Microsoft Office 365 now has over 60 million active users each month and has become a favorite of large and small business owners. Just about every task that business people complete each day can be accomplished using Office 365. From Excel spreadsheets to professional word processing, users say they get more done with Office 365.

Their flagship email program is Outlook and this program can handle much more than your average email tasks. It integrates perfectly with the other Office 365 programs and it features a similar look and feel. The “Ribbon” that everyone has become so accustomed to has many of the same commands as you might see in Word. That makes it much easier to learn how to become an expert user.

Outlook 2016 features so many good shortcuts and handy tricks to make every project go smoother. However, sometimes users simply want to sort through their emails, answer them and move on to something else. For those times, you can follow a few easy steps to create a much more streamlined Outlook experience.

Simplifying the Home Page

The home page of Outlook 2016 contains six major areas. The ribbon runs across the top, then across the middle are four sections. On the far left is the folder pane, next is the Inbox and then the wider section is your reading pane. On the far right is the calendar. Here’s where you can set appointments. Down below, across the bottom is a new area that Microsoft has recently incorporated in the design called the Navigation Pane. This area contains links for your Mail, Calendar, People, Tasks, and More.

This new area replicates some of the other areas on the page. Therefore, you can just close the whole right-hand section where the traditional calendar is located. To do this, simply click on the small “X” in the upper right-hand corner. This makes the Calendar area disappear. When you’re ready to restore that area, simply click that X again and the pane reappears.

In addition, you can minimize the whole Navigation Pane by clicking on More (represented by dots). Select “Navigation Options” from the drop-down list. A small dialog box appears where you can check the box that says, “Compact Navigation.” This reduces the Navigation Pane to small icons that are barely noticeable. They will still work the same as the original, only now they’re inconspicuous.

Following along that same concept, you can also remove the left-hand pane which contains your folders. Now, you’ve effectively reduced the Home Page from six sections to three. This is a good idea for anyone who just wants to comb through their emails, see what is important and respond. Your attention is no longer drawn away by a busy-looking page. Now things appear much simpler. If you need to look at any of the sections you’ve removed, it’s very easy to restore each section. For the folders, you can click on the word “folders” and they will appear until you click the word again. In many Microsoft programs, hovering over a word or section causes additional information to appear. This is a good way to learn more about a section or get a quick look at what is contained in an area. These pop-outs usually appear when you hover over them and then disappear once you move your cursor.

Working with the Ribbon

The Ribbon in Outlook 2016 contains four major tabs with various tools available. It’s easy to remove the Ribbon if it seems distracting. Simply click on the arrow on the far right side and this collapses the Ribbon. The keyboard shortcut for this action is Control+F1. If you need to quickly show the Ribbon, then click on the View tab and it will appear until you click away. It’s often just that easy to make a section appear or disappear. This makes it fast to remove areas you might not need and it’s a good method of personalizing your Outlook program.

If you’d like to just completely get rid of the Ribbon, there’s an icon in the upper right-hand area next to the question mark. Click on that and you’ll see that they are three options for the Ribbon. You can Auto-Hide, Show Tabs or Show Tabs and Commands. The last one is the most commonly used. The other two allow you to have as much of the Ribbon at the top as you need. If you click on Auto-Hide, the whole Ribbon disappears leaving you with a very clean looking page that deals only with your Inbox and Reading Pane. You can quickly move through emails or read over longer emails that require more attention. When you need to temporarily view the Ribbon, just place your cursor over the colored bar at the very top and the Ribbon will reappear.

Personalizing your Program

Once you get the hang of how easy it is to close and open areas, you can adjust your Outlook email program so that it displays only those things that you work with most often. Microsoft purposely builds software programs that can be easily modified by the user to give each person their own personalized experience.

One thing that many users probably know but may forget is that all Microsoft programs have one thing in common: you can right-click in whatever area you’re working and get a list of options. Often, on this list, you’ll see the action you want to take, thus preventing you from having to completely restore an area of the page. This is a quick, easy way to accomplish almost any task.

Reading Emails

The new Outlook also allows you to click on “Reply” and then start typing your email. There’s no longer a new window that appears. This has proven to be a huge time-saver. Let’s say you’ve clicked reply but you want to add some bolding to your typing or use a larger font. Highlight the text and the font section appears next to your typing. This works exactly the same as it does in Word. You can quickly change fonts, colors, add underlines or bolding, highlight text or even add indenting to your paragraph. If you right-click the Inbox, you’ll see a different set of commands that pertain only to the Inbox.

Attachments can be viewed just by clicking on them. If you’re reading an email that has a Word doc attached, just click it once and it opens in the Outlook program. If you double-click on the attachment, it will open up in Word. This is also true for PDF attachments. This can save lots of time if you only need to take a quick look at an attachment someone sent with their email.

Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the big time savers in all Office 365 programs involves learning the keyboard shortcuts. People who use these daily say that it improves their speed and prevents them from losing focus. If you print them out and keep them handy, you’ll quickly learn the most commonly used ones. Below are a few that everyone uses in Outlook, but there are many more that you could learn if you want to be an over-achiever:

  • Alt+S: send email
  • Ctrl+R: reply to email
  • Ctrl+M: or F9 to Send/Receive all
  • Alt+R: reply to all in email or switch to work week calendar view
  • Ctrl+G: open the “Go to date” dialog and jump to any date in the calendar
  • Alt+W: forward email or switch to weekly calendar view

More Shortcuts

Press Ctrl + [the place number of the item] to switch between email, contacts, calendar and other items in Outlook. This is a quick way to move from one task to the next. Create a reminder by pressing Ctrl + Shift + N. This creates a virtual sticky note that you can drag anywhere on the screen.

When setting appointments go to your calendar and just type a phrase like, “next Thursday” or “one week from now” and your calendar will automatically open there.

You can block annoying emails that you don’t want to receive by going to Home>Junk email options and selecting the sender you wish to block. View long emails as a conversation by clicking on the message and then selecting View>Show as Conversation. Flag a message for further inquiry by pressing the Insert key to toggle the flag off and on.

Learn to Make Outlook Work for You

Outlook 2016 includes so many great time-savers like these. If this is a program you use daily, it’s a good idea to become a pro at using them. You can cut precious minutes from your busy day simply by learning how to streamline and personalize Outlook. As Microsoft continues to update its Office 365 programs, they will build in many more shortcuts. They’re easy to learn and the company offers a number of great video tutorials and training videos to help even a novice learn all the helpful features.

Microsoft Office 2016

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