seems a good time to mention it.

You can create a new Outlook file from within Outlook, or from Control Panel.  From within Outlook, click the File menu > Info > Account Settings  > Account Settings.  To use Control Panel, click Start > Control Panel > Mail.  The Mail Setup window opens: Click Data Files.

The Account Settings window opens: On the Data Files (second) tab, make of note of where your existing files are, then click "Add...".  In the Create or Open Data file dialog box, locate the folder where your existing files are, then enter a new name.  We suggest something obvious like "Rick2015.pst".  Click OK.  Back in the  Account Settings window (and you might like to postpone this step until 2 January), click on the new file and then Set as Default.  That will direct new emails into the new folder.  You can also "Remove" older files here: Relax! This does not delete the file, it just removes it from the list that Outlook opens each time, and searches if you tell it to "search all files and folders".

There is one drawback to this: You will need to recreate your folders for the new year in the new file.  If you don't mid a bit of simple programming, we can give you some VBA code to do it.  Please ask!

Make a habit to zip your PST file periodically and copy the zip to another PC, Server, or DVD, so that you have a backup of your emails!


Code: Check If You've Forgotten your Attachments

This program will alert you whenever you try to send an e-mail that has no attachments, but has "file", "attach", or "doc" in the body text, or "herewith" in the body or the subject.  It will pop up this message:

Hit No to stop the e-mail being sent, yes if you are happy to send without attachments

To install it, do the following:

  • Select (drag over) all the code below, and Copy it to the Clipboard (Ctrl+C)
'   For automated templates for your company, programming, or   '
'   other computer requirements including complete solutions:   '
'     Communication in Action cc. t/a Software Africa    '
'   Tel Local: 011 802-2685,  International: +27 11 802-2685.   '
'   Fax Local: 011 802-4576,  International: +27 11 802-4576.   '
'   PO Box 987, Gallo Manor, 2052 South Africa.                 '
'   Web site: www.softwareafrica.co.za                          '
'   E-mail:  info@softwareafrica.co.za                          '
'                                                               '
'   Programmed by Rick Raubenheimer, MCSD:  June 2006.          '
'   E-mail:  rick@softwareafrica.co.za                          '
'                                                               '

Option Explicit
Option Compare Text

Private Sub Application_ItemSend(ByVal Item As Object, Cancel As Boolean)
  ' Revised: Simplified code, added Subject and "herewith".   ' RIR 060623
  ' Created:                                                  ' RIR 060621
  Const Ttl$ = "Software Africa's Attachment Nanny found No Attachments!"
  Const Msg$ = "Have you attached all your attachments?"
  Dim Ask As Boolean
  If Item.Attachments.Count = 0 Then    ' Only check if No Attachments
    ' Change or remove the "If InStr" lines below to suit your needs:
    If InStr(Item.Subject, "herewith") Then Ask = True
    If InStr(Item.Body, "herewith") Then Ask = True
    If InStr(Item.Body, "attach") Then Ask = True
    If InStr(Item.Body, "file") Then Ask = True
    If InStr(Item.Body, "doc") Then Ask = True
    If Ask = 0 Then Exit Sub
    If vbNo = MsgBox(Msg$, vbYesNo + vbQuestion, Ttl$) Then Cancel = True
  End If
End Sub
  • In Microsoft Outlook (or even in an e-mail), press Alt+F11
  • This will take you into Outlook's Visual Basic Editor
  • You should see a "Project Explorer" on the left (if not, hit Ctrl+ R)
  • Click the plus buttons in the "Project Explorer" to expand down to
  • + Project1
  • +-- Microsoft Office Outlook
  • +---- ThisOutlookSession
  • Double-click "ThisOutlookSession": You should get a white window pane on the right, with just "Option Explicit" in it, or it may be blank.
  • Select (drag over) "Option Explicit" (if it's not there, just click in the blank pane)
  • Paste from the Clipboard (Ctrl+V)
  • Click (menu) Debug > Compile Project1 (there should be no errors: If there are, contact us!)
  • Click the "Save" icon (diskette) or File > Save VBAProject.OTM
  • Close Outlook Visual Basic.
  • In Outlook, click Tools > Macro Security and select Medium (it may be set High by default and then the macros won't run)
  • When you start Outlook, you will get the message:

  • Click Enable Macros (you can avoid this by selecting Low Macro Security –not recommended!).

Test by creating an e-mail with "file", "attach", or "doc" in the body, or "herewith" in the body or the subject., and clicking "Send".

One Drawback: If you're replying to a message that had one of those words in it, it will ask about the attachment even if it's not mentioned in your reply.  Better safe than sorry!

There's a bug (or feature!):  If you include a picture in your e-mail, it is counted as an attachment!

PS: Feel free to share this code as long as it remains intact including the attribution at the top or, better still, click here to e-mail your contacts a link to this web page.


Code: The AdvancedSearch Method

Performs a search through specified Outlook folders based on a Microsoft SQL Server search string and returns a Search object.  For tons of useful information on the subject, look in Outlook's Visual Basic Help for "AdvancedSearch".  This seems to be only in Outlook 2002 and later.

Code: Program to Transfer Outlook Addresses from e-mails to Maximizer

The program works as follows:
  • You must have Maximizer running. 
  • You then run the Outlook macro and it will scan a specific Outlook folder. 
  • Each e-mail in the folder will be processed and it will search Maximizer for the sender's e-mail address (in "e-mail Address 1"). 
  • If it does not find that address in Maximizer it will create a new Individual Contact with that e-mail address. 
  • It also does its best to work out the name of the sender, their telephone, fax, and cell numbers, but these may be inaccurate or non-existent depending on what is in the e-mail. 
  • The program inserts a note into Maximizer containing the e-mail, with a header saying that it either found or added the contact.
This code is not free, but is available from us for a nominal charge.  Installation is similar to that for the Attachment Nanny above.  Enquire Here.

Contributed Tips

Would you like to add a tip of your own (due acknowledgement will be given!) – click here.


Press Ctrl+F to search this page for keywords.

| Back to top | ©2000-2014 Communication in Action cc t/a Software Africa. All rights reserved.  Updated 21 November 2014 e-mail Webmaster.