Creating and using email templates in Outlook

When you have to send the same content in an email over and over again it can be helpful to create an email template that you can use to save you time.

This tutorial can also be used for when you frequently need to send an email to a the same group of people, and you need to place some of them in the TO field, and other people in the CC field.

You can leave the body blank in that case and just pre-fill the To and CC fields. I hope this helps.

The Scenario

As I am working with the Housing & Residence Life team to get their Resident Adviser Duty Schedule site up and running we’ve identified a number of users who need to activate their Office365/SharePoint user licenses. Sending a mass email to the group did not quite yield the results we were looking for, and so we’re now sending individual emails to the users. So far I have sent 43 individual emails to these users, and I am sure there are more to come. Sending these emails manually involves copying and pasting the subject line and content 43 times and adding the copied recipients 43 times.

The solution

To help me get these 43 emails (and others like it) sent a lot faster, I created an email template so I don’t have to do all this copying and pasting.

Create the template

Templates are easy to create: you simply draft the email like you normally do. In other words, click New Email from the New Group on the HOME tab, type the message, adding any attachments, pictures, formatting you need. If you always carbon copy certain people, you can add them as well.

Outlook Email Template - Sample Email

When the email is ready, click the FILE tab and choose Save As in the left pane. In the dialog box, give your file a name, and choose Outlook Template (*.oft) from the Save As Type drop-down.
Click Save and close the mail window. You may be prompted to save it again. You don’t have to.

Outlook Email Template - Save Template

Using the template

When you’re ready to use the template, instead of using New Email, use the New Items drop-down from the HOME tab, choose More Items, and then Choose Form

Outlook Email Template - Retrieve Template

From the Look In: drop-down choose User Templates in File System

Outlook Email Template - User Template

Select your template, and then click Open. From here, add your recipient, a greeting, edit your message if need be, and hit send. While it’s a tad tedious to retrieve the templates sometimes, in the end, it does save you quite a bit of time if you’re needing to send the same message over and over again.

Outlook Email Template - Select Template

Using OneNote to track and manage your timesheet adjustments

OneNote can be used for a lot of different purposes, including managing timesheet adjustments. For those who are wage employees, if you’ve ever had to email your supervisor to request a timesheet adjustment, there tends to be a delay between your email and their updates to the timeclock system.

In the meantime, you may want to keep track of what your actual hours are so you can budget the remainder of the week according to your agreement. You may also want to keep track of the requests that you have sent, and then review that the requested changes were made on your behalf.

I created a sample spreadsheet, which you can download and then save to your OneDrive, or you can insert it directly into your OneNote document for future reference.

To keep track of your emails, you can create a category for time sheet adjustments and then go into your sent box and mark those emails with the time sheet adjustment category, which you can then use to filter your emails.

Or, you can click on the email and use the Send to OneNote button which will place your request into OneNote and will keep it in one place for you to review your timesheet requests against your timesheet system to ensure your supervisor made the changes as requested.

Either way, keeping track of timesheets is the bane of any hourly worker’s existence and when you’re not able to make adjustments yourself, then you have to create your own tracking system, whether it’s printing them out or using one of these electronic means. I hope this made your life a little bit easier.

Changing the subject line in an Outlook message

Have you ever had anyone send you an email without a subject line? Or a subject line with only the word “Help” or “Question” in it?

Did you know you can change the subject line for incoming email messages?

  • Open (double-click) the email message you want to change the subject on
  • On the Message ribbon – select <Actions> –> <Edit Message> (located in the <Move> Group)
  • The “Subject” will not change appearance – just put your mouse there and make the desired change
  • Close the message. You’ll be asked if you want to <save Changes> OR you can click on <File> –> <Save> before closing the message

All Day Events in Outlook

Using All Day events in your calendar can be very helpful to remind you of important events or dates without cluttering up your calendar.

To create an All Day event, go to your Calendar in Outlook and click on New Appointment.
Click the All day event checkbox beside start and end time to indicate this is all day event.

Outlook’s default status for All Day events is FREE, so creating an All Day event still keeps that time as FREE on your calendar. This makes sense and is actually quite handy, because most of my All Day events have little to do with my availability on a certain day.

