Software

10 timesaving tricks for working with Outlook message templates

You can save a lot of time and effort if you use templates in Outlook -- and you can save even more time and effort if you put these template techniques to work.

If you send the same information or use the same styles and formatting repeatedly, don't re-create the effort every time you send an email. Create a template and base new messages on it. You'll save time and reduce potential input errors. These tips will help you put templates to work for you.

1: Create a message template

Message templates let you create and store information you send regularly. Creating template files for reuse is an easy process:

  1. Open a new message.
  2. Add the text and apply styles and formatting.
  3. Click the File tab or the Office button.
  4. Choose Save As in the left pane.
  5. From the Save As Type drop-down, choose Outlook Template (*.oft).
  6. Click Save and Outlook will save the template file to the default folder.

To use an existing template, do the following:

  1. In the Mail window, click the Home tab, choose More Items from the New Items drop-down in the New group, and then select Choose Forms from the resulting submenu. In Outlook 2007, select Choose Form from the New option's drop-down.
  2. From the Look In drop-down, select User Templates In File System.
  3. Double-click the template or select it and click Open.
  4. Make the necessary changes to update the message and click Send as you normally would.

2: Draft a template

Opening a template, while more efficient than re-creating the message, takes several steps. Another option is to save your basic message in the Drafts folder. Then, double-click the message in the Drafts folder, complete it, and click Forward to send it. (If you send it as usual, Outlook will delete the message from the Drafts folder.)

You'll save a few steps, but this tip works best with limited messages. In addition, a message in the Drafts folder is easy to delete. It's a great shortcut, but use it wisely.

3: Avoid double signatures

When creating template files, don't save a manually entered signature with the template if you have an auto signature enabled. Outlook has no way of knowing that the text at the bottom of your template message is a signature. Your messages will end up with two signatures. There's no workaround; delete the text signature from the template or disable the auto signature.

4: Use a Quick Step

Templates aren't the only way to access stock messages. You can create a Quick Step (new to Outlook 2010) instead. Click the Home tab and then do the following:

  1. In the Quick Steps group, choose the Create New option.
  2. Enter a name for the new Quick Step.
  3. From the Choose An Action drop-down, select New Message in the Respond section.
  4. Click Show Options.
  5. Enter the template text.
  6. From the Shortcut Key drop-down, select a predefined shortcut, if you want one.
  7. Click Finish.

To use the Quick Step message as a template, select it from the options in the Quick Steps group -- selecting it will open the generic message. At this point, you can fill in any remaining information before sending.

5: Add templates to the 2010 Ribbon

If you have several templates, add a custom group to the Ribbon for easy access. The first thing you need is a macro; use the following sub procedure as a guide:

Sub OpenCustomTemplate()

  'Open template from a macro button

  'added to the ribbon.

  Set myFolder = Session.GetDefaultFolder(olFolderInbox)

  Set myItem = myFolder.Items.Add("IPM.Form.NewsletterTemplate")

  myItem.Display

End Sub

Update the Set myItem statement to reflect the name of your template but keep the IPM.Form component (that's the class). With the macro in place, add a custom group to the Ribbon as follows:

  1. Click the File tab and then click Options under Help in the left pane.
  2. Select Customize Ribbon in the left pane.
  3. Click New Group, choose Rename, enter a name such as Templates, and click OK. By default, Outlook will position the new group at the end of the Ribbon. You can use the arrows to the right to move it.
  4. With the new Templates group still selected, choose All Commands from the Choose Commands drop-down and select Macros.
  5. Select your macro and click Add.
  6. Right-click the macro (in the Templates group now), choose Rename, and enter a short, but descriptive name.
  7. Click OK.

Outlook will place a Templates group on the Home tab, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Add a new group for templates to the Ribbon.

6: Add a shortcut to the Quick Access Toolbar

If you don't want to customize the Ribbon, you can customize the Quick Access Toolbar, as follows:

  1. Choose More Commands from the QAT drop-down.
  2. Choose Macros from the Choose Commands drop-down.
  3. Select your macro.
  4. Click Add.
  5. Click OK.

