Top 50 Most Popular Outlook Tips, Tricks and Tutorials

Review the tips you'd learn in an Outlook 101 class

A screen shot of the Microsoft Outlook interface

 Joli Ballew

Microsoft Outlook is the desktop email program, used by corporations and individuals alike. It's a powerful system, capable of managing many different email accounts, calendars, contact lists, and task lists.

The Outlook brand comes in several flavors, however. Not only does it refer to the desktop email program — the focus of the tips we share below — but it also refers to Microsoft's flagship email app for Android and iOS, as well as the free email service (outlook.com) that replaced the old Hotmail service.

01
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Set Up an Out of Office Auto-Reply

While you are away from the computer, Outlook can automatically reply to incoming mail with a message telling senders when you’ll be able to reply individually.

02
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Create an Email Signature in Outlook

Set up a short piece of text containing essential contact information, a tag line, or maybe an ad or quotation to be inserted in every email you send from Outlook.

Better yet, create several — you can set them up on a per-account basis or select any of your saved signatures that you can use anytime.

03
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Graphic or Animation in Your Outlook Email Signature

Create a signature that appends to your emails in Outlook and makes it a richer experience by adding graphics, animations, and logos.

04
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Send an Email to Undisclosed Recipients

If you want to send an email to a group of people but keep their email addresses hidden, send it to "Undisclosed recipients" in Outlook.

05
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Prevent Outlook from Sending Winmail.dat Attachments

Ever see an email attachment with a winmail.dat extension and wonder what the heck it is? Winmail.dat is a proprietary Windows format for attachments that leverages the .dat file generic encoding. 

If your Outlook program is sending attachments as Winmail.dat, it could confuse and concern recipients. Configure Outlook to make sure it does not send winmail.dat attachments to mail recipients.

06
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Insert an Inline Image in an Email

You can include your photos, sketches, or other images in the body of your email messages instead of as attachments. They're called in-line images, and sometimes they're exactly what you need to express yourself.

07
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Access Your Outlook.com or Hotmail Email

Use Microsoft Outlook to fetch and send email messages through your Hotmail or Outlook.com account easily and with all the power and flexibility of a real email client.

08
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Change the Default Email Font and Size

Is the font Outlook uses when you compose a message or read an email too wide, tall, small, big or blue? Specify the precise font, style, and color to use by default for emails in Outlook.

09
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Increase the Font Size While Reading Mail in Outlook

Is the tiny font in emails giving you headaches? Increase the size of the text in your email messages in Outlook.

10
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Add a Background Image to a Message

Give your emails a colorful and original background in Outlook. Just remember that some recipients won't see them because they've configured their own email programs to not download or display images or special designs from the internet.

11
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Add Blind Copy (Bcc) Recipients

Blind carbon copies are the method that email applications use to send copies of the message to multiple recipients without disclosing some of those recipients. This technique lets you send emails to many recipients without showing their names or email addresses to everyone else the message is sent to.

12
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Sync Google and iPhone Calendars with Outlook

Integrate your Google or iPhone Calendar with your Outlook information. Set them up to sync with your Outlook calendar so all of your devices show the same events and appointments.

13
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Set Up a Distribution List in Outlook

Create your own mailing lists in Outlook and easily send messages to groups of people. A do-it-yourself list works great for home users who don't have access to a corporate distribution list.

14
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Backup or Copy Your Outlook Mail, Contacts, and Other Data

If all your email, contacts, and calendars are in Outlook, create a backup of that information to make sure you don't lose it if your hard drive crashes or Outlook stops working. You can create backup copies of your Personal Folders (.pst) files — the files where all your information is saved — as easily as copying the file to a second location.

15
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Set the Default Account in Outlook

When you start a new message in Outlook, the default account is the one that automatically determines which settings — the signature and the sending email address, for example — will be used. Set the default account when you've got more than one account connected to Outlook. 

16
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Set the Default Message Format

You don't have to choose your favorite message format every time you create a new message. Make your favorite settings your default in Outlook.

17
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Automatically Cc: All Mail You Send

If you have an email account that you use to back up all your messages, or if you need to copy someone on every message you send, Outlook can automatically send a carbon copy of every message you compose to another email address.

18
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How to Increase the Outlook Attachment Size Limit

Ever try to send a message with an attachment and Outlook won't let you send it because the attachment exceeds some limit? You can adjust the Outlook attachment size limit to match that of your email server so emails don't bounce back as undeliverable. Making this change will help you avoid unnecessary Outlook errors, too.

19
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Export Your Outlook Contacts to a CSV File

Keep your contacts even if you leave Outlook behind. If you save your Outlook contacts as a CSV file, you can easily import them elsewhere.

20
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Import Contacts from Excel or a CSV File into Outlook

It only takes a few steps to import contacts into Outlook. Then you can use those contacts to build the basis for a mailing list, for example. Outlook supports imports if the underlying file is a supported type, like a CSV document.

21
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Set Up an All Mail Folder

The search capabilities in Outlook make it easy to find a message when you need it. Creating an All Mail folder for all your messages makes it even easier — it's a great workaround for Outlook's lack of a unified inbox.

