www.office.com/setup Blogs: Love it or hate it, Microsoft Outlook is still the de facto email client at many offices. It’s been a while since we took a look at good old Outlook, so here are some of our favorite tricks well worth revisiting to increase your productivity in this all-in-one email, calendar, tasks, and notes program.

The instructions and details in this post are based on Outlook 2010, but they should work with both earlier and later versions of Outlook, except where otherwise noted.

General Shortcuts

The shortcuts below work across the whole program, so you can get more done whether you’re reading emails or adding meeting events to your calendar.

1. Learn Outlook’s keyboard shortcuts. Like Microsoft Word, Excel, and other Office apps, Outlook has unique keyboard shortcuts so you don’t have to waste time moving your mouse around or drilling down through menus. Learn the ones you use most and you’ll speed through your Outlook tasks. MakeUseOf has a handy Outlook keyboard shortcuts cheat sheet you can download or print out. Among the most useful:

  • Ctrl+R: reply to email
  • Alt+R: reply to all in email or switch to the work week calendar view
  • Alt+W: forward email or switch to the weekly calendar view
  • Ctrl+M: F9 to Send/Receive all
  • Alt+S: Send email
  • Ctrl+G: open the “Go to date” dialog to jump to any date in the calendar

You can also switch between mail, calendar, contacts, and other items in the navigation pane by hitting Ctrl + [the place number of the item], e.g.:

2. Take advantage of Outlook’s Quick Steps. For those unfamiliar, Quick Steps is the killer feature Microsoft introduced with Outlook 2010. They’re shortcuts to any multi-step action you can think of, such as moving emails to a specific folder and marking them as read or forwarding an email to your team and flagging it at the same time. It makes short work of repetitive tasks, and you can create your own Quick Step actions.

3. Create a new item from your clipboard. Hat tip to fellow Lifehacker Walter Glenn for this tip (and others in this piece):

Copy any text to your clipboard, then in Outlook press Ctrl-V. Outlook creates a new message (or note or whatever item, depending on the folder you’re viewing) with the text already pasted.

So instead of creating a new item in Outlook, and then copying and pasting text in, you do both in one step.

Email Shortcuts

Even though Gmail and other webmail services are quite capable, Outlook is no slouch when it comes to sorting, filtering, categorizing, and otherwise wrangling your inbox to your needs.

4. Limit desktop notifications to only the most important emails. It’s terribly distracting to constantly be told “you’ve got mail!” but you still want to get notified for the most important alerts. In Outlook, set desktop notifications only for those VIP messages. Canadian legal magazine Slaw offers a detailed tutorialfor how to do this, but, essentially, first you’ll turn off all desktop alerts under the Mail Options, then create an Outlook rule to display alerts for messages from specific people sent only to you. For example:

5. Flag messages—fast. With a message or two selected, jut hit the insert key to toggle the flag on or mark it done.

6. Get emails that aren’t sent directly to you out of your inbox. In an old post (still worth looking at if you’re using Outlook), Scott Hanselman details his GTD organization method for Outlook. One of the best tips is to use a special “Inbox – CC” folder to gather all the emails that aren’t sent directly to you; that way, the inbox is focused on only the most important emails. To set this up, go to Rules > New Rules…. Then click the “Advanced Options” button. In the Rules Wizard, select “where my name is not in the To box” and then in the next screen, “move it to the specified folder.” (Alternatively, set up a VIP email folder and move “emails sent only to me” into that special folder.)