Top 31 Outlook Online Tips and Tricks for Super Email Productivity

2021-03-14

Use of Microsoft Teams as a collaboration and communication tool has exploded recently, but email is still not obsolete and probably won’t be anytime soon.

Outlook has a desktop application available, but I’ve been exclusively using the online version for the last few years and can honestly say I don’t miss anything in the desktop app.

Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your emails with Microsoft Outlook online.

Open Outlook Online Settings

Outlook online has a settings menu with lots of options available. A lot of the tips mentioned will be found here so you should know where it is.

Click on the settings icon, this will open a side panel pop out menu and you can then click on the option to View all Outlook settings at the bottom.

This will open up the Outlook Settings menu. A lot of the remaining tips will use this menu so make sure you know how to open it.

Undo a Sent Email

This tip can be a life saver!

Have you ever sent an email and then immediately wanted to unsend it? Of course you have, everyone has!

Maybe after hitting the send button, you noticed a spelling mistake or it was address to the wrong person. Whatever the reason, it is possible to undo a sent email, you just need to enable this setting beforehand.

Open the Outlook settings menu.

  1. Go to the Mail tab.
  2. Select the Compose and reply tab.
  3. Scroll to the Undo send section then use the slider to increase the wait time for a message to send.

This setting will enable up to a 10 second delay from when you hit the send button to when the email is actually sent. This allows you a window in which you can undo the sending.

Now anytime you send an email you will see a small pop up with an Undo button. Press the Undo button and this will cancel the email from being sent and let you further edit the email or discard it entirely.

Chevron with Threaded Email History

Outlook keeps emails as threaded conversations by default. In the email preview, there is a small Chevron Icon next to the subject line of any conversations with a conversation thread.

Click on Chevron Icon to expand and see the full conversation history.

In the expanded thread you’ll be able to do a few useful things. When you click on any email in the thread, the email will come to focus in the reading pane and you can read it entirely. You can also select and delete a single email from the thread using the quick action icons for that particular message in the thread.

Get a Complete List of Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts can help you to perform actions more quickly and Outlook on the web has its share of useful ones.

The first keyboard shortcut you need to learn is Shift + ?

This will open up a list of all the available keyboard shortcuts in Outlook on the web.

Enable Dark Mode

If you’re reading lots of emails throughout the day then it might be a good idea to give your eye a break! Switching to dark mode will help you put less strain on your eyes.

Click on the setting icon then turn the Dark Mode toggle on. Your eyes will thanks you later!

Add and Use Quick Reply Templates

If you receive a lot of emails, there’s a good chance a lot of your replies are the same or similar.

If this is the case, you can use quick reply templates.

This will allow you to predefine multiple sets of text you can quickly add into your email message.

Open the Outlook settings menu ➜ go to the Mail tab ➜ go to the Customize actions tab ➜ Scroll down to the Toolbar section ➜ check the My Templates option.

You will now be able to access the My Templates command from the toolbar inside all your email replies.

When you click on the My Templates command, it will open up a side pane menu.

  1. There will be a few generic replies already there.
  2. You can delete or edit any of your templates.
  3. You can add new templates for use.

Click on any template to add it into your current email message. You can add multiple templates into the same message, so you can use these to build longer messages without much effort.

Schedule to Send an Email Later

If you have written your email but don’t want to send it right away, you can set it to automatically send at a later time.

Click on the Chevron icon inside the Send button then select the Send later option.

This will open a menu and you can set the date and time at which you want to send the email.

Set Automatic Replies

If you are away on vacation or otherwise know you aren’t going to be able to respond to your emails for a while, you can set up an auto reply to let people know or redirect them to someone else.

Go to the Outlook settings menu ➜ go to the Mail tab ➜ go to the Automatic replies tab.

Here you’ll be able to set up what replies are sent automatically when any email arrives.

  1. Click the toggle to turn Automatic replies on.
  2. You can also choose to enable the option to Send replies only during a time period. Here you can set up a start and end time for which your auto reply will be active.
  3. Add a message to be sent to people inside your organization.
  4. If you want to enable an auto reply to people outside your organization, then you can check the option to Send replies outside your organization.
  5. If sending auto replies outside you organization is selected then there’s an additional option you can enable to Send replies only to contacts. This will only send a reply if the sender is in your personal contact list.
  6. Add a message to be sent to people outside your organization.
  7. Press the Save button.

