With all of the spam that’s mixed with regular e-mail,
chances are that many of your end users have a slight inbox problem: They’re
buried under an avalanche of e-mail. Rather than apply complex customized
folders and filters, help them dig themselves out with the vast array of view
options in Microsoft Outlook 2003.

Tip 1: Teach Outlook 2003’s View menu

If you haven’t had much time to explore Outlook 2003’s new
features, you’ll be delighted to find that many of the views you need are already
set up in the View menu.

Show your users how
to expand menus so they can see the full View menu, as shown in Figure A.
Because Office displays only recently used items on truncated menus, some of
your users never see the full choices anymore and have forgotten what they are.

Figure A

Go over the (expanded) Outlook 2003 View menu; it’s a gateway to helpful built-in

Tip 2: Show how to set Reading Pane options

As you know, the View menu has several submenus. Let’s start
our lesson with View | Reading Pane. In this version of Outlook, three layouts
are possible for viewing the contents of highlighted e-mails: Reading Pane on
the Right, Bottom, and Off. You may prefer the right-side arrangement (Figure
). This layout gives you that popular “endless mineshaft” view. The
Inbox tunnels as deep in the earth as the deepest oil well, but this view actually
makes possible a shortcut I’ll mention later.

Figure B

Choosing the Reading Pane on the right side gives the “endless
mineshaft” view.

As with previous versions of Outlook, selecting View |
AutoPreview displays three lines of e-mail below the subject line.

Tip 3: Set e-mail to show in groups

A helpful and often overlooked feature available in the View
| Arrange By submenu is called Show In Groups (Figure C). This option divides
each view into sections that are collapsible. For instance, when Arrange By |
Date is selected, the Groups are Today, Yesterday, Last Week, Two Weeks Ago,
Three Weeks Ago, Last Month, and Older.

Figure C

Show In Groups is one of the options in the View | Arrange By menu.

When Arrange By | Conversation is selected, the items are
grouped by subject line. This Conversation view starts out collapsed, showing
only the first message in the group, but you can click the arrow to expand the
entire conversation thread (Figure D). The messages are indented like
messages in a newsgroup.

Figure D

This is Conversation view, expanded to show the thread.

Tip 4: Teach the Arrange By submenu

Outlook is essentially a large database, and its views are
quickly rearranged by fields. The most helpful fields with which your users can
arrange a large group of e-mails are listed in the Arrange By submenu.

The arrangements that can be most useful to your users’ job include:

  • Date
  • Conversation
  • From
  • Flag
  • Importance
  • Attachments

I find that Arrange By | Subject, being identical to
Conversation but without the threaded view, is not as handy. If you have end users
who work with several e-mail accounts, the Arrange By | E-mail Account view is a
definite asset.

When the Reading Pane is set to the right-side layout, you
can simply click the top of your Inbox to pop up a list of views (Figure E).
This shortcut does not appear when the Reading Pane is on the bottom or is off.

Figure E

Users will appreciate the shortcut access to the Arrange By submenu.

Tip 5: Show how to quickly fine-tune views with the Current View submenu

My final tip shows how to reduce Inbox clutter using the
View | Arrange By | Current View submenu (Figure F).

Figure F

You have to drill down a bit to get to the Current View submenu, but it’s
an important aid to temporarily reducing e-mail clutter.

Current View lets you quickly modify the current arrangement
to show:

  • Messages
  • Messages
    With Auto Preview
  • Last
    Seven Days
  • Unread
    Messages In This Folder
  • Sent
  • Message

There’s only one problem with using Current View: Folks tend
to forget they’ve modified their display and wonder what happened to their old
or read e-mails. It’s a good idea to warn them that if their Inbox seems to be
missing too many items, they should check their Current View settings. With Outlook’s
comprehensive view settings, your enterprise’s employees, from the CEO right down
the ladder, may not need any customizations other than what they can achieve
with a few point-and-clicks.