Archive for the ‘Outlook’ Category

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Outlook: Lost the preview pane and minimized to the title bar only

January 16, 2017

Something went askew with my Outlook — I only had a title bar when minimized, so had to maximize the window to see my emails. And instead of getting a list of emails with a preview of each in the lower part of the screen as I clicked on each one, I could only get the list of emails OR the current email fully displayed, not how I had it before. I don’t know what happened or why, but I was able to solve both issues with a bit of Googling.

Resize the Outlook window

I could maximize the window fully, but when I restored the window size it went to just a title bar. I could drag a handle to make the title bar wider or narrower, but I couldn’t pull down the corners to display the window.

Solution: Drag the title bar to either the right or left edge of the window. You get a ghost outline of the new window dimensions, so release the mouse. You should now have a workable window you can resize to your requirements.

Restore the Preview pane

No matter what I set in Outlook’s View tab > Reading Pane settings, I could only get either ALL my emails listed (with the unread ones showing about 3 lines of the email) , or get a single email listed with the details of the sender in the lower half of the window. My usual way of viewing emails is a single line list on the right (whether read or not; #1 in the screenshot below), a preview of the email in the middle part of the screen (#2), and the sender’s details and other communications in the lower part of the screen (#3). No matter what I set, I couldn’t get my usual view back.

outlook preview pane

I found the solution that worked for me here: http://community.spiceworks.com/topic/198544-outlook-reading-pane-turns-off-each-time-outlook-is-closed

In case this webpage ever goes missing, here’s what to do:

  1. Close Outlook.
  2. From the Start button (I’m using Windows 7, so vary this for the version of Windows you’re running), type Run then click the Run program.
  3. In the Open field on the Run dialog box, type outlook.exe /cleanviews (Note: there’s a space after exe but no other spaces).
  4. Click OK.
  5. If this works for you as it did for me, Outlook should reopen with your preview pane back as it was. Adjust the heights of the preview pane elements to suit.

outlook_preview_pane02

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How big?

January 29, 2015

In computer terms, what we think of as ‘big’ has changed a lot over time. Things that were unimaginably big only a few years ago are now considered tiny.

For example, when I bought my first computer system in 1994 (with the printer, modem monitor etc., it cost more than $7000 at the time!), I had a ‘top of the wozza, future-proof’ system. I recall that the hard drive was a massive 384 MB, and I think it had 512 KB of RAM — really fast for the day.  Now, I can buy an external 3 TB hard drive for around $100, and laptops that are more powerful than those used to get us to the moon and back cost less than $1000.

But it’s data size I want to talk about. Specifically, what Microsoft Outlook 2010 considers ‘big’.

I was cleaning out some of my sent items, and decided to sort by size. And this is when I found out that Outlook 2010 considers anything over 5 MB to be ‘enormous’; between 1 and 5 MB ‘huge’, and between 500 KB and 1 MB ‘very large’. These seem such an antiquated descriptions in 2015, and I wonder if this aspect of the interface just hasn’t been looked at in a long time.

outlook_size01

outlook_size02

Note: I checked the same sent items in Outlook 2013, and it seems Microsoft have changed what they consider big — 5 to 10 MB is now considered ‘very large’, and 1 to 5 MB is ‘large’.

 

 

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Email etiquette at work

February 25, 2013

Based on a writing tip I wrote recently for my work colleagues.

*********

Brad asked:

Do you have any information on etiquette/guidelines/best practise for emails, specifically when not to CC people who may have been on an original email? I see a lot of emails that start off as a simple one-way communication, i.e. not necessarily expecting a conversation, where people are CC’ed (managers or supervisors usually) that then escalates into a back and forth discussion, not necessarily in a bad way, but where all original participants are retained.

Good question, Brad.