Now you can rest assured your email is still working while you’re away. Just don’t forget to turn it off when you’re back.

Set Snooze to Notify Yourself Later

Sometimes an email is important, but not at this exact moment. For these times, it’s a good idea to get reminded of them again so you don’t forget about it.

Select the email for which you want to get notified at a later date then press the Snooze button. You can choose one of the preset time options or you can Choose a date.

Ignore Follow Up Emails

You know those cold outreach emails you get which come with 5 follow up emails when you don’t reply?

Good news, there’s an option to ignore any future emails from them. This will send any replies directly into the trash without ever cluttering up your inbox.

To ignore any follow up emails, right click on the email and choose Ignore from the options. Now they will all automatically go to the trash folder.

Customise Quick Actions

When you hover your mouse over an email in the preview pane, you’ll see 4 quick action icons in the upper right corner. These are great for quickly performing common actions like deleting an email.

The great thing is these can be customised to your liking!

Open the Outlook settings menu ➜ go to the Mail tab ➜ go to the Customize actions tab ➜ Scroll down to the Quick actions section.

You can choose up to 4 actions including Delete, Archive, Pin, Mark as read or unread, Flag and Move to a folder.

Flag Emails for Easy Filtering

You can mark emails with a flag so they’re easier to find later. Click on the flag icon in the email preview quick commands. You can also right click on the email preview and choose Flag from the options.

The flag icon will turn red indicating it has been flagged. Click on it again to mark it as complete.

Now you can filter on your flagged emails to quickly find them. Click on the Filter button above the email preview pane and choose Flagged from the option.

Pin an Email to the Top of Your Inbox

If you want to keep an email at the top of your mind and easily accessible, then the best thing to do is pin it to the top of your inbox or the top of whatever folder it’s in.

You can quickly do this with the pin icon in the quick commands at the top right of the email preview. If you don’t see this, you can also right click on the email and select Pin from the options.

Now it will stay pinned at the top of your inbox until you unpin it!

Turn Off the Focused Inbox

Outlook partitions your inbox into a Focused and Other section. You can see these two tabs at the top of the email preview pane. You might not have even noticed it!

Microsoft uses its magic to figure out what emails go into the Focused inbox and what goes into your Other inbox.

Things like alerts, notifications or marketing emails should go into the Other tab, but it doesn’t always get it right. You might end up missing important email because they end up in the Other tab.

To avoid missing emails in the Other tab, you can turn off the Focused inbox. Go to the settings icon and click on the Focused Inbox toggle to turn it off.

Now all your emails go into one inbox.

Set Your Email Signature

An email signature is a great way to help reinforce who you are and your company brand with every message you send. It can also quickly show your customers or clients all the information they might need to contact you.

You can set up your email signature in Outlook online. Open the Outlook settings menu ➜ go to the Mail tab ➜ go to the Compose and reply tab ➜ Go to the Email signature section.

Create or edit your signature using the editor. Then choose if you want to include it with all new messages you compose and / or include it on messages you forward or reply to.

Safe And Blocked Sender Lists

If a junk email gets into your inbox, you can select it and Block the sender. This will add the sender to your blocked list and future emails from this address will go to the Junk folder.

Conversely, if an important email ends up in your Junk folder, you can add the sender to your Safe sender and domains list so their emails always end up in your inbox.

Open the Outlook settings menu ➜ go to the Mail tab ➜ go to the Junk email tab ➜ Add the email into the Safe senders and domains list.

Set Up Automatic Email Forwarding

Setting up an automatic forwarding rule can be a great option if you’re on leave for an extended period of time. This way important emails can go to someone else to be dealt with.

To create a forwarding rule, open the Outlook settings menu ➜ go to the Mail tab ➜ go to the Forwarding tab.

Check the Enable forwarding box and enter the email address to which you would like to forward emails.

Set Rules to Automate Actions for Incoming Mail

Rules in Outlook are an easy way to automate a lot of actions you might normally do manually when you get a new email in your inbox.

