Master your e-mail in Outlook 2007

2007 Office System Inside Out Cover

2007 Microsoft Office System Inside Out
Edited By John Pierce

The expert authors of this book have decades of experience among them. Each author has contributed essential chapters into this single-volume compilation: Jim Boyce (Outlook 2007), Jeff Conrad (Access 2007), Mark Dodge (Excel 2007), Stephanie Krieger (Advanced Documents), Mary Millhollon and Katherine Murray (Word 2007), S.E. Slack (PowerPoint 2007), Craig Stinson (Excel 2007), and John Viescas (Access 2007).

Contributing Editor, John Pierce, is a former writer and editor for Microsoft Corporation. He is the author of Microsoft Office Access 2003 Inside Track and Microsoft Small Business Kit.

To learn more about other books on the 2007 Microsoft Office system, visit Microsoft Press.


In this article


Without some means of organizing and filtering e-mail, most people would be inundated with messages, many of which are absolutely useless. Fortunately, the Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 junk e-mail filters can take care of most, if not all, of the useless messages. For the rest, you can use several Office Outlook 2007 features to help you organize messages, locate specific messages, and otherwise get control of your Inbox and other folders. This article shows you how to customize your message folder views, which will help organize your messages. You’ll also learn about the Outlook 2007 search folders, which give you a great way to locate messages based on conditions that you specify and to organize messages without adding other folders to your mailbox.

Find and organize messages with Search Folders

The Outlook 2007 search folders are an extremely useful feature for finding and organizing messages. A search folder isn’t really a folder but rather a special view that functions much like a separate folder. In effect, a search folder is a saved search. You specify conditions for the folder, such as all messages from a specific sender or all messages received in the last day, and Outlook 2007 displays in that search folder view those messages that meet the specified conditions.

In a way, a search folder is like a rule that moves messages to a special folder. However, although the messages seem to exist in the search folder, they continue to reside in their respective folders. For example, a search folder might show all messages in the Inbox and Sent Items folders that were sent by Jim Boyce. Even though these messages appear in the Jim Boyce search folder (for example), they are actually still located in the Inbox and Sent Items folders.

It isn’t difficult to use a search folder. The Folder List includes a Search Folders branch, as shown in Figure 1 that lists all of the search folder contents. Simply click a search folder in the Folder List to view the headers for the messages it contains.

Search folders in the Folder List

Figure 1. Search folders appear under their own branch in the Folder List. This folder shows all messages that are categorized.

Customize Search Folders

Outlook 2007 includes five search folders by default, which you can use as is or customize to suit your needs:

Categorized Mail This search folder shows all messages that have categories assigned to them.

Fax If you are connected to a Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 mailbox with unified messaging enabled, this search folder will enable you to see all received faxes in your mailbox.

Large Mail This search folder shows all messages that are 100 KB or larger.

Unread Mail This search folder shows all messages that are unread.

Voice Mail If you are connected to an Exchange Server 2007 mailbox with unified messaging enabled, this search folder shows all received voice-mail messages.

In addition, if you have migrated from Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, you might also have these search folders in your mailbox:

For Follow Up This search folder shows all messages that are flagged for follow-up.

Important Mail This search folder shows all messages that are marked as Important.

You can customize these existing search folders as well as those you create yourself. For example, you might increase the value in the Large Mail search folder from 100 KB to 200 KB if you frequently receive messages larger than 100 KB that you don’t want included in the Large Mail search folder.

To customize an existing search folder, open the Folder List, right-click the folder, and then choose Customize This Search Folder to open the Customize dialog box, similar to the one shown in Figure 2.

Criteria in the Customize dialog box

Figure 2. Set the criteria or folders to include for a search folder in the Customize dialog box.

You can change the name of the search folder in the Name box in the Customize dialog box. To change the criteria for the search folder, click the Criteria button to display a dialog box that enables you to change your selection. The dialog box that appears depends on the criteria you used when you created the folder. For example, if you are modifying a search folder that locates messages from a specific sender, Outlook 2007 displays the Select Names dialog box so that you can specify a different person (or additional people).

 Note    You can change the criteria of only two of the default search folders, the Large Mail and Categorized Mail folders. The criteria for the other three can’t be changed. However, you can change the folders to be included in the search for all of the default search folders.

To change which folders are included in the search folder, click Browse in the Customize dialog box to open the Select Folder(s) dialog box. Select each folder that you want to include, or select the Personal Folders or Mailbox branch to include all folders in the mail store in the search. Select the Search Subfolders option to include in the search all subfolders for a selected folder. When you have finished selecting folders, click OK, and then click OK again to close the Customize dialog box.

Create a new Search Folder

If the default search folders don’t suit your needs, you can create your own search folder with the criteria and included subfolders that locate the messages you want. To create a search folder, right-click the Search Folders branch, and then choose New Search Folder to open the New Search Folder dialog box, shown in Figure 3.

New Search Folder dialog box

Figure 3. Create a new search folder with the New Search Folder dialog box.

The New Search Folder dialog box provides several predefined search folders, and you can easily create a custom search folder by choosing one from the list. If the search folder you select requires specifying additional criteria, click the Choose button to open a dialog box in which you specify the criteria. Then, in the New Search Folder dialog box, select an account in the Search Mail In drop-down list to search that account.

 Note    The Choose button appears in the New Search Folder dialog box only if the selected search folder requires additional configuration, such as the sender’s name.

If the predefined search folders won’t do the trick, scroll to the bottom of the Select A Search Folder list, select Create A Custom Search Folder, and then click Choose to open the Custom Search Folder dialog box to specify a custom criterion for the search folder, a search folder name, and subfolders to include.

