3 great shortcuts in Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook is a complex suite of tools and options, so shortcuts come in handy. Here are three of Susan Harkin's favorite Outlook shortcuts.

Microsoft Outlook offers a number of tools for organizing messages, contacts, and even appointments. The more you use Outlook, the more you'll appreciate shortcuts. The thing to remember about shortcuts is that what works for some won't be even remotely convenient for others. You'll want to find the shortcuts that complement the way you work. To that end, I want to share three of my favorite Outlook shortcuts.

1. Create a message-moving Quick Step

One of the more popular uses for rules is to move messages to a folder other than the inbox. This is one of my least favorite organizing tools because I forget to check the other folders, and so messages sit for a few days without a response. I much prefer to use Quick Steps to move messages quickly -- after they've arrived in my inbox, and I've decided to keep them and respond later. (Quick Steps are supported by Outlook 2010 and 2013.)

Moving messages manually isn't difficult -- it's a simple drag and drop, unless you have a lot of folders or you're working on a notebook or laptop. Then, it can be a bit awkward, and that's where Quick Steps can help.

Creating the Quick Step is almost as easy as applying it: name it, and then add an action. The actions are limited, so this isn't a panacea for all of your repetitive messaging tasks. In addition, you might need to create several if you have lots of folders. Now, let's create a Quick Step that moves the selected message to a folder named Work. With Outlook and the Mail window open, do the following:

  1. Click the Home tab.
  2. In the Quick Steps group, click Create New.
  3. In the resulting dialog, name the new step -- we'll name the new step Move To Work.
  4. Now, you're ready to specify the action. From the Choose An Action drop-down, choose Move to folder (Figure A).
    Figure A
    Figure A
  5. Outlook will display a new drop-down. Choose the Work folder from the Choose folder drop-down. In this case, the Work folder isn't in the first list. When this happens, select Other Folder (Figure B).
    Figure B
    Figure B
  6. In the resulting dialog, select the folder, and click OK, and then click Finish (Figure C).
    Figure C
    Figure C

Once you have the Quick Step in place, moving messages is a quick click. Select the message or a group of messages and then click the Quick Step, as shown in Figure D. Outlook does the rest!

Figure D

Figure D
Click a custom Quick Step.

This won't help some of you. If you work on a desktop unit with a huge monitor, as I do when I'm at my office, you don't need it. A quick drag and drop is as easy as clicking the Quick Steps. On the other hand, when I'm away from the office, working on a small notebook or laptop, this Quick Step really comes in handy. Drag and drop with a finger pad is next to impossible, and the travel mouse isn't much better. In addition, the screen's much smaller and my folder hierarchy is long, so these Quick Steps really help me out.

2. Bypass Outlook's Attachment option

If you're attaching a file to an outgoing email, you probably use the Attach File option in the Include group. Clicking that option opens a browse window where you can find and select the file you want to send. It's easy and the route you'll usually take. Occasionally, you can bypass this route, if you're already working in the Windows folder hierarchy -- and that happens to me more often than not.

Now, let's suppose you've just used Windows Explorer to open a file and make some changes. When you save and close the file, you're in the Explorer window with the folder file list, shown in Figure E, on screen.

Figure E

Figure E
Copy a file in Windows Explorer.

If you know that your next task is to open Outlook and send a message with that file as an attachment:

  1. Select the file in the folder list (if necessary).
  2. Press [Ctrl]+[C] to copy it to the Clipboard.
  3. Open Outlook and open a new message.
  4. In the body section of the blank message, press [Ctrl]+[V], and Outlook will automatically paste your file into the message as an attachment (Figure F).
    Figure F
    Figure F

If you're already in Outlook and Windows Explorer isn't open to the right folder, using Outlook's Attach File option is more efficient. This shortcut is another way to save a few clicks if you work the way I do -- closing files and then attaching them to an email right away.

3. The zoom method in Outlook

My 22-inch HD monitor is my pride and joy, but I can't take it on the road. When using a notebook or laptop to work, I often need to zoom in on messages, especially if I've pushed my glasses to the top of my head and I can't find them. There are three ways to increase the size of the font in an Outlook message -- two are temporary, one is permanent. I use all three.

My favorite temporary zoom method is to hold down the [Ctrl] key and roll the mouse wheel forward and backward to zoom in and out, respectively. This shortcut doesn't work the same way in all Outlook windows. For instance, in the Calendar, it browses the calendar instead of zooming. Sometimes it doesn't do anything at all. In Outlook 2010 and 2013, you can also zoom in and out using the Zoom slider in the bottom right corner, shown in Figure G.

Figure G

Figure G
Use Outlook's Zoom slider.

To permanently customize the font size for plain text messages, do the following:

  1. Click the File tab and choose Options.
  2. Select Mail in the left pane.
  3. Click the Stationery and Fonts button in the Compose Messages section.
  4. On the Personal Stationery tab, click the appropriate Font option, and then change the size in the resulting dialog (Figure H).
    Figure H
    Figure H
  5. Click OK three times.

If you're using Outlook 2007 or an earlier version, choose Options from the Tools menu, and then click the Mail Format tab.

This setting won't increase (or decrease) the font size for the Outlook interface or other windows. It works only with the new message window or for replying and forwarding.


The first two shortcuts are ways to complete simple tasks in addition to the built-in options. Neither is meant to offer an alternative to the usual route. Zooming in and out is something most of us need to do at one time or another. If you find you're zooming often, I've also included instructions for permanently increasing the font size of your message windows.

Send me your question about Office

I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. When contacting me, be as specific as possible: for instance, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. If you're asking a question about a particular article, please include the title of the article if you can. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise, nor do I ask for a fee from readers. You can contact me at susansalesharkins@gmail.com.