Do you spend too much time in the Sent folder looking for perfect message content to reuse? Stop! Do you keep your best content in a Word document and use cut and paste to compile messages? Stop!
If you're supported by a large organization, you probably have access to templates that contain reusable content. But if you don't, you can simulate content-filled templates using Quick Parts. This feature is easy to use and unlike templates, it doesn't require specialized knowledge. In this article, I'll show you how to use Quick Parts to reuse common text and graphics to quickly generate messages (and replies).
I'm using Outlook 2016 on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but AutoText is a long-standing feature and available in older versions. There's no downloadable demonstration file for this article.
About Quick Parts
Like most users, you may often send the same message text. By now, you can probably repeat it by rote, but you don't have to. Quick Parts is a gallery of reusable content (that includes AutoText). Entries can comprise text, document properties, fields, tables, graphics, and more. Quick Parts and AutoText support formatting, such as color and fonts. Using fields, you can even create dynamic content. For instance, you might reference the current date or even use an expression to return a future (or past) date.
Quick Parts and AutoText are similar in purpose; how you access them is the biggest difference. If you like working from the keyboard, AutoText is a mouse-less option. On the other hand, if you like your mouse, you can use the interface to quickly reuse content. Most likely, you'll use both.
The quickest way to add an entry to either AutoText or Quick Parts is to type it in an email message and add any desired formatting or graphics. When the message is complete, select it, and do the following:
- Click the Insert tab and then click Quick Parts in the Text group.
- Choose AutoText or Save Selection To Quick Parts Gallery.
Or press [Alt]+[F3]. Both routes display the Create New Building Block dialog shown in Figure A.
Save content for reuse.
Using the dialog, you can specify the following attributes:
- Name: A unique identifier for the entry. The feature lists these in alphabetical order, which might be important if you have several.
- Gallery: Outlook can save entries in specific galleries, which is helpful if you have lots of reusable content. For the most part, you'll use AutoText and Quick Parts.
- Category: Use General unless you have a lot of reusable text and need additional grouping. Categories belong to galleries.
- Description: Meaningful comment that describes the entry, but don't bother, as you'll never see it or use it.
- Save In: Use NormalEmail.dotm if you want the content to be available to all Outlook emails. If you use templates, you can isolate entries by template.
- Options: Determines how the entry is inserted.
Use the instructions above to create two entries:
- Enter and select the message text and create a Quick Parts entry named Field Trip Message. (The text is partially obscured in the message window, but you can see it in Figure B; the text is irrelevant—simply enter a few lines of text.)
- Enter a single line of text below the message text and create an AutoText entry named FTS. Again, the text is irrelevant (see Figure B).
You've created two new entries, which you can access using the Quick Parts gallery.
Create two entries.
By default, this feature uses the first few characters in the entry as its name. Giving your entries meaningful names makes them easier to remember when inserting from the keyboard. The first four digits should be unique to avoid problems. When there's no name ambiguity, this feature displays the entry in a screen tip. Once it's visible, pressing Enter to insert the text will save you a few clicks or keystrokes.
To modify an entry, insert it into a message window. Then, make the necessary changes and save it using the same name.
Once you have an entry, you can quickly insert that reusable text in an email message. When inserting a Quick Parts entry, position the cursor where you want the text in the email message and then do the following:
- Click the Insert tab.
- Click Quick Parts.
- Click the appropriate thumbnail in the gallery to insert that entry's content.
Or start typing the entry's name (this is why unique names are helpful). When you see the screen tip with the beginning of the entry's text (Figure C), press Enter.
Insert a Quick Parts entry by (partially) typing its name.
To enter an AutoText entry, type the name and press [F3]. Our AutoText entry's name is FTS, so type FTS and press [F3]. Doing so replaces FTS with the entry's text. Unfortunately, you can't insert Quick Parts or AutoText in a message's subject line, but you can cut and paste—it's still quicker than typing it and will eliminate typos.
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The Quick Parts galleries can become unruly if you add too many entries. To insert without using a gallery, you must remember the entry's name. Fortunately, there's another option when existing text is available in another format. For instance, you might have a Word document that you want to insert as text rather than as an attachment. In this case, choose Object in the Text group (on the Insert tab) and click the Create From File tab. From there, locate the document and click OK.
In this simple example, it might be difficult to appreciate how much time and effort you can save using Quick Parts. This feature is most useful when you have lots of reusable content you can save and insert as needed. Also consider using this feature to avoid typos in names and phrases you often use. If you like, you can add both the AutoText and Quick Parts galleries to the Quick Access Toolbar for even more convenience.
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Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.