22
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Schedule Emails in Outlook

Tell Outlook to deliver a message on or after a certain date. Delayed sending is great for reminders, birthday wishes, and similar items you can plan today but shouldn't send until some future date.

23
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View the Complete Message Source

Make Outlook retain the original message source when it retrieves emails from the internet. Full headers are useful for troubleshooting or for later proving some fact about the receipt of a given message.

24
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How to Edit a Received Message in Outlook

Outlook makes editing received emails easy. Use this technique to adjust subject lines and other important information.

25
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Forward an Email as an Attachment

Forward an email in-full and in the state in which you received it as an EML attachment in Outlook. This approach preserves all the metadata of the original message, which is useful especially in troubleshooting or legal contexts.

26
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Separate Email Recipients With Commas

Use commas to separate multiple email recipients in a message. By default, Outlook uses semicolons, but you can change the divider to commas if you wish.

27
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Quickly Find All Mail from a Specific Sender

Unless you have permanently deleted a message, Outlook retains all the messages from a particular sender indexed in a folder. Use this feature to quickly find them for reference.

28
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Delete an Address from the Outlook Auto-Complete List

Has Outlook remembered an email address you mistyped, or do you want to get rid of an outdated name? Here's how to clear unwanted entries from the auto-complete list that appears when you type in the To field.

29
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Restore an Outlook PST File for Mail, Contacts, Data

30
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Automatically Filter One Sender's Mail to a Specific Folder

If you receive emails from a specific sender that you need to file away for future reference, you can set up Outlook to send those messages to a specific folder as soon as they are received. Starting with a message, set up an Outlook filter to automatically move all of the sender's future emails to a particular folder.

31
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Permanently Delete a Message

Want to permanently delete a message forever in Outlook but not empty the "Deleted Items" folder? You can, but be sure to learn how to recover deleted Outlook emails first!

32
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Search Inside a Message

Search the text in a message in Outlook to find some specific phrase.

33
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Save Multiple Attachments at Once

If you've received an email with multiple attachments, you can save them all without having to do it individually. Instead, save all files attached to an email to a folder at once.

34
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Change the Way Unread Messages are Highlighted

Unread messages, please stand up. Here's how to highlight unread mail in Outlook using special fonts, colors, and more.

35
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Make Replies to Emails Go to Another Address in Outlook

Set your default reply-to address for an email account in Outlook. This technique is useful when you receive emails from several email addresses associated with the same account.

36
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Import Your Outlook Contacts into the Mac OS X Mail Address Book

37
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Use Contact Categories as Distribution Lists in Outlook

If you're good about categorizing your contacts, you can turn your Outlook contacts into elegant, flexible, and stable mailing lists by using categories instead of distribution lists.

38
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Attach a File in Outlook

39
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Purge Deleted Messages

When you delete an email in Outlook with certain kinds of accounts, the deleted message may appear grayed out with a line through it, To permanently erase it, purge the messages marked for deletion in the IMAP folder.

40
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Send an Email with Any From Address

To unsubscribe from unwanted mailing lists, you may need to send an email with an old email address you stopped using years ago. Send an email from any address in Outlook.

41
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Move Email Messages Quickly in Outlook

Use keyboard shortcuts to quickly move emails. It's easy to set up shortcuts for filing mail in Outlook.

42
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Turn Off the Outlook Reading Pane

Do you prefer not to have messages open automatically? Do you like the flow of a preview pane-free message list? Here are two ways to disable Outlook's reading pane — for all folders, and by default.

43
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Change the Font Size of the Outlook Message List

Change the font style and size of the list of messages in Outlook to suit your fashion and needs. This tweak really helps if you work better with larger type.

44
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Access an AOL Email Account with Outlook

Use your AOL email accounts with all the power of Outlook. Here's how to set up AOL screen name as IMAP email accounts in Outlook.

Fair warning, though — AOL is a long-disfavored brand among tech pros, so if you're setting up a new account, try Outlook.com or Gmail instead.

45
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Hide Strikethrough Messages Marked for Deletion

If you neither desire to purge deleted messages from your IMAP inbox constantly in Outlook nor like to see all those messages that should be gone, here's how to hide the messages marked for deletion from view.

46
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See Total Inbox Message Count in Outlook

Set up Outlook to show you total folder message counts. By default, it gives you an unread-message count, but you can make it show you a total message count instead.

47
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Make Outlook Your Default Email Program

Use Outlook for all your email tasks by configuring Windows to recognize Outlook as your default email program. That way, the next time you click a mail-to link, Outlook will open.

48
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Always Send Plain Text to Certain Addresses in Outlook

Compose your emails with style and rich formatting in Outlook and make sure that people who prefer or need a plain text version, get it automatically.

With so many viruses and malware spread by rich-text or HTML messages, relying on plain text isn't a bad idea for all your outgoing emails.

49
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How to Forward Multiple Emails Individually in Outlook

To forward a bunch of emails individually yet automatically in Outlook, you need a folder and a rule. Follow these instructions to set up the folder and rule for automatically forwarding multiple emails individually.

50
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Access Your Free Yahoo Mail with Outlook

Your Yahoo Mail account is not made for the web alone. Download mail from a free Yahoo Mail address into Outlook. And how to send through Yahoo! Mail, too.