Rules will allow you to automate tasks like marking as read, moving to another folder, deleting or forwarding emails.

To create a new rule, open the Outlook settings menu ➜ go to the Mail tab ➜ go to the Rules tab ➜ Then click on Add new rule.

  1. Give your rule a name.
  2. Add one or more conditions which will determine if your rule runs or not. Multiple conditions act using AND logic, so all have to be true in order for the rule to execute. If you’re wanting to use OR logic, you will need to set up a rule for each condition.
  3. Add one or more actions to perform when your rule runs.
  4. You can add optional exceptions under which your rule will not run.

Press the Save button to add the rule.

The above rule will mark emails as read when they are from Mike and include the word Quote in the subject line. They will also be moved to the Website folder. This rule has an exception, so it won’t run if you’re the only person the email is sent to.

Request a Read Receipt for Your Emails

It’s possible to find out if your email has been read by requesting a read receipt when sending your email.

Before sending your email, click on the three dots menu above the email and choose Show message options.

In the Message options you can enable these two options.

  • Request a read receipt to get notified when the recipient has opened the email.
  • Request a delivery receipt to get notified when the email has landed in their inbox.

There are also Outlook settings to let you choose how to handle read receipt requests sent to you.

Open the Outlook settings menu ➜ go to the Mail tab ➜ go to the Message handling tab ➜ Go to the Read receipts section.

You can choose from the three options.

  • Ask before sending a response
  • Always send a response
  • Never send a response

The default option is set to Ask and this way you can decide if you want someone to know if you’ve read their email or not.

Add a Simple Poll Inside Your Emails

You can add a one question poll inside your emails. This way you can easily collect information from your recipients without copying and pasting responses from individual emails.

When composing your email click on the three dots menu and choose Poll from the option to create your one question poll.

Enter the question and possible responses then click the Next button then click Add to email and your poll will be inserted into your email.

This will create a link to a Microsoft Form inside the email body where users will be able to submit their input to the poll.

@ Mention a User Inside Your Email

If your email is being sent to multiple people but you want to call out a specific person inside the email, then you can do this using an @ mention.

Inside your email type a @ character and then start typing the person’s name. A list of emails from your contacts will appear to select from.

This person will be added as a recipient to the email and they will be tagged inside the body of the email so they know that part of the email is specifically addressed to them.

Disable Microsoft Spelling and Grammar Editor

Outlook has it’s own spelling and grammar tool to help you when composing emails. Maybe you find this feature annoying sometimes?

You can refine the settings and choose what types of errors it will highlight for you. For example, maybe you don’t believe in the Oxford comma and don’t want to see this as an error in your emails.

Open the Outlook settings menu ➜ go to the Mail tab ➜ go to the Compose and reply tab ➜ Go to the Microsoft Editor section ➜ click on the link to the Microsoft Editor Settings.

This will open up the Microsoft Editor Settings where you will be able to fine tune the spelling and grammar settings.

  1. You can choose the proofing language.
  2. Turn on or off entire types of proofing using the toggle.
  3. Click on the chevron icon next to a proofing type to reveal more granular options.
  4. Check or uncheck individual options like the Oxford comma punctuation convention.

If you prefer to use a third party tool like Grammerly for spelling and grammer, then you can turn off all the correction types. Press the OK button when you’re done changing the settings to save them.

Highlight to Add a Task

You can easily create to-do tasks from selected text in your emails.

Inside any email, highlight a section of text which you want to convert into a to-do task. A small pop up will appear and you can click on the check mark icon to convert the selection into a task.

You can then see a list of all your tasks by clicking on the To-Do icon in the upper right corner.

Outlook Files View

If you are looking for a certain file you know was attached in an email somewhere in your inbox, then the Outlook Files view will show you all your file attachments in one place to help your search.

Click on the paperclip icon in the lower left corner to open Outlook Files.

You can then search for your file using a couple great options.

  1. Use the search bar at the top and search for your file by keyword.
  2. Select a specific folder to search in.
  3. Filter the results to only see photos or other types of files.
  4. Choose the exact type of file to filter on.
  5. Filter by date range.
  6. Sort the lists in order by various fields in either ascending or descending order.