7: Insert from a Word template

So far, all the tips have dealt with opening a template, completing it, and then sending it. But sometimes you'll need a different route. For instance, you might want to insert existing styles from another template or HTML code for a banner. You can quickly do so as follows:

  1. Click the Insert tab and then click Attach File in the Include group.
  2. Locate the template file and select it but don't click Open yet!
  3. From the Insert drop-down, click Insert As Text. Doing so will insert the template's contents into the body of your email instead of attaching the document to it.

This route is helpful when accessing data from a non-Outlook template.

8: Reply via a template

Have you ever needed to reply to several messages using the same information? For instance, let's suppose you sent an invitation to several people. Using a rule and a template, you can acknowledge everyone's response or send more up-to-date information. First, create the template and save it as you normally would (#1). Then, launch the rule wizard and apply the Reply Using A Specific Template action, specifying the appropriate template. (The wizard will hold your hand through the entire process.)

If you already have a number of messages you should respond to, move them to a new blank folder. Then, select that folder before you create the rule. After setting up all the conditions and actions, the wizard will let you run the rule on all the messages in the current folder.

9: Take a shortcut

If you use a template frequently, work from a shortcut on your Desktop. To create the shortcut, use Windows Explorer to navigate to the templates folder. In Windows XP, it's probably C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates. In Windows 7, try C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates. Right-click the file in Windows Explorer and choose Create Shortcut. Windows will create a copy of the file in the current folder. Right-click the copy and choose Send To and then select Desktop from the resulting submenu.

Double-click the shortcut on your Desktop to open the template in a message window. Complete the message, click Send, and you're done. You won't even have to close Outlook to complete the task.

10: Jump it!

Windows 7 lets you pin files, including Outlook templates, to the taskbar -- what's known as its jump list. Using Windows Explorer, find the template (see #9) and drag the .oft file to the Windows taskbar. To use this item, right-click the Outlook icon on the taskbar and choose the template from Outlook's jump list.

About

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.

12 comments
mbaker2311
mbaker2311

My template (in Roaming\Microsoft\Templates) is a blank email, but with a bunch of names pre-populated in the "To:" field. This macro just brings up a blank email, just like when I hit "new."

KiwiSheep
KiwiSheep

With Outlook 2003 (haven't tested 2007 or 2010) once you have saved the .oft file to the file system, you can then drag and drop it into your drafts folders in Outlook. Then when you open and send it from your Outlook drafts folder, it doesn't disappear.

LMHinWEHO
LMHinWEHO

Instead of all those steps, I use Aladdins Office Documents. It saves all those steps. Not only can I put links to Outlook contact card fields directly in the email template, I can select one or more contact cards and it will generate individual emails to each person with their name and any other information I want. One click to select the contact card(s), one click to select the template from my personal list and one click to send. Just saved dozens of steps.

LaurenAWhite
LaurenAWhite

I format a quarterly newsletter that has lots of textboxes, shapes, and images - this works nicely to pull all of it into the body of an e-mail vs. sending it as an attachment.

peterpk85
peterpk85

I am using outlookreflex to receive my outlook emails to mobile phones

omesie
omesie

I know this sounds silly but it's the fastest way I've found of creating a quick "template" email. Save it as a signature. You can have heaps of them neatly listed and instead of going to drafts or saving files and reloading which takes a while, 2 clicks brings up exactly what you want. i.e. create a signature and give it a simple name, make it look exactly like you want and put your real signature at the bottom. To bring it up, start a new email message, click on signatures and select the one you want to insert. Presto... 2-click template.

dale77
dale77

I have a folder on the desktop with all of the Outlook Templates I use.

TsarNikky
TsarNikky

The various processes sound workable. While it is extra work, illustrative examples works best for me. [When something goes wrong when trying something new, without an example, it is difficult to figure out--user error or instruction error.] [As an aside, this is the single biggest fault with the Excel "help" system. There is a lot of verbiage, but no practical example to give the verbiage some sense. So, when the procedure fails, who knows why--user or instructor problem.]

mmcgregor
mmcgregor

You are right. It was the best value in time savings of software I have bought this year. Do you use the catagory organizer too? I love that!

Robiisan
Robiisan

Just a different way to accomplish the same goal. However, adding the templates to the ribbon is a one-click solution, once it's sset up. :-) Great tip, though, it there are only one or two you need and probably a little quicker to set up.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Offering step-by-step examples bogs down the 10 tip format. Each tip would be an article! If you have a specific question, I'll be glad to help.

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