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Outlook organization tips: 5 ways to tame the email pile

Julie Sartain | Sept. 30, 2014
Adopting these five simple practices will make diving into your inbox less painful--and far less time consuming.

2. Click the down-arrow beside the Color field and choose a color for the category. Next, click the down-arrow beside the Shortcut Key field and choose a shortcut key (CTRL+F2 thru CTRL+F12) for the category. These keys are not used by other functions in Outlook, so they are available for category shortcuts.

3. Click OK in this dialog, then click OK again in the Color Categories dialog box and the new category is added to your list. Note: there are 25 colors, but only 11 shortcut keys, so choose the most frequently used categories for your shortcut keys.

4. To attach a category to an email, select the email, then right-click anywhere in the Categories column, and select a category from the dropdown list. Note: emails can have more than one category. To remove a category, right-click anywhere in the Categories column on the selected email, and click Clear All Categories from the dropdown list. This will only clear all the categories attached to the selected email. It will not affect your other emails.

3. Quick Steps

Quick Steps is a feature that allows you to automate several tasks into a single step (or click) such as Moving emails to a specific folder, deleting, copying, forwarding, etc. It's a wonderful time saver for users who get lots of emails from a single sender, be it junk mail or a close friend.

Once you define a Quick Step to automate a task, you can then click any email, then click the automated task from the Quick Steps menu, and Outlook performs all the steps. You can also assign the task to an open, unused shortcut key. (Again: Only nine shortcut keys are available, so choose wisely).

1. To create a new Quick Step: From the Home tab, click the bottom down-arrow in the "Quick Step" group, and select Create New from the list; or select New Quick Step from the first list and Custom from the second list. In the Edit Quick Step dialog box, enter a name for this task in the Name field.

2. Next, click Choose An Action, click the down-arrow, and select one from the "Move to Folder" drop-down list. Another field appears under your "Move to Folder" action--"Choose Folder." Select a target folder from the list. (Such as "Vendors" in the visual example below.)

3. You can stop here and just click Finish, or click the Add Action button and Choose Action again for a second automated task, such as "Mark As Read". In the Optional pane, you can click the Shortcut Key field and select a key from the list (CTRL+SHIFT+1 thru CRTL+SHIFT+9). Then enter a tooltip in the Tooltip Text box. Click Finish and you're done.


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