This should help you find those lost files much quicker!

Translate Emails from Any Language

If you get emails in another language and you’re unable to read them, you can let Outlook translate them for you.

If you receive an email in another language other than the language your account is set to, then Outlook will detect the language and display an option at the top to translate the email into your language.

Click on the Translate message to link and your message will be translated!

You can then view the original message at any time using the option at the top to Show original message.

At the top you’ll also find an option to Turn on automatic translation for any emails you receive in a foreign language.

Enable Desktop Notifications

You can enable desktop notifications in Outlook. This way you can get notified of new emails even when you don’t have Outlook open.

Open the Outlook settings menu ➜ go to the General tab ➜ go to the Notifications tab ➜ Go to the Desktop notifications section.

Use the toggle to turn on the Send me desktop notifications option.

This might trigger a pop up from your browser to allow notifications from Outlook. Press the Allow button to give Outlook the needed permissions.

Now you will get a small pop up notification when you get new emails or events!

Advanced Search and Filter to Easily Find an Email

If you want to find a particular email, then the search bar is your best option.

Click into the search bar at the top of Outlook and it will expand. Click on the chevron icon in the right of the search bar to expand the advanced search and filter options.

  1. Search in a specific folder.
  2. Filter by who an email was from.
  3. Filter by who an email was to.
  4. Filter by who was copied in on the email.
  5. Search by keywords in the subject.
  6. Search by keywords in the email body.
  7. Filter by date range.
  8. Filter on emails with attachments.

This menu offers very powerful ways to search and filter your emails to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

You can also use this search reference table to build even more complex search criteria.

Search Outlook Settings

There are a lot of great tips, but most of them require you to remember where in the settings menu the option is.

As long as you can remember what the feature is, you shouldn’t have any problem finding it in the menu with the setting search.

Click on the settings icon and type in your search term in the search box. A list of possible matches will display below and you can click on any to take you directly to that setting.

Let Cortana Play Your Emails

If you use the Outlook Android app, then there’s a neat feature that’s perfect for in the car. You can let Cortana read you your emails!

Press on the home icon in the app and then press on the play icon. After setting this up, Cortana will read you all your unread emails from your focused inbox.

Share Your Calendar

You can share your calendar with people inside or outside of your organization. This is a great way to find a common available time slot.

Open the Outlook settings menu ➜ go to the Calendar tab ➜ go to the Shared calendar tab ➜ select the calendar which you would like to share under the Share a calendar section.

Add an email address then select the type of permission you would like to give the user to your calendar and press the Share button.

You can let a user view when you’re busy with no details of the event, you can let them see titles and locations or you can let them see all the event details.

Mailto Link for Outlook Online

https://outlook.office.com/mail/deeplink/[email protected]&subject=your%20subject%20line&body=your%20email%20body

With the above URL, you can create a hyperlink that will open a new email in Outlook online and populate it with an email address in the to field, subject line and body.

This is a great option for adding into Excel workbooks, Word documents, PowerPoint files or PDF’s so a user can click on the link and a prepopulated email will be ready to be sent.

Just replace any spaces in your subject line and body with %20 to encode it as a URL.

Conclusions

There are a lot of tips here to help you automate tasks, set reminders and organize your inbox.

Email might be the old way of communicating online, but with these features it will feel like the more modern experience that it should be.

Do you have a favourite Outlook tip not mentioned here? Let me know it in the comments!

About the Author

John MacDougall

John MacDougall

John is a Microsoft MVP and freelance consultant and trainer specializing in Excel, Power BI, Power Automate, Power Apps and SharePoint. You can find other interesting articles from John on his blog or YouTube channel.

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Comments

8 Comments

  1. Lokesh B

    Amazingly written. So much details on outlook Web.

    Hats off for all your work.

    Reply
  2. Tracey

    Nicely done.

    Reply
  3. Jinachandra Jain

    Well written in details!

    Reply
  4. Owen Yoroki

    Really enjoyed this.

    thanks a million

    Reply
    • John MacDougall

      Thanks, good to hear you enjoyed it!

      Stay tuned for more tips on other topic.

      Reply

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