Outlook offers numerous calendaring features -- more than a lot of users even know about. These pointers will help you tap into the most useful Outlook functionality.
Outlook's Calendar view is a lot like your everyday desk calendar, except it's dynamic. You can schedule and update appointments, events, meetings, and view to-do lists without the mess. With a few tips up your sleeve, you can increase your productivity, ease collaborative tasks, and override a few annoying defaults and behaviors.
Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.
1: Change the default timing
Outlook's Calendar view defaults to 30-minute intervals. That means when you create a new appointment, Outlook automatically allows 30 minutes. If most of your meetings run 30 minutes long, the setting works fine, even if you have to adjust it for the occasionally oddball meeting. On the other hand, repeatedly updating the time interval is inefficient. If most of your events aren't 30 minutes long, change the default setting as follows:
- Right-click in Calendar view.
- Choose Other Settings.
- Click the Time Scale drop-down list and choose another time period item, as shown in Figure A. For instance, to schedule several 15-minute interviews with potential new hires over the next week, you'd select the 15-minute interval. Doing so is more efficient than changing each meeting from 30 minutes to 15.
- Click OK.
Change the Calendar's default time period for meetings.This route displays a number of settings via the Format dialog box (Figure A), but there's a quicker way to reset the timing interval. Simply right-click the time bar and select an interval from the resulting context menu, shown in Figure B. The next time you create an appointment, Outlook will use the new time slot setting, as shown in Figure C.
Right-click the time bar for quick access to timing intervals.
Outlook appointments use the default time slot setting.
You can reset the time period permanently or temporarily. But curiously, you can't add a new time period. You must select one of the existing items from the drop-down list (step 3). Unfortunately, the existing list is short. How Outlook's developers decided that 6 minutes was a more universal setting than 20 or 45 minutes is a bit of a mystery.
2: Select an appointment time before creating an appointment
Resetting the time interval for appointments in Calendar view is helpful when most of your appointments consume the same amount of time. But it can come in handy another way. By selecting the smallest common interval, you can automate the timing on new appointments. For example, you can set the default time interval for 15 minutes. When creating a new appointment, highlight as many blocks of 15 minutes as needed.Figure D shows a block selection for 11:00 AM to 11:45 AM -- three 15-minute intervals. Just start typing the appointment's subject and press Enter. If you need to set more details, right-click the selected block to open a new appointment form, with the time interval already set. As you can see in Figure E, the default Start Time and End Time match the highlighted block in Figure D.
Select blocks of time for new appointments.
Outlook sets an appointment's time based on a selected block.
You don't have to set the default time intervals to a specific unit to take advantage of this particular tip. You can highlight a block before creating an appointment, regardless of the setting. However, when possible, having the default interval reflect the lowest common interval for your meetings will mean less resetting.
3: Drag items to the Calendar
You probably receive information about meetings and events via email. Or maybe those details already exist in a task or journal entry. If you need to create an appointment or event from that information, you can re-enter it in Calendar view or you can do it the easy way -- drag the existing item to the Calendar. When you do, Outlook opens an appointment dialog box that contains information from the item. For instance, if you drag an email message, the appointment form will display the email's header and body of the message.
You'll still have to set the appropriate date and time information, but everything in the item you need from the email message will also be copied to the appointment's notes section. That way, you don't have to cut and paste or re-enter the information to have it all in your appointment where you need it.
4: Drag appointments from one day to another
Similarly to dragging an email to the Calendar, you can drag an existing appointment from one day to another. Simply click the appointment on the Calendar and drag it to another day -- it's that easy.
But be careful when dragging an appointment to Day or Work Week view. Outlook will update the appointment to reflect the new slot's time period. If you don't want to change the time, you must drop it into the same time slot for the new day.
To copy rather than move an appointment, hold down the [Ctrl] key while dragging the appointment to another day. This handy shortcut is much easier than re-creating a new appointment when most of the particulars already exist in an old appointment. Just move or copy the old appointment and update the new one, as needed.
Unfortunately, you can't undo this action using [Ctrl]+Z or the Undo command on the Edit menu.
5: View the number of days you want
All of the views have a specific number of days: Day is, of course, the current day, so it's just one; Work Week is five, Monday through Friday; Week is seven days; and Month displays five full weeks, with some days falling in either or both the previous and the next months.Viewing the number of days you want, up to nine, in any view is just a keystroke away. To see a specific number of days in a particular view's format, press [Alt]+0 through 9. For instance, to see three days in Day view, press [Alt]+3, as shown in Figure F. To view 10 days, press [Alt]+0.
