If you send the same information or use the same styles and formatting repeatedly, don't re-create the effort every time you send an email. Create a template and base new messages on it. You'll save time and reduce potential input errors. These tips will help you put templates to work for you.
1: Create a message template
Message templates let you create and store information you send regularly. Creating template files for reuse is an easy process:
- Open a new message.
- Add the text and apply styles and formatting.
- Click the File tab or the Office button.
- Choose Save As in the left pane.
- From the Save As Type drop-down, choose Outlook Template (*.oft).
- Click Save and Outlook will save the template file to the default folder.
To use an existing template, do the following:
- In the Mail window, click the Home tab, choose More Items from the New Items drop-down in the New group, and then select Choose Forms from the resulting submenu. In Outlook 2007, select Choose Form from the New option's drop-down.
- From the Look In drop-down, select User Templates In File System.
- Double-click the template or select it and click Open.
- Make the necessary changes to update the message and click Send as you normally would.
2: Draft a template
Opening a template, while more efficient than re-creating the message, takes several steps. Another option is to save your basic message in the Drafts folder. Then, double-click the message in the Drafts folder, complete it, and click Forward to send it. (If you send it as usual, Outlook will delete the message from the Drafts folder.)
You'll save a few steps, but this tip works best with limited messages. In addition, a message in the Drafts folder is easy to delete. It's a great shortcut, but use it wisely.
3: Avoid double signatures
When creating template files, don't save a manually entered signature with the template if you have an auto signature enabled. Outlook has no way of knowing that the text at the bottom of your template message is a signature. Your messages will end up with two signatures. There's no workaround; delete the text signature from the template or disable the auto signature.
4: Use a Quick Step
Templates aren't the only way to access stock messages. You can create a Quick Step (new to Outlook 2010) instead. Click the Home tab and then do the following:
- In the Quick Steps group, choose the Create New option.
- Enter a name for the new Quick Step.
- From the Choose An Action drop-down, select New Message in the Respond section.
- Click Show Options.
- Enter the template text.
- From the Shortcut Key drop-down, select a predefined shortcut, if you want one.
- Click Finish.
To use the Quick Step message as a template, select it from the options in the Quick Steps group — selecting it will open the generic message. At this point, you can fill in any remaining information before sending.
5: Add templates to the 2010 Ribbon
If you have several templates, add a custom group to the Ribbon for easy access. The first thing you need is a macro; use the following sub procedure as a guide:
'Open template from a macro button
'added to the ribbon.
Set myFolder = Session.GetDefaultFolder(olFolderInbox)
Set myItem = myFolder.Items.Add("IPM.Form.NewsletterTemplate")
Update the Set myItem statement to reflect the name of your template but keep the IPM.Form component (that's the class). With the macro in place, add a custom group to the Ribbon as follows:
- Click the File tab and then click Options under Help in the left pane.
- Select Customize Ribbon in the left pane.
- Click New Group, choose Rename, enter a name such as Templates, and click OK. By default, Outlook will position the new group at the end of the Ribbon. You can use the arrows to the right to move it.
- With the new Templates group still selected, choose All Commands from the Choose Commands drop-down and select Macros.
- Select your macro and click Add.
- Right-click the macro (in the Templates group now), choose Rename, and enter a short, but descriptive name.
- Click OK.
Add a new group for templates to the Ribbon.
6: Add a shortcut to the Quick Access Toolbar
If you don't want to customize the Ribbon, you can customize the Quick Access Toolbar, as follows:
- Choose More Commands from the QAT drop-down.
- Choose Macros from the Choose Commands drop-down.
- Select your macro.
- Click Add.
- Click OK.
7: Insert from a Word template
So far, all the tips have dealt with opening a template, completing it, and then sending it. But sometimes you'll need a different route. For instance, you might want to insert existing styles from another template or HTML code for a banner. You can quickly do so as follows:
- Click the Insert tab and then click Attach File in the Include group.
- Locate the template file and select it but don't click Open yet!
- From the Insert drop-down, click Insert As Text. Doing so will insert the template's contents into the body of your email instead of attaching the document to it.
This route is helpful when accessing data from a non-Outlook template.
8: Reply via a template
Have you ever needed to reply to several messages using the same information? For instance, let's suppose you sent an invitation to several people. Using a rule and a template, you can acknowledge everyone's response or send more up-to-date information. First, create the template and save it as you normally would (#1). Then, launch the rule wizard and apply the Reply Using A Specific Template action, specifying the appropriate template. (The wizard will hold your hand through the entire process.)
If you already have a number of messages you should respond to, move them to a new blank folder. Then, select that folder before you create the rule. After setting up all the conditions and actions, the wizard will let you run the rule on all the messages in the current folder.
9: Take a shortcut
If you use a template frequently, work from a shortcut on your Desktop. To create the shortcut, use Windows Explorer to navigate to the templates folder. In Windows XP, it's probably C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Application Data\Microsoft\Templates. In Windows 7, try C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Templates. Right-click the file in Windows Explorer and choose Create Shortcut. Windows will create a copy of the file in the current folder. Right-click the copy and choose Send To and then select Desktop from the resulting submenu.
Double-click the shortcut on your Desktop to open the template in a message window. Complete the message, click Send, and you're done. You won't even have to close Outlook to complete the task.
10: Jump it!
Windows 7 lets you pin files, including Outlook templates, to the taskbar — what's known as its jump list. Using Windows Explorer, find the template (see #9) and drag the .oft file to the Windows taskbar. To use this item, right-click the Outlook icon on the taskbar and choose the template from Outlook's jump list.
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.