Expanding Your Technology Horizons: Leveraging Cool Tools Within Outlook 2016/2013
guest author: Ann Gorr
The Microsoft Office Suite is jammed packed with a multitude of features and functions that many of us probably don't even know existed! It's kind of like the new washing machine that we own - that while it has all of these special cycles and buttons - we probably only use the Cottons/Whites, Permanent Press, and Gentle cycles that we are already familiar with and don't go seeking out what all of the other features are that the new product provides for us. So - this article is meant to help you with expanding your technology horizons within Outlook!
Since the majority of us spend so much of our day working in our email INBOXES, I thought that it might be helpful to focus on some of those "cool" yet "under-utilized" features and functions of OUTLOOK 2016/2013. Incorporating some of these routines into your email processes will definitely provide you with some increased productivity - allowing you to capture some time back into your busy day! I am going to share with you three "cool tools" features in Outlook 2016/2013 that I am sure you will leave you with the phrase of "Where were you when I needed you last week?!" running through your mind!
Outlook Cool Tools Tip #1: Publishing / Sharing Your Calendar / Scheduling with External Users via Email
Within your organization, it's easy to determine the availability of team members to coordinate a meeting. You can use the "Scheduling Assistant" within the Calendar feature to identify whether or not internal users are free to meet with you during a proposed timeframe. However, when trying to find the perfect time to hold a meeting with people from a variety of external office locations/companies/firms, it is often difficult to determine when would be the best time to meet given everyone's crazy schedules. We've all been there! There's a back & forth flurry of email exchanges and phone calls trying to figure out each other's availability - and most likely - someone even suggests using a "Doodle Calendar". Yet - bundled within Outlook is a cool feature that provides you with the ability to publish your calendar to clearly illustrate when you have availability within your schedule.
Draft a new email to the external team members with whom you are trying to set up a schedule and give it a Subject reference of "Ann's Availability" for example. Click on the INSERT Tab on your Ribbon Bar. Choose the Calendar Icon.
The menu displays below. You can choose a specific date or a range of dates. Generally, to ensure privacy, you will allow the default detail of "AVAILABILITY ONLY" to be the choice. In that presentation - the result simply identifies when you're free or busy without divulging any client or personal information to others inside/outside of your organization.
A snapshot display - similar to the one shown below - is inserted into the email so that you can share your agenda for that specified time period. You can share just a specific day or a period of time with your external colleagues for review. Keep in mind that it is just a snapshot - it doesn't update if your schedule changes subsequent to sharing the snapshot of your calendar.
Note: See how the snapshot doesn't reveal any private details other than "BUSY", "FREE", "TENTATIVE", BEFORE/AFTER WORKING HOURS".
Send the email with the Calendar Snapshot insert to those with whom you want to share your calendar details/specifics.
It will be easy to visually understand what your availability is on any given day/timeframe and it streamlines the scheduling process for everyone involved!
Outlook Cool Tools Tip #2: Scheduling a Calendar Appointment via an Email
Often times, it is the back and forth of an email topic thread that initiates the need for a meeting to be scheduled. So, what do we typically do? We go to our Outlook Calendar and set up a meeting and then go back and forth between our emails and address books to capture the names and email addresses of those people who should be included within that meeting. That's way too many steps and "clicks" involved when Microsoft already has an automated process incorporated within Outlook to accomplish that goal for you.
While you are already within the email that contains the names and email addresses of the people who should be included within the meeting that you need to schedule, simply click on the "MEETING" icon on the Ribbon Bar at the top of your email message.
This action automatically launches the creation of a calendar appointment which includes the recipients who were part of the email distribution and captures the SUBJECT/RE LINE information as well. The appointment time defaults to the current date & time. All you have to do is change the date to reflect the desired date & time for your upcoming meeting and SEND. All of the other information is "auto-populated" from the original email - saving you time, extra clicks, searching for email addresses, and above all - extra aggravation!
Outlook Cool Tools Tip #3: Creating and Using Multiple Signature Line Blocks within Outlook
You are able to create a customized signature block to be included within your Outgoing email messages. In fact, you might have multiple signature blocks based upon whether you're sending out an initial email or replying internally to an email. Perhaps, in addition to your work email signature, you might be involved as a member of a professional association where you need to send out a signature line that reflects leadership in that organization - so you might need a sig line for that scenario as well. You can even add logos and disclaimer notices that will go out automatically with each email that you distribute.
Note: In the sample shown below, there are three different signature blocks that have been created. One is used as the outgoing signature block for all NEW messages, one is used for REPLY messages and another for PRESIDENT of a professional association.
SAMPLE #1: NEW = Long formal signature block
SAMPLE #2: REPLY = Shortened - Less formal signature block
SAMPLE #3: PRESIDENT = Used when sending out emails as President of an organization but affiliated with your work email address.
Inserting Alternate Signature Blocks into Your Emails:
However, if you need to use one of the other email signature blocks that you created for yourself OR if you are assigned to support another person, i.e., an attorney or other legal professional, you can easily access and insert that alternate signature simply by "right clicking" in the signature line area of the email and choosing from the listing of signature line options that displays.
The "check mark" indicates the signature line that is currently being used for all New Emails. If you want to insert one of the other signature lines that is displaying in the listing, simply highlight it and choose that signature line to be inserted instead.
Ann Gorr is a legal technology consultant/advisor, information governance strategist, subject matter expert and avid technology evangelist. She is truly "fluent in legal technology" and recognized for the development and execution of innovative Legal IT strategies for her small-to-midsized law firm and corporate legal clients in the Information Governance/Enterprise Content Management and Compliance arenas. Ann is frequently requested to deliver presentations for legal professional associations including ILTA, LegalTech, ARMA, NJSBA and ALA on trending technology topics and regularly conducts national and local CLE programs.
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