Center For Practice Management, Technology

Microsoft Outlook Hidden Gems

There are some hidden gems in MS Outlook that can help lawyers use the software more productively. In addition, there are a few invaluable add-ons that can save huge amounts of time in setting up meetings, updating contacts and making quick work of getting emails into their proper folders and out of the inbox.

Quick Parts

Never have to find an old email to copy/paste or resend again! If you send the same message repeatedly turn it into a Quick Part. In a new outbound message select the message text and from the Insert tab click on “Quick Parts” and choose “save selection to Quick Part Gallery”. Next time you need to insert that content in a new email put your cursor in the body of the email and either click on Quick Parts from the Insert tab or simply type in the name of the Quick Part and hit <enter> to autofill the Quick Part text. You can also add the Quick Parts insert tool to your toolbar for easy access – just right click on Quick Parts and choose “Add to Quick Access Toolbar”. Be aware that if you move to a new computer or a new version of the software you will lose your QuickParts so make sure to back them up. Here is a complete tutorial, including backup instructions.

Quick Steps

Make quick work of multi-step tasks with this tool that lets you program a series of steps into one click! Automatically folder email, categorize it, prioritize it and much more. For instance, set up a new email to your team and clients on a project. Go to Quick Steps in the Home Tab and click on the arrow in the lower right corner. Click on “New” – “New Email To” then name the Quick Step and choose the recipients. Or set up a Quick Step that auto responds to an email with a template, cc’s your paralegal on the response, categorizes it, and moves the email to a folder. Here is a complete tutorial on how to get started.

Reply with Calendar Invitations, Not Emails

replywithmeetingWhen someone emails and wants to have a meeting or a phone call and we have arrived on a mutually agreeable time, my last reply to confirm the event is a calendar request. MS Outlook makes this super easy by supplying a tiny little button in the Respond group on the Message tab that looks like a little calendar with the label “Meeting.”

Instead of clicking “Reply” to the last email, click the “Meeting” button (which is actually “Reply with Meeting”). Clicking this button sets up the response as a calendar request, with the entire email chain in the notes. You can see the date and time you’ve agreed on, adjust the request accordingly, and fill in information that might not yet be established. For example, you can fill in the location field with something like: “Catherine calls John at xyz-123-4567” or “Catherine meets Jane at Starbucks on State and Jackson.” Send the message along and you will both have it on your calendar — and you can delete all the previous emails about negotiating availability.

FindTime (Add-on)

Outlook is not the best tool to find an appropriate date and time for multiple people from different locations. Choose a tool like MeetWithApproval, Meeting Wizard, or Doodle to make quick work of this task. Or, use FindTime, and add-on for Office 365 users.

FindTime is an Outlook add-in from the Office Store that builds in the functionality of tools like Doodle or Meeting Wizard. You’ve never heard of Doodle or Meeting Wizard? These tools help make short work of finding an appropriate meeting time for multiple people. Within the same MS Exchange environment, each user can see other users’ calendars and use the scheduling assistant to make a guess at the best time for all to meet. However, arranging a meeting for multiple people outside of a single MS Exchange environment often results in rounds of frustrating emails. A few free tools came out on the market to solve this problem by letting the event organizer create a poll for others to select their availability and find a mutually agreeable date/time. That is what FindTime does — but built into the user’s MS Outlook calendar.

When you create a new event, you see a button called “FindTime.” Click on it to propose a few times for attendees to vote on. It is just that simple.

The attendees then receive an email with instructions to choose a time, by clicking a link and clicking on their availability, and the responses are tallied for you, the sender, in your calendar. Are the slackers not responding? Send a reminder with one click!

Evercontact (Add-on)

Evercontact works with Gmail, Google Apps, Outlook, Office 365, iPhones, and CRMs like Salesforce and Highrise. The software automatically creates and updates contacts from email signatures and sends them to your address book.

There is a free trial for 200 emails.  Essentials for individuals cost $5 per month and provides unlimited email analysis and automatic updates to an individual or team address books. Business and Enterprise versions offer more bells and whistles. One premium feature called “ContactRescue” looks at your email for the past five years and collects the contact information (that is, if you hang on to email that long) for a one time cost of $199 or $99 for one year of analysis of your email archives.

Evercontact will show you what it is adding to your address book and give you the chance to accept or reject it — so it isn’t so automatic that it fills your contacts with people you don’t want there or overwrites information you need to keep.

SimplyFile (Add-on)

SimplyFile can seriously enhance your folder organization in MS Outlook. The company describes it as an “intelligent filing assistant” for Outlook that will “learn and adapt to your filing habits.” What this means is that it “predicts” the folder in which to file a message and lets you do it with one click. It is a fast learner — no sooner had I installed it than it was suggesting the correct folder more often than not.

Filing suggestions are presented through a toolbar it adds to Outlook. As you read your email, it suggests the folder in which to file it. If the suggestion is incorrect, click the QuickPick button to bring up a list of all your folders and select from there.

Two other buttons on the SimplyFile toolbar, Task It and Schedule It, make short work of following up on an email by assigning it to your to-do list or adding it to your calendar. So if you receive an email regarding a matter that needs follow-up in a week, click Task It to open a new task and the email will be inserted into it. Rather than save emails in your inbox as reminders, add them to your task list or calendar and you’ll actually remember them.

Another button, SnoozeIt, lets you temporarily hide a message from the Inbox, then have it re-appear at the time you specify. SimplyFile starts at $36 per year.


Want to learn more about tips, tricks and add-ons for Microsoft Outlook? Check out the archived programs on Defensive Calendaring and Outlook Tips and Add-ons from CPM for NC Bar members.