In my previous work life, before we moved it to SharePoint, my calendar was the team’s calendar, and thus was shared with everyone in the department. I used All Day events to capture my team’s out of office notices and birthdays, term start dates and other events of note.

So while it is handy that I am not marked out of the office when creating All Day events, it does mean that if I actually do want to mark myself unavailable for an entire day, I need to manually set the status for that event to out of office.

Outlook: Meeting Options

From within the Options section of the MEETING tab, change FREE to Out of Office. That will generate a little purple rectangle next to your appointment on your calendar and will also populate your unavailability to the organization when they use Schedule Assistant to set an appointment.

That way you can be sure that nobody invites you to a meeting when you’re supposed to be at your relative’s wedding. Yes, that has happened.

Advanced features of Outlook’s Scheduling Assistant

In my previous post I introduced the Scheduling Assistant in Outlook, which allows you to find a meeting time suitable for everyone.

Many times when using the scheduling assistant feature you should be able to find some meeting slots on the calendar that work for everyone, but the more varied the calendars, the more difficult that becomes.

If you’re having a difficult time finding a suitable time for everyone, there is an OPTIONS button at the bottom of the screen which contains an AUTOPICK feature. Autopick will select the next available time at which everyone is available.

Show Work Hours Only

If you’re using the Autopick feature and the only time it suggests for you is about midnight or 5am (yes, it did that to me), then from the OPTIONS button, choose Show Only My Working Hours.

Required vs Optional Attendees

Sometimes it’s going to be just plain impossible for you to get everyone together for the meeting you wish to hold. In that case, think about who you absolutely need to have at this meeting, and set your other attendees as optional.

As a default, Outlook sets all attendees as required and places a red icon beside each person’s name.

Clicking on that red icon generates a drop-down menu where you can choose Optional attendee.

Using Autopick to find a meeting time for All Required people can sometimes be easier than finding one for all, and then you’ll at least be assured that those key contributors or decision makers will be available.

For one of my committees, the only times when all of us are available actually were midnight and 5am. By setting everyone as optional attendee, I was able to find a number of meeting times where most of us could make it.

Try this feature and let me know in the comments below how it works for you.

Scheduling Assistant in Outlook

With many of us keeping our office calendars in Microsoft Outlook, scheduling meetings becomes much easier, especially when you use the Scheduling Assistant.

You can find the scheduling assistant in the SHOW section in the MEETING ribbon when you create a New Appointment.

Under the All Attendees box, you can enter each invitee on a separate line. Doing so will generate a number of blue BUSY boxes, some striped TENTATIVE boxes, and/or some purple OUT OF OFFICE boxes next to their name, indicating the times that they are busy or free.

Most of the time when using the scheduling assistant feature you should be able to find some meeting slots on the calendar that work for everyone, but the more varied the calendars, the more difficult that becomes.

The Scheduling Assistant has some more advanced features which I will cover in a future post.

Quick Parts in Outlook (and Word)

This tip about Quick Parts came from my colleague Annabelle Fuselier from VT Business Services:

Wouldn’t it be great to save time on typing the same e-mail over again? Well there is a feature in Outlook that will help you work smarter and not harder. It’s called Quick Parts and the feature is not only handy in Outlook it also works in MS Word. I have personally used this feature to request HokieMart/Banner approvals, sending screening matrices or meeting requests.

Creating a Quick Part in Outlook

  1. Create a new e-mail message
  2. In the body of the message type your text or select from a previous e-mail.
  3. Highlight the text you are using
  4. Click the insert tab
  5. In the “text” pane, select Quick Parts.
  6. Click on “Save Selection to Quick Part Gallery.”
  7. In the “Create New Building Block” screen:
    • Type in a descriptive name for the text or graphic in the Name field.
    • Type in a description of the Quick Part in the Description field.
    • Don’t change any other fields.
    • Click OK.
  8. When you want to insert the Quick Part into an e-mail message, click the Insert tab, select “Quick Parts” from the text pane.
    • scroll to the Quick Part you want to insert, and click it.

The process is the same in Word. However, Quick Parts are not shared between Word and Outlook, so you have to create separate ones for each application.