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Increase your communication efficiency using a draft message as a template

With some careful use of draft features found in Outlook, you can increase your efficiency when it comes to sending repeat emails.

Most of us have an email task or two that we repeat occasionally. You might retype the message each time you need it if it's short. A more efficient solution might be to store the message in the Drafts folder and send the message, as needed, from there - or at least you thought it was a good idea. The problem with this simple solution is that Outlook deletes a message from the Drafts folder when you send it. Outlook doesn't offer an option to store the "template" after you send it.

Fortunately, there's a simple workaround: instead of opening the template message as you normally would, by double-clicking it, click Forward instead! (Forward is on the Home tab in the Respond group.) Clicking forward opens a copy of the message that you can send without removing the original from the Drafts folder. How simple is that?

You might worry that Outlook will preface each line of a plain text message that you forward with the > character, but it won't - Outlook doesn't treat a message in the Drafts folder the same as a message sitting in your Inbox.

Now that I'm brought it up, I might as well show you how to disable this behavior even though it's not a factor in this particular case. Most readers hate the prefaced text in forwarded messages, so it's usually a good change. You can disable this feature as follows:

  1. Click the File tab. select Options under Help in the left pane, and then select Mail in the left pane. In Outlook 2003, choose Options from the Tools menu. Then, select Preferences and E-mail Options.
  2. In the Replies and Forward section, choose Include Original Message Text from the When Forwarding A Message dropdown. The default is Prefect Each Line Of The Original Message, with the > character as the default character.
  3. Click OK.

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.

7 comments
bnbaldwin_53
bnbaldwin_53

I've been creating and using multiple OL templates for years in OL2003, 2007, and 2010. After the template is created (using save as .oft), I navigate to the template folder, create a shortcut, save it to my desktop, and get an instant email with all the information required by clicking on the shortcut. If you automatically insert a signature, remember to delete it before you save your template.

dhays
dhays

Notes has the draft format, as well as a stationery format for making multiple messages from one. I use a draft message to convey information to several on a weekly basis, the information is updated as needed. I just make a copy (copy into new message) and add specific information pertaining to the time I send it. The draft message stays in the draft folder. It used to copy the send to information, but hasn't lately, must be an upgrade from IBM--just like Microsoft they take features away and call it an upgrade. The stationery option is similar in function.

mdhruv
mdhruv

In Outlook 2010, there is an option to insert "text boxes" under the "insert" tab in a message. You can select pre-formatted text and insert "on the go" - on referring to draft folders, etc. it can be used to issue standardized replies to mail you receive in your course of work.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Thanks to both of you for mentioning oft files -- they are great if you have multiple template needs.

ian
ian

The same procedure used by Foggier is also available in Outlook 2007. If you use templates regularly you can add a button to the menu bar to access the template. To do this, Right mouse click on the menu bar and select customize. In the Customize window select Actions from the Categories and Choose Form... from the Commands Drag Choose form... to the menu bar With the Customize window still open, right click the icon you placed on the menu bar From the menu, rename to compliment the buttons action From the same menu, select Assign Hyperlink then Open add the link to the template. Note: If you do not know the path search *oft Select your template and click right mouse to get the path add this as the link. Note: The first time you do this, you may encounter security access messages. Just continue through them and all will be fine. The next time you open it, it will go stright to the template. Note: If you have several templates you can add them to a group and select from a drop down menu.

Foggier
Foggier

In Outlook 2003, you CAN produce a template. Make a new message in the normal manner, then do a "save as" and in the "Save as type" field, scroll down to "Outlook Template (.oft)". You will automatically be put in the templates folder, where you can name and save it. To reopen the template, go into the "Tools" menu, click "Forms" then "Choose Form". At the top of the file selection window that opens, in the "Look In" field, scroll down to "User Templates in File System". You should see your .oft template there. One thing to keep in mind: if you have an automatically-applied signature, do NOT save the template with the signature. When you open the template the auto signature will be applied, so if you saved it with the signature in place, it will be doubled up when you open it again.

yanm
yanm

Hi Foggier, I've tried it in my Outlook 2003, but the "Save as type" drop down list doesn't have the "Outlook Template(.oft)", it has a "Document template (.dot) instead. Any ideas?

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