How to use Quick Steps to manage your emails in Microsoft Outlook

Quick Steps can save you time in Microsoft Outlook by helping you quickly manage each individual message.

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If you use Microsoft Outlook, you may spend a lot of time managing your email—deleting, moving, and organizing all your mail can seem like a full-time job. One way to ease the burden in Outlook is through the Quick Steps feature. With Quick Steps, you can create steps that incorporate one or more actions to automatically deal with a specific message. For example, you can create a step to permanently delete an email, copy or move it to a specific folder, mark it as unread, or forward it as an attachment. And you can combine multiple actions into one single step. When you receive an email, rather than ignore it or save it for later, simply select the appropriate Quick Step to deal with it immediately.

I'm using the latest iteration of Outlook from Office 365, but the Quick Steps feature works similarly for the past few flavors of Outlook.

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Before you get started diving into Quick Steps, you'll want to think about how best to organize your email. One of the primary goals is to move, reply to, or otherwise manage an incoming email, so it doesn't just languish in your inbox for weeks or months. As a couple of examples, I've created a folder called To-Do for tasks I need to accomplish and another folder called Done for tasks I've accomplished. I make sure to move the appropriate emails to those and other folders, and I often use Quick Steps to do that.

Open Outlook. The section for Quick Steps resides on the Home Ribbon and already contains a few default steps. From here, you'll want to create steps based on your needs. To do this, click the icon for Create New in the Quick Steps section (Figure A).

Figure A

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Maybe you want to manage emails that concern tasks you must accomplish, so you want to move them to a To-Do folder. At the Edit Quick Step window, name the step, for example: To-Do. Click the field to Choose an Action and select the action to Move To Folder. Click the Choose folder field and select the To-Do folder to which you want to move an appropriate email. Click Finish (Figure B).

Figure B

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Now, let's say that a new, incoming email concerns a task you must do. Select the email and then click the icon in the Quick Steps section for To Do. (Figure C).

Figure C

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That email is then moved to the appropriate folder (Figure D).

Figure D

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Next, you can combine multiple actions into a single quick step. Perhaps you want to be able to reply to an incoming email right away and then move it to a specific folder after you've replied—let's try that. Again, click the icon to Create New in the Quick Steps section. Name the step, something like Reply & Move. In the Choose An action field, click the entry for Reply. Then, click the button to Add Action. In the Choose An Action field, select the entry for Move To Folder, and select the specific folder. Click Finish (Figure E).

Figure E

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Select an incoming email to which you want to reply and then move to a folder. Click the new Quick Step you created for Reply & Move. Type your reply and send the message, and the email is then moved to the appropriate folder (Figure F).

Figure F

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You can easily change any element of a Quick Step from its name to its actions. Right-click a step you wish to modify and select Edit. That brings you to the Edit Quick Step window where you can now change whatever elements you wish. Click Save after you've made your changes. You can remove a step you no longer need—right-click on it in the Quick Steps group and select Delete. You can also use a Quick Step as the source to create a new and similar step. To do this, right-click on the existing step in the Quick Steps group and select Duplicate.

You can manage your Quick Steps individually or as a whole—right-click on any Quick Step and select Manage Quick Steps. From here, you can edit, duplicate, or delete a step. You can also change the order of the steps. Select a specific step and click the up or down arrow at the bottom to move it backward or forward in the list of steps (Figure G).

Figure G

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