Use a keyboard shortcut to override a view's preference.
Pressing [Ctrl]+Z won't undo this change. However, it isn't permanent. Simply click the appropriate view icon on the Standard toolbar to reset the number of days.
6: Side by side viewIf two days are in the same week, you can easily compare them. However, they won't always fall in the same week. Fortunately, viewing two particular days side by side is a simple trick, and the days don't have to be sequential -- they can be weeks or even months apart. To view two days side by side, hold down the [Ctrl] key and click both dates in the Date Navigator (the calendar in the Navigation Pane). For example, Figure G shows October 14 and December 17 side by side.
View any two days side by side.
You can add more days to the view. Continue to hold down the [Ctrl] key while clicking days in the Date Navigator. You can also add a day to a date or month view. Pressing [Ctrl]+Z won't undo this change, but you can click the appropriate view icon on the Standard menu to return the view to normal.
7: Give your weekend its dueBy default, Month view displays Saturday and Sunday in the same column, as shown in Figure H. If your weekend days deserve a bit more attention than that, you can uncompress them. That way, Outlook will display both days as two full and separate days rather than combining them into one column. To make this change, right-click Calendar view and choose Other Settings. In the Month section, uncheck the Compress Weekend Days Option and click OK. (This tip isn't applicable in Outlook 2007.)
Outlook compresses both weekend days into the same column.
8: Share your calendar
Exchange Server users can quickly share calendars, which is an important key to productivity in a busy office. Don't spend time emailing and calling to ask,"Are you free...?" Instead, share your calendar and compare prospective meeting dates and times with others.
To share your calendar, in Calendar view, click the Open A Shared Calendar link in the Navigation pane. Select a contact and click OK. It couldn't be simpler. You can display up to 12 Calendar folders side by side in Day, Week, Work Week, or Month view.
9: Open Calendar view in a separate window
If you switch between views a lot, you might find it easier and faster to work with Calendar view in its own separate window. That configuration will reduce the need to hit the Navigation pane to go back and forth between views. To open Calendar view in its own window, right-click the Calendar shortcut in the Navigation pane and choose Open in New Window.
You can open any Outlook view in its separate window -- and that's what makes this tip so valuable. You can work with several individual windows open and use the Taskbar to move back and forth between them, returning you to the exact spot where you were last working in that window.
To close a separate window, simply click the Close button (X) in the right corner of that window's title bar.
10: Show Calendar items in Outlook TodayOutlook Today provides a quick review of the current day, as shown in Figure I. To access this view, simply select Personal Folders in All Mail Folders. If you're on Exchange Server, this item will read as Mailbox - your name.
Review your day at a glance with Outlook Today.By default, this view displays five days of appointments, meetings, and events in the Calendar section. You can change the number of days listed by clicking Customize Outlook Today at the top right. Doing so will display the list of settings shown in Figure J.
Use these options to customize your view of Outlook Today.
11: Display truncated items in Month viewMonth view has the least amount of space for displaying appointments and events. Sometimes, Outlook simply can't display the entire item, as shown in Figure K. Hovering the mouse over an item will display the entire item, so the truncated listing might not be a big deal. However, if it is, you can reduce the font Month view uses as follows:
- Right-click Calendar view.
- Choose Other Settings from the resulting context menu.
- In the Month section, click the Font button.
- In the resulting Font dialog box, specify a smaller font. The smallest font listed in the Size control is 8, but you can type in a smaller value, such as 6.
- Click OK twice.
Month view sometimes truncates items.
The smaller font won't always work. But if viewing complete listings is important, give it a try. Unfortunately, this change won't reduce the size of events; it works only with appointments.
12: Display two time zones
If you communicate with people in other time zones, it can be helpful to know their local time when setting meetings or before calling. Fortunately, Outlook makes it easy to display two time zones -- your local time and a second one. To add a second time zone, do the following:
- Choose Options from the Tools menu.
- Click Calendar Options in the Calendar section.
- Click the Time Zone button (bottom right).
- Check the Show An Additional Time Zone option.
- Enter a descriptive name for the new time zone in the Label control.
- From the Time Zone drop-down list, choose the appropriate time zone.
- Click OK three times and Outlook will display both time zones, as shown in Figure L.
Display two time zones
Or you can simply right-click the time bar and choose Change Time Zone from the resulting context menu.
Use the Time Zone dialog box to adjust your time zone when traveling. If all-day events suddenly span two days, don't worry. You can change the beginning and ending times for each event or ignore the two-day span.
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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.