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Flag and monitor messages and contacts

Outlook 2007 allows you to flag a message to draw your attention to the message and display an optional reminder when the follow-up action is due. The flag appears in the message header, as shown in Figure 4.

Flag a message to highlight

Figure 4. You can flag a message to highlight it or to include additional information.

Outlook 2003 offered six flag types, compared with just one in earlier versions. In Outlook 2007, colored flags are replaced by color categories, reducing follow-up flag colors to red and a few shades of pink. You can choose from one of five predefined flags or choose a custom flag. The predefined flags have date specifications of Today, Tomorrow, This Week, Next Week, and No Date. If you choose the custom flag option, you can specify any date you want. The predefined dates therefore give you a quick and easy way to assign a general follow-up date, while the custom option lets you specify a specific date.

You can flag messages that you’ve received from others, as well as those you’ve sent. This capability gives you a way to flag and follow up messages from your end. You can flag messages in any message folder, including the Sent Items folder.

Flag outgoing messages

With Outlook 2007, you can flag outgoing messages for follow-up for yourself, the recipient, or both. So, the capability to flag an outgoing message lets you set a reminder on the message to follow up on the message yourself. For example, you might send an e-mail message to a coworker asking for information about a project. The follow-up flag could remind you in a week to follow up if you haven’t had a response. You can also flag a message to generate a reminder on the recipient’s computer.

Use the following steps to flag a message you send:

  1. With the message form open prior to sending the message, on the Message tab on the Ribbon, in the Options Group, click Follow Up, and then click Add Reminder to open the Custom dialog box, shown in Figure 5.

Select a flag text in the Custom dialog box

Figure 5. Select the flag text or type your own message in the Custom dialog box.
  1. In the Flag To drop-down list, select the text you want to include with the flag, or type your own text in this box.
  2. If you want to include a due date and a subsequent reminder, select the date in the Due Date drop-down list, which opens a calendar that you can use to select a date. Alternatively, you can enter a date, day, time, or other information as text in the Due Date box.
  3. Click OK, and then send the message as you normally would.

Follow these steps to flag a message for follow-up on the recipient’s computer:

  1. Open a new message form, and then click Follow Up in the Options group on the Message tab.
  2. Choose Flag For Recipients to open the Custom dialog box.
  3. Verify that the Flag For Recipients option is checked, and then select the follow-up action in the Flag To drop-down list.
  4. Specify a reminder, and then click OK.
  5. Complete the message, and then send it.

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View and respond to flagged messages

A flag icon appears next to the message header for flagged messages in the message folder. If you have configured Outlook 2007 to display the Reading Pane, the flag text appears in the InfoBar. The flag icons also help you to identify flagged messages regardless of whether the Reading Pane is displayed. You can sort the view in the folder using the Flag column, listing all flagged messages together to make them easier to locate. To view the flag text when the Reading Pane is turned off, simply open the message. The flag text appears in the message form’s InfoBar.

Outlook 2007 has no special mechanism for processing flagged messages other than the reminders previously discussed. You simply call, e-mail, or otherwise respond based on the flag message. To change the flag status, simply click the flag, or right-click a flagged message and then choose Flag Complete. To remove the flag from the message, right-click a flagged message, and then choose Clear Flag.

Flagging contact items

You can flag contact items as well as messages, marking them for follow-up or adding other notations to an item. For example, you might flag a contact item to remind yourself to call the person by a certain time or date or to send documents to the contact. A flag you add to a contact item shows up in all contacts views, but it isn’t always readily apparent—for instance, the flag shows up as text in Address Cards and Detailed Address Cards views, as shown in Figure 6. In other views, Outlook 2007 uses a flag icon, as shown in Figure 7. As you can for messages, you can use one of the Outlook 2007 predefined flags to mark a contact item, or you can specify your own flag text.

 Note    The flag icon does not appear in Business Cards view. In some of the other views, you can use the Field Chooser to add the Follow Up Flag field to the view.

Flagging contacts as well as messages

Figure 6. You can flag contacts as well as messages.

Listing items in Contacts folder by flag

Figure 7. You can list items in the Contacts folder by flag.

Flagging a contact is easy—just right-click the contact, choose Follow Up, and then select a follow-up date. To assign a custom flag to a contact item, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the contact item, choose Follow Up, and then choose Custom.
  2. In the Custom dialog box, select the flag type in the Flag To drop-down list, or type in your own text.
  3. Specify the due date and time.
  4. If desired, add a reminder, and then click OK.

Outlook 2007 uses the same icons for flagged contact items as it does for messages. A red flag icon indicates a pending action, and a check mark indicates a completed action. To change the flag status for a contact item, right-click the item, and then choose Mark Complete or Clear Flag.

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Group messages by customizing the Folder View

To help you organize information, Outlook 2007 allows you to customize various message folder views. By default, Outlook 2007 displays only a small selection of columns for messages, including the From, Subject, Received, Size, Flag, Attachment, and Importance columns.

You can easily sort messages using any of the column headers as your sort criterion. To view messages sorted alphabetically by sender, for example, click the column header of the From column. To sort messages by date received, click the column header of the Received column. Click the Attachment column header to view all messages with attachments.

In addition to managing your message view by controlling columns and sorting, you can group messages based on columns. Whereas sorting allows you to arrange messages in order using a single column as the sort criterion, grouping allows you to display the messages in groups based on one or more columns. For example, you might group messages based on sender, and then on date received, and finally on whether they have attachments. This method helps you locate messages more quickly than if you had to search through a message list sorted only by sender.

Grouping messages in a message folder is a relatively simple process:

  1. In Outlook 2007, open the folder you want to organize.
  2. Right-click the column header, and then choose Group By This Field if you want to group based only on the selected field. Choose Group By Box if you want to group based on multiple columns.

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Applies to:
Outlook 2007