Software

Five tips for using sound in Outlook

With a bit of fine-tuning, you can customize Outlook to deliver specialized alerts for various messages and reminders.

If you leave Outlook open, you can configure it to sound alerts as messages come in and appointments and tasks come due. This allows you a bit of freedom -- you can rely on the alerts to get your attention. By default, Outlook lets you know when new mail arrives, but there's much more than you can do with sound.

Just be mindful of others sitting nearby. Keep your system volume reasonably low and keep alerts to a minimum. Otherwise, those alerts you find helpful will quickly become a serious annoyance to others.

1: You've got mail!

It's iconic; everybody's heard it and everybody knows what it means. But not everyone has it. Neither Outlook nor Windows offers this particular sound clip, but you can use it. First, download the .wav file as follows:

  1. Right-click the link and choose Save Link As.
  2. Browse to the Windows/Media folder.
  3. Click Save.

Once you have the file on your system, you can reset this system option as follows:

  1. Before you reset the sound, close Outlook if it's open.
  2. Click the Start menu and open the Control Panel.
  3. In Windows XP, launch Sounds And Audio Devices. In Windows 7, launch Hardware And Sound.
  4. In Windows XP, click the Sounds tab. In Windows 7, click Change System Sounds in the Sounds section.
  5. Under Program, in the Windows section, click New Mail Notification.
  6. Click Browse and locate gotmail00.wav (the You've Got Mail! file).
  7. Click OK and close the Control Panel window. The next time you launch Outlook (or Outlook Express), it will play the You've Got Mail! .wav file instead of the default Ringin.wav file.

Sound can be a blessing, but it can also drive you nuts. If you decide that you don't need a sound notification, you can disable this feature as follows:

  1. Click the File menu and choose Options (under Help).
  2. Select Mail in the left pane.
  3. In the Message Arrival section, uncheck the Play A Sound option.
  4. Click OK.

In Outlook 2003 and 2007, do the following:

  1. From the Tools menu, choose Options.
  2. Click the Preferences tab.
  3. Click Email Options in the Email section.
  4. Click Advanced Email options.
  5. In the When New Items Appear In My InBox section, uncheck Play A Sound.
  6. Click OK three times.

2: Control reminder sound

When you set a reminder for an appointment, Outlook uses a default file named reminder.wav. When the reminder comes due, Outlook plays this file. You can easily change this file to something else as follows:

  1. Click the Reminder drop-down (in the Options group).
  2. Choose Sound (at the bottom of the drop-down list).
  3. Click Browse, locate another .wav file, and click OK. In Outlook 2003, click the Sound button when setting the reminder and choose a different sound.

The reminder.wav file is probably in your Program Files\Microsoft Office\Officex folder, but you don't need to know that to change it. However, you might need to know that if you decide to reset a reminder to the default file. To change the default reminder file in Outlook 2010, do the following:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Options.
  2. Click Advanced in the left pane.
  3. In the Reminders section, click the Browse button to the right of the Play Reminder Sound option.
  4. Locate a new file and double-click it.
  5. Click OK.

In Outlook 2003 and 2007, do the following:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu.
  2. Click the Other tab.
  3. Click Advanced Options.
  4. Click Reminder Options (near the bottom).
  5. Uncheck the Play Reminder Sound option.
  6. Click OK three times.

If there's any chance you won't be around to hear the reminder, you can download a long .wav file -- perhaps a song you like. That way, if you step away from your desk for a minute, the file will still be playing when you return (probably). The problem with this particular strategy is that you can't turn off the song. Outlook plays the entire file and that can be annoying to you (and those sitting nearby).

3: Who's calling please?

Knowing you have new mail is helpful -- knowing it's from someone important is more helpful. You probably don't need to stop what you're doing to answer every new incoming message. However, there are messages you might want to respond to right away. When this is the case, have Outlook play a sound alert when those messages arrive. You can concentrate on your current task and still respond to the message immediately.

Set up such an alert as follows (in Outlook 2010):

  1. In the Mail window, click the Home tab.
  2. Click Rules in the Move group and choose Manage Rules & Alerts from the drop-down list.
  3. Click New Rule.
  4. In the Stay Up To Date section, click the Play A Sound When I Get A Message From Someone link.
  5. In the Step 2 pane, click the People Or Public Group (People Or Distribution List in 2003/2007) link.
  6. Double-click a contact and click OK.
  7. Click the A Sound link.
  8. Locate a .wav file and double-click it.
  9. Click Finish and click OK.

Using Outlook 2003 and 2007, choose Rules And Alerts from the Tools menu and begin at step 3.

When a message arrives from the contact, Outlook will play the specified sound wave. You'll want to choose something distinctive but subtle -- something that gets your attention without disturbing others within earshot. The more alerts you add, the quicker this particular tip will lose its value. Keep it simple and apply an alert to only a few important people.

