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Three tips for making Outlook's To-Do bar work for you

If you're tempted to hide Outlook's new To-Do bar, stop! Customize it and put it to work for you.

Outlook 2007 introduced the To-Do bar -a means of tracking appointments and tasks with a quick glance. The To-Do bar shows a Date Navigator with upcoming appointments and a list of tasks, but some users don't take full advantage of it.

Most users spend most of their time in their Mail window and having quick access to other features, via the To-Do bar, without leaving their Inbox is not only convenient, it's efficient. For instance, the Date Navigator displays upcoming appointments without opening your Calendar. If you decide to open your Calendar, simply click a date. You can also add new tasks, accept or decline meetings, and so on. These three tips will help you learn your way around so that you can customize the feature to suit your work habits.

1: Don't dismiss it

Outlook displays the full bar, but you can free up space by collapsing it - don't delete it! To minimize the bar, click the arrow in the top-left corner. You can then expand and collapse the bar, to suit your needs.

2: Customize the settings

To change the default arrangement of the Date Navigator, appointments, and tasks, right-click the To-Do bar's header. At this point, you can also turn off the display for all three To-Do bar components, but don't to so right now. Instead, choose Options. In the resulting dialog box, you can determine the display options that work best for you. For example, you can display more than one month, hide private items, and so on.

#3: Customize the Task list

Most of us will use the Task list more than the other two components, so getting this part right will really make you happy. To customize the Task list component, right-click the column header area (Arrange By) and choose View Settings (Custom in Outlook 2007). In the resulting dialog box, you can customize the task features you see. For instance, you might click Columns to add icons to the display. Or, you might want to remove the Follow Up flags.

To display more information about each task, change the single line display. Right-click the column header as before and choose View Settings (or Custom). Click Column and change this setting using the Maximum Number Of Lines dropdown.

You can temporarily filter the tasks you see by clicking the Filter button and entering specific words or choosing existing text from the dropdown. Doing so will display only those tasks that meet your criteria.

I've mentioned just a few of the more popular ways to customize the To-Do bar. The key to getting the most out of this feature is to explore its settings and put them to work for you!

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.

15 comments
B4ME
B4ME

I'd like to be able to have different follow up flags from those provided - e.g. in addition to "Tomorrow", "This Week" and "Next Week" I'd like to be able to flag for follow up in two days time, three days time, four days time, etc.  Is there a way to do that other than selecting custom and having to type in the date (or "three days time" which also works).?

Gautam Ashok
Gautam Ashok

How do I add calendar events into the todo bar from my non-default Outlook email account? Does Outlook allow it? I get calendar invites from two email addresses I've set-up. I want to be able to see invites from both accounts.

pstviewer
pstviewer

I'm just new for using outlook although I like your stuff. Here I learned a lot about outlook, how to use it and many other interesting tools.

ian
ian

then that would probably be correct but PCF was asking about “removing the flagged messages so I can just see actual Tasks”. A filter would be needed in that instance. I use 2007 but assume the filter would be the same in 2010.

PCF
PCF

I'm one of those who wanted to like it, but have kept the bar hidden since I started using Outlook 2010. lol Thanks to this article I'll give it another try if I can 'fix' the task list. C-: I like the idea Susan mentioned of removing the flagged messages so I can just see actual Tasks... but wish it was one of the things she included steps for since I'm missing something and can't figure it out. Does anyone know exactly how to make flagged items no longer show in the To-Do bar, in Outlook 2010? Thanks in advance.

ian
ian

is similar to Hometoy. I don't leave it open, a quick click on the bar will open and close it. Using the

sykeel
sykeel

I'm with @markwit. This feature has been severely degraded in Office 2013 to the point where it's rendered almost useless. I'm an early adopter but this is the single key reason why I'll be sticking with Outlook 2010.

markwit.tuc
markwit.tuc

Much of what you have discussed doesn't appear to be applicable in Outlook 13. i.e. only today's events or another highlighted day's events are displayed (very useful???) and so forth.

hometoy
hometoy

I have used this side panel for a while to help me be organized. The calendar is handy for looking up dates, I show the next 3 appointments so I have an idea of what is coming up soon. I use the To-Do List to focus on what I need to do, but only what I plan on doing *this* week and only go a couple of steps into the entire task (steps like "print invoice", "call client" and "put invoice in mail" instead of "bill client"). It also shows flagged emails I have to either do something or reply to. When I have to send our weekly activity log on Monday I comb through the completed To-Do items. In the calendar view I see not only what has been completed, but when it was completed. Then every Monday I re-evaluate my tasks and change the due dates to the end of the week. This helps me keep track of what I need to do (steps) and what I have done and when. Of course I'm interested in other ways to work it.

ssharkins
ssharkins

It's just a right-click away -- right-click the title bar and choose Chooser (I think -- not in front of me) add/delete columns.

hometoy
hometoy

Do you mean right-clicking on the flag and selecting "Clear Flag"?

ian
ian

If you only want to see tasks and NOT emails in your To-Do Bar, try this: Show you To-Do bar Right click on the Subject bar Select Customize Current View Select Filter Select Advanced tab From the Field drop down menu, select All Mail Fields/Email accounts Add Condition doesnt contain and YOUR email address in the value field Select Add to List and OK This worked well for me with ONE email account. I could not get it to work with more than one account either by adding more than one account to the value my.email.com; my.otheremail.com or as two separate filters. Everyones setup is usually different so you will just need to play with the filters. You cannot edit a filter, you will need to delete then add. Hope this helps.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I don't think many of us are supporting Outlook 13 just yet.

ian
ian

With more than one email account, as previous instruction except in the VALUE remove your email and replace with @

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