Creating Email Templates in Outlook

I needed to send individual emails to a number of users who need to activate their Office 365/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.

To help me get this accomplished 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.

Email Example

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: Save Email 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: Retrieve Email Template

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

Outlook: User Email 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 Select Template


Ribbon Toggle Button – hide and show your ribbon easily

How many of you know about the Ribbon Toggle Button that appears in all of the Microsoft Office suite of products? The little button appears in the top right hand corner of Microsoft products, next to the minimize, maximize/restore, and X to close buttons. It’s a little up-arrow in a window. I don’t know if I ever noticed it was there, and even if I had, I might never have thought to click on it.

This little button lets you toggle the ribbon and choose between Auto-hide Ribbon, Show Tabs and Show Tabs and Commands.

Microsoft Office: Ribbon Toggle

Auto-hide hides pretty much everything including the main window controls, replacing them with the ellipses, which will temporarily show the ribbon and other window controls so you can minimize, maximizer/restore buttons so you can use them before the ribbon hides again. While a nice feature to reduce clutter, I doubt I will use the Auto-hide function very often.

Microsoft Office: Ribbon Collapse

The Show Tabs option returns the Quick Access Menu as well as the tabs (or menu bar). At the very least I like to have this view turned on, so I can use the menu and access the commands.

Microsoft Office: Ribbon Tabs Only

In most cases, however, I tend to PIN the ribbon using the little push pin that appears underneath my name, or, using this newly discovered feature, choosing the Show Tabs and Commands.

Microsoft Office: Ribbon Expanded

If you’re looking for this feature, it shows up in OneNote, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

Save time using Format Painter

A feature that I use so often I almost take it for granted, is the Format Painter, which allows me to quickly copy formatting from one thing in a document to another.

The Format Painter tool appears under the HOME tab in most of the Microsoft Office programs. In Outlook it appears in the MESSAGE tab. It looks like a little paint brush.

Sometimes all you want to do is make the formatting of one thing match another. I have several practical applications for this. Most notably, any time you copy something from one program to another.

As much as Microsoft likes to think that formatting is the same across the board, it’s mistaken. Copying information from Word to OneNote or from OneNote to Outlook, I always end up having to update the formatting. Using Format Painter lets me do that very quickly.

To use the Format Painter tool, select a part of the document (the in case of Excel, the cells) that contain the formatting you want.

Click the Format Painter tool, and then select the part of the document (or cells) that need this formatting. Voilà!

BONUS TIP: If you double-click on the Format Painter icon, it will maintain the formatting copy function which allows you to paste the formatting to multiple locations within the document.

Outlook: Advanced Find

One of the best features of Outlook is the built-in Address Book, which contains all users within the university. Unlike Gmail, which shows only people you’ve already contacted, and you’d have to visit your website’s online directory to find new contacts, in the Outlook address book you can start spelling their name, and it pops up with the various options. But even having all that information at your fingertips, you might find yourself missing someone’s last name, or misspelling it. This is where the Advanced Find option comes in handy.

Advanced Find will pop a dialog box. You can do more complex searches including first names and departments.


Using the SEARCH TOOL ribbon in Outlook

You know, there’s nothing more fun than the obvious hitting you over the head. Many of you may read this post and think, gosh Vianne, I use this all the time! Why haven’t you seen this before?

And yet here I am, confessing that I have apparently ignored something that’s been right in my face the entire time: the SEARCH TOOLS ribbon.

When searching something in Outlook, I always use the quick search bar that appears above my email listing. I knew that I can just type something and it will find all the emails related to that topic. Over time I also learned that I can type “From: ” followed by the person’s last name, to get all the emails that person sent me.

What I didn’t know is that Outlook helps us out by showing us the SEARCH TOOLS ribbon every time we search.

It allows us to create a search on multiple features, so I can search all emails from someone with attachments for example, or all flagged emails about a particular subject. I figured there would be a syntax (i.e. a way of typing the commands) but never really put the time into learning how. And now I learned I don’t have to.

If this is not new to you, please share your favorite search combinations. If it is new to you, welcome to the club. This will soon be my favorite new feature.

Copying emails directly to your calendar

We all receive emails from time to time that mention an event or meeting date that we should or want to add to our calendar. I don’t know about you, but my process for that in the past has been to open the email in a new window, move it off to the side, then open the calendar, go to the date in question, then create a new appointment, and then copy and paste information from the email into the calendar item.

Outlook gives you the capability of moving or copying an email to the calendar. Personally I prefer copying because it keeps the original email in my inbox, but if you prefer, you can move the email to your calendar and thus declutter your inbox with that message. The original message is now in the appointment on your calendar, so everything you need is right there, including the content of the email.

So how do we do this?

From the HOME ribbon in your email, select MOVE, then select the folder you want to move it to, or select Copy to Folder if you want to make a copy.

Outlook: Copy to Folder

From the folder list, choose Calendar and then click OK. Your email will now become an appointment.

Outlook: Copy to Folder Selector

When you copy or move the email to your calendar, it creates the appointment as a message, and so the content of the email is right there as you set the appointment, so you can make sure you set the right date and time, fill in the location, etc. You don’t have to switch back and forth between the calendar and the email.

Automatically preface comments in your emails

When collaborating with others, collecting feedback from various people can be interesting at times because it will come to you in various emails. While engaging in a recent email train, each person chose a color and stated “my comments are in this color.” Fortunately, the people in the group took turns, and so all of the comments appear in the last version of the email in their respective colors.

Did you know that there is an option to preface all of your comments in emails that you’re replying to or forwarding?
Any edits you make to someone else’s words will add a preface to your comments.

You can choose which name you want in the preface, and each of your comments will now contain [YourName] before your comments.

How to change this setting

  • Go the FILE tab
  • Choose Options
  • Then choose Mail
  • Half way down the MAIL screen you will see Replies and forwards
  • Check the Preface comments with box and enter your preferred name in that field.

Outlook: Preface Comments

It would be nice if we could also set a color to our comments, but Outlook doesn’t have that option at this point.

If you want colored comments, I suggest going back after the fact and coloring all of the comments labeled with [YourName].