Below I’ve compiled a list of etiquette rules for internal email that I gleaned from several websites that deal with this question (see the links at the end). I haven’t ranked them in any particular order, and I haven’t expanded too much on any of them as they should be self-explanatory (if you need more detail, see the links):

  • Begin with a simple greeting, and end with ‘Thanks’, ‘Regards’ or similar as well as your signature (set up an automated signature in Outlook 2007 by going to Tools > Options > Mail Format tab > Signatures button)
  • Make sure the subject line reflects the contents of the email
  • Be as concise as possible; use bullet points or short paragraphs, with just one idea per paragraph or bullet point
  • Ask permission before forwarding another person’s email
  • Reply in a timely fashion
  • Send personal emails from your PERSONAL account, not the company’s
  • All work email (even deleted mail) is the property of the company and is NOT private
  • Don’t send chain mail, forwards, hoaxes, jokes, or other unprofessional emails to your work colleagues (see link below for urban legends and hoaxes)
  • Before clicking ‘Send’, re-read your message and check the list of recipients. Check the recipients again – do they ALL need to get the email?
  • Don’t ‘Reply all’ out of habit – ‘Reply’ is usually sufficient; if you do ‘Reply all’, check the list of recipients first and delete those who don’t need the information
  • Delete any unwanted ‘threads’ in the email before replying  – only reply to what you’ve been asked; trim out the unnecessary bits of previous conversations
  • Don’t send huge attachments – link to the document or folder on the network instead; typically, you can’t attach files to an email that are more than about 5 MB in total
  • Use standard English and punctuation; use acronyms sparingly; avoid sarcasm and irony as they don’t translate well in words; avoid emoticons (smileys) and ‘text-speak’; curb your use of exclamation points
  • Use standard fonts, font sizes, colours, and sentence case
  • Use the CC line for those who need to get a copy of the email, but who aren’t the main recipient; use the BCC line for those whose email addresses you don’t want to disclose (don’t forget – assume that every email you send from the company account is NOT private, whether you use BCC or not); be judicious in who you add to the CC/BCC lists – not everyone has to see everything, and ‘reply all’ threads become very cumbersome
  • If you and the recipient are in a long email chain trying to get your message understood, pick up the phone and call them, or meet them face to face
  • Set up Inbox folders and learn how to use ‘rules’ to route emails into those folders (Tools > Rules and Alerts)

More information:

[Links last checked February 2013]

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Outlook: Globally change Country/Region for contacts

October 10, 2012

I have close to 900 contacts in my Outlook address book. When I was in the By Location view, I’d noticed that some address formats weren’t quite right so I started to fix the entries individually. That was fine for the early parts of the address, but I had some 650 contacts in Australia, some 160 in the US, and smaller numbers for other countries. Many of them just needed a country added, or ‘USA’ changed to United States of America (the drop-down value in the country list).

Doing it one at a time was getting painful!

So I did a quick search on the internet and after plowing through a lot of sites that weren’t relevant, I found the solution at Slipstick, a terrific resource for all things Outlook: http://www.slipstick.com/outlook/contacts/keep-outlook-from-putting-the-wrong-country-in-new-addresses/

In essence, you show your contacts in the By Location view, sort by Country/Region, then right click on the Country/Region header and select Group by this field. Make sure that at least one address in each contact group has the correct country.

Then select and drag those without a country or with the wrong country onto the group that already has the country. Each one changes instantly!

I was very happy as I just saved a HEAP of time.

Thanks Slipstick!

See also:

[Links last checked October 2012]

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Outlook: Delay the delivery of an email

March 26, 2012

Did you know that you can delay the delivery of an email so that it’s sent at a time and date of your choosing? Very handy if you have an announcement you want to make at a particular time/date, or if want to sit on your response for a while (though I strongly suggest you use the Drafts folder for that type of email!)

Here’s how in Outlook 2007 and 2010:

  1. Click New E-mail as you would for any new email message.
  2. On the new message window, you’ll see a custom ribbon specific to that email. Click the Options tab.

    Go to the Options tab on a new email message window

    Go to the Options tab on a new email message window

  3. Go to the More Options group, and click Delay Delivery.

    Click Delay Delivery in the More Options group

    Click Delay Delivery in the More Options group

  4. Complete the details on the Properties window, then click Close.

    Complete the time/date and other details

    Complete the time/date and other details

  5. Click Send as usual — the message will sit in your Outbox until the time/date you specified, when it will be sent.

While this is a handy feature, there are some issues with it. For details on those, see: http://office-watch.com/t/n.aspx?a=1681

[Links last checked March 2012]

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Microsoft Lync status sets itself to Busy

January 10, 2012

I use Microsoft Lync on my client’s computer when I’m linked in to their office via VPN. However, it’s baffled me as to why Lync often changes my status to Busy or Busy — In a meeting without my permission.