4: Sound the alarm for high priority mail

You might get high priority mail occasionally. That's mail that the sender deems urgent or especially important. If you're working with reasonable people, you probably don't get many of these messages, but when you do, you want to read them right away. You can create a rule that plays a specific .wav file when a priority messages comes in, as follows (Outlook 2010):

  1. In the Mail window, click the Home tab.
  2. Click Rules in the Move group and choose Manage Rules & Alerts from the drop-down list.
  3. Click New Rule.
  4. In the Start From A Blank Rule section, click the Apply Rule On Messages I Receive option and click Next.
  5. In the Step 1 pane, check the Marked As Important link.
  6. In the Step 2 pane, click the Important link, choose High from the resulting drop-down, click OK, and then click Next.
  7. In the Step 1 pane, click Play A Sound.
  8. In the Step 2 pane, click the A Sound link.
  9. Browse your system to find the .wav sound you want to use and double-click it.
  10. Click Finish and then click OK.

Using Outlook 2003 and 2007, choose Rules And Alerts from the Tools menu and click New Rule. In the Start From A Blank Rule section, click Check Messages When They Arrive and click Next. Then, begin at step 5 above.

You might want to download an alert-type sound because there aren't many choices by default. Search on ".wav file download" and you'll find plenty. I recommend that you save downloaded .wave files to the Windows\Media folder.

5: Be selective

Tip 3 is good for identifying email from a specific person. But sometimes, you get mail from the same person for different reasons, and they won't all be urgent. For instance, Mary might send several messages a day, messages that can wait. However, if she sends you something on the Human Resources project, you want to read it right away. When this situation arises, create a sound alert for messages as they arrive into the subfolder you created for this project. (This solution requires that you use rules to sort mail from specific people or groups into a subfolder.)

The trick is to set up a sound alert for messages as Outlook sorts them into a subfolder(s). For Outlook 2010, do the following:

  1. In the Mail window, click the Home tab.
  2. Click Rules in the Move group and choose Manage Rules & Alerts from the drop-down list.
  3. Click New Rule.
  4. In the Start From A Blank Rule section, click the Apply Rule On Messages I Receive option and click Next.
  5. In the Step 1 pane, check the From People Or Public Group.
  6. In Step 2, click the People Or Public Group link.
  7. Double-click the person or group, click OK, and then click Next.
  8. In the Step 1 pane, check the Move A Copy To The Specified Folder option and select the Play A Sound option.
  9. In the Step 2 pane, click the A Sound link, locate the file, and double-click it.
  10. In the Step 2 pane, click the Specified link; double-click it in the resulting dialog box.
  11. Click Finish and then click OK.

Using Outlook 2003 and 2007, choose Rules And Alerts from the Tools menu and click New Rule. In the Start From A Blank Rule section, choose Check Messages When They Arrive and click Next. Then, begin at step 5 above.

This rule will sort messages from the specified person or group into the specified folder after Outlook downloads them and alert you by playing the specified sound.

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.

11 comments
gusto84
gusto84

This is an avesome idea to change the DEFAULT annoying sound . But if it is possible to make this with different tones that sound as the different priority mais arrives ?? Thanks for reply and for this usefool article .

Mehul Bhai
Mehul Bhai

I was looking for #1 for a long time, i.e., the AOL one, for my Windows Live Mail on Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. I got it from the site you mentioned. Excellent. It works for Windows Live Mail too as it is System Sounds, hence will work for Outlook Express too probably.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I have one sound for mail from a service that forwards National Weather Service watches and warnings. I have another for mail from our server monitoring service. I have one rule that filters mail from a list of senders and just stops processing additional rules. By placing this one at the top of the Rules list, mail from those senders doesn't make any sound at all. Great for those message you receive routinely and actually need but don't immediately when they arrive: routine reports and summaries, next week's 'on call' schedule, that weekly reminder from payroll to fill out your timesheet, etc. The MS 'Space Cadet' Pinball game that (I think) came with W2K has a lot of .WAV files that adapt nicely to incoming e-mail alerts.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

I personally prefer the HAL 9000 Unit from Discovery telling me [i]There is a Massage for you[/i] but as I've been using that one for a very long time I may start looking for a new sound. ;) Col

ssharkins
ssharkins

Take a look at #4 -- isn't this what you're wanting to do? The tip shows attaching an alert to high priority, but you could attach an alert to all three.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

A lot of the Star Trek Computer Sounds and the like. But i just love having Hal 9000 telling me when it became operational and when I close down it tells me that [b]There is no point to this conversation GOOD BY.[/b] Or the Darlek destroying the contents of the Recycle Bin when I empty it. All that was done with virtually no time to waste so it's very quick and easy. ;) Col

santeewelding
santeewelding

For which I reserve the Overture, with cannon.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Use Voice Recognition Software. :p We is High Tech here even if most of the city is being washed away. :D Col