What did I learn today: For Demo Warriors Only: Clear Outlook Categories

This article is relevant only for people who conduct demos or training on Outlook. During demos we create custom color categories. These categories remain customized for the next demo as well. Ideally I would want the categories to have default names (Red Category, Blue Category and so on). How to clean all of them quickly just before the demo? Simple.

Start Outlook with the Startup Switch /clearcategories

<office installation path>\outlook.exe /clearcategories.

This DOES NOT remove custom categories which have already been applied to Outlook items like mails, appointments or tasks. These have to be removed separately. But it does remove the custom descriptions. Now the category dialog looks like this.

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Simplified file sharing with Outlook Web Access

As we know by now, sending mails with attachments is generally a bad idea. We also know that storing the file on the cloud – using OneDrive and sending a link is a more convenient option. We refuse to change our behavior in spite of knowing the benefits of the new way of sharing. So Microsoft changed its product to suit our lack of flexibility.

Now you create a new mail, click on the Attach button, choose the file from local PC as usual – and NOW Outlook Web Access asks you a simple question. Do you really want to ATTACH the file or should I store it on OneDrive and send a shared link? You just have one click to decide that. Just choose the OneDrive option and you get all the benefits.

Simple, effective – yet ignored. Start using it!

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Irritating = Extremely Useful: Why does Outlook not show pictures in some messages?

Well, you must have seen this thousands of time by now.

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Pictures are not downloaded. That is obvious. What is NOT obvious is what has MY PRIVAY to do with it? The mail was sent by someone else – including the pictures in it. So how does it affect my privacy?  Read on to find out the logic and the action you should take.

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Best Practice: DO NOT put Out of Office message if you are away on official work

Out of Office is a common habit. We put it when we are not on our desk. But in today’s world of mobility, internet availability and smart phones, it should be used ONLY when you are really on LEAVE.

I have seen people pout OOF message when they are traveling on official visit, in off-site, undertaking training programs and so on. That is NO LONGER a valid reason for putting OOF message.

I do agree that your response will be delayed in such circumstances. But there are two related arguments in this context.

Firstly, people do not expect lightning fast responses in general. If you respond in few hours, it is ok. And whatever official work you have, meetings, flights, etc. you will get a break. And what do you do in the break? Check mails. So DO NOT bother to set OOF.

Secondly, even if you are in some so called engaging activity, most people are checking emails during off-sites, training programs, and even during customer meetings.

In short, use OOF with discretion. Period.

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How to know that the other person is Out of Office BEFORE sending the mail!

This is a frequent occurrence. You send a mail to someone and the reply comes back instantaneously! Unfortunately, it is just an Out of Office message. Grrr… You wish you had known it earlier, in which case you would have sent the mail to someone else or taken some alternative action.

Of course, this is possible – BEFORE you send the mail. Using a smart and AUTOMATIC feature of Outlook called Mail Tips. All that you have to do is to LOOK. While you are adding email ids of recipients, Outlook is checking if they are Out of Office. If they are, it will display their ACTUAL OOF message. Often we have an alternative email id available. Now that you know that the person is not going to respond, you can act accordingly.

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This works with Outlook 2010 and Exchange Server 2010 (or above). If you do not know which version your organization is using, contact your IT team. The recipient should also use this version of Exchange server (if they are outside your organization) for this feature to work.

Reply All when you are on BCC is called stupidity! Find out how to prevent it.

I am sure this has happened to you before. You were on BCC, you did not realize it and did a REPLY ALL. That exposes you and the sender Just kiddingSick smile.

Well, if you use Outlook 2010 and Exchange server 2010 (or above), it is a simple matter of LOOKING at what Outlook is telling you. Outlook detects this problem AUTOMATICALLY and shows you a warning in RED color – just above the TO box. Notice it and act on it. Cancel the mail and just use REPLY – so that only the sender gets the mail.

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If you don’t know which version of Exchange Server you are using, talk to your IT team.