I wanted to find out why it does this and how I can stop it from doing so. I’d already gone into the Lync settings (Tools > Options) and tried to change my Status settings for the Inactive and Away statuses (the only ones you can change). However, my client has these set to 15 minutes and doesn’t let me change them. Those settings weren’t what I wanted anyway — it was the Busy status that was annoying me as it would report me as Busy/in a meeting when I wasn’t (in a meeting, that is).

Off to the internet… where I found the answer! And it’s all to do with the connection between your Outlook Calendar and Microsoft Lync.

It seems that Lync is intimately linked with Outlook/Exchange Server, and if you have an appointment scheduled in your Outlook Calendar, Lync will pick that up and change your status to Busy or Busy — in a meeting for that time. If the appointment is as a result of a meeting request, you’ll show as Busy — in a meeting; if it’s just a reminder, your status will show as Currently busy, free at <time>.

Which is all very fine if you use Outlook’s Calendar to schedule your meetings. But what about if you use the calendar for other purposes, such as a reminder tool? For example, I use Outlook’s Calendar to remind me to put in my weekly report (recurring reminder every Thursday), turn on my ‘Out of Office’ notifications (recurring reminder late every Thursday), jot down which documents are due to me on what dates (ad hoc reminders), etc. None of these are meetings — they are reminders.

Sure, I could use Outlook’s Tasks function for my reminders instead, but Tasks doesn’t offer me the very visual ‘at a glance’ view of my week or month that the Calendar function does. I can set recurring tasks and dates in Tasks, but not a time range (e.g. I don’t want to be reminded about setting my Out of Office notification until late on a Thursday, so I need the flexibility of Calendar for that).

By default, all appointments are set to 30 minutes, so there may be several 30-minute periods in my work day when my Lync status shows that I’m Busy and therefore unavailable, when I’m actually available.

I just ran a test with a colleague, and even if I dismiss the Calendar reminder, my status still shows as Busy until the time expires. The only way I can ‘kill’ it is to delete the ‘appointment’ (it takes a minute or two for your status to change back after deleting the appointment) or to manually change my status to Available.

I think it’s clever how Lync syncs with your Outlook Calendar, but I also think it’s a bit too clever. I won’t IM or call someone whose Lync status is Busy. But now that I know they *may* be available despite the displayed status, I might try IM’ing them and not holding off until their status changes.

Update January 2012: Peter C, a work colleague, told me how to set your reminders in Outlook so that Lync doesn’t report you as Busy. Unfortunately, you seem to have to set this one reminder at a time — I couldn’t see any Outlook settings where I could change the default for this. Here’s Peter’s solution:

When you set any appointment, Outlook automatically sets your status for that appointment as Busy — this is what Lync picks up and displays.

However, you can change your status for any appointment to Free and Lync will show you as Available.

See also:

[Links last checked January 2012; thanks to Peter C for providing a solution; based on a Writing Tip I wrote for my work colleagues]

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Outlook won’t open

December 6, 2011

I had a bit of a scare the other day when Outlook on my client’s laptop wouldn’t open. I got this message:

Outlook cannot open your default e-mail folders. The information store could not be opened.

It was possibly related to me trying to open Outlook the previous evening when I wasn’t connected to the client’s servers via VPN.

I went hunting on the internet for a solution — and found a few.

But before trying to apply any of those solutions or calling the client’s IT support center, I decided to reboot the computer in case something got tangled up between me disconnecting from the VPN, opening Outlook offline, reconnecting to the VPN the next morning and trying to open Outlook as normal — which is when I got the error.

And the restart worked!

In case you get a similar message and a restart doesn’t work, here are some sites that may help:

[Links last checked 1 December 2011]