Top 10 Outlook Boosters

Outlook is such a fixture of office and computer life, its potential as a central life-organizing inbox is easily taken for granted. Empower your Outlook with these add-ons, link-ups, and data management techniques.

10. Never forget attachments

It’s not that it’s so difficult to re-send an email with the attachment you forgot last time—it’s just a bit embarassing to do it, in front of all those recipients. Skip the forehead-smacking with Lifehacker reader Troy’s Outlook Attachment Reminder, a VBScript that checks messages for the word “attach” and its variations and then looks for a certain number of attachments. No attachments present? A little pop-up asks if you’re sure you didn’t forget something. Small, helpful, and great at keeping your e-name in good standing.

9. Pin a transparent calendar to the desktop

Outlook on the Desktop is one of those little software utilities that are tough for headline-writing Lifehacker editors—the name explains exactly what it does!—but great for anyone who uses it. The utility embeds a transparent calendar with all your appointments onto your Windows desktop, giving you the same kind of at-a-glance awareness as those giant paper calendars made for the physical desktop you put your computer on. The app requires .NET 2.0, but installs it if you don’t have it already.

7. Use Quick Parts for automatic text/image entry

You’ve explained how to grab files from the office intranet more than a dozen times already. Save yourself another pic-and-text time-waster with Quick Parts, an Outlook 2007 feature that our own How-To Geek has thoroughly walked through as a serious time saver. Whether it’s a simple note about your new contact information or an illustrated guide to office refrigerator policies, you’ll never feel a sense of email deja vu again.

Tweak it to be quickly, regularly emptied

Out of the box, Outlook is designed to make sure you see all your mail, not help you act on and get rid of it. Our founding editor is not one to leave things set to default, though, so she compiled a list of tweaks to empty an Outlook inbox faster. Folders, toolbars, item counts, add-ons—everything in Outlook can use a little fine-tuning for a no-worry, on-time data flow.

Kill your duplicate contacts

People move, addresses change, typos are made, and the end results is your contacts list looking like a database engineer’s nightmare. has a straight-forward and quick system for killing the dupes, and our Outlook-savvy users dug it. They also, however, recommend Anti-Dupe, a freeware app that does much of the same kind of smart contact cleaning.

Marry Gmail and Outlook the proper way

They were certainly weren’t born under the same sign, but your web-centered Gmail and desktop-focused Outlook can live in astral harmony. The How-To Geek’s Gmail IMAP in Outlook 2007 guide explains the settings needed for both Gmail and Outlook, and explains how you can use each platform’s features—flagging an email in Outlook, for example, can star the same in Gmail, and the Large Mail folder makes for a handy clean-up tool.

Defer your email sending (for many good reasons)

Maybe you’ve finally finished your magnum opus message, but you don’t want to send it out at 2:13 a.m. and have your recipients wonder about your sanity. Perhaps you want to be out of the office when your message about the new coffee pricing hits inboxes. In those and many other situations, delaying your email sending can be a great idea. You can change the options on each individual message to delay a sending, as we’ve explained, but the How-To Geek (this guy really knows his Outlook, eh?) offers a compelling argument for delaying all Outlook messages by something like five minutes. That way, you’ve always got at least a few deep breaths’ time to go back and fix Exactly What You Think About Steve and similar messages.

Team up with OneNote for universal capture greatness

OneNote doesn’t get a lot of love around these parts—we’re pretty partial to Evernote and other go-anywhere solutions. But Microsoft’s integrated capture system can fill in everywhere that Outlook doesn’t quite fit. As explained in a 7Breaths post, OneNote can serve as the container for all the stuff that gets thought up, sent to you, and collected, to eventually end up on the “hard” Outlook calendar and reminder setup. Or it can serve as the go-between for your personal and career schedules. Either way, OneNote features lots of other cross-Office-product magic. For a good primer on getting going with OneNote, check out Jason’s guide to using OneNote as a note-taking power tool.

Add all kinds of greatness with Xobni

In the realm of Can’t Believe They Haven’t Been Bought Yet, free Outlook helper app Xobni rates pretty high (they’ve even got a Bill Gates statement on their home page!). One download gives you a look at all your email in/out data, fuller contact cards, speedy indexed search that also remembers corporate hierarchy (so you can find, for instance your contact’s secretary), Gmail-like conversation threads, and a lot more, as demonstrated in this video:

Sync Outlook to Nearly Any App/Device/Calendar

No matter where you go or what you have to type on, Outlook’s calendar can be available for your appointment-checking acccess. The best ways to get your Outlook data into the cloud is one of two steps (or both):

  • Google Calendar (and then out from there): Google Calendar Sync – The background desktop app quietly syncs your Outlook happenings to Google Calendar, though only your primary calendar at the moment. In turn, having a Google Calendar copy of everything gives you all kinds of access, since GCal uses the iCal standard to share calendars, and offers lots of other connectivity options—Collaboration for iCal, gCalSync for tons of supported phones, Google Sync specifically for Blackberry phones, and many more apps. We’ve also featured CalGoo and KiGoo as workable Outlook-to-GCal-and-back solutions.
  • Phones, Macs, Highrise, etc.: Soocial – This free (at least while in public beta) app suite promises to keep lots of your data buckets in sync across multiple lines. Outlook, Gmail, Blackberries, Mac Contacts, regular phones—they’re all covered, although some of them will require a download or plug-in. Basically, wherever an Outlook-to-Google solution doesn’t work, Soocial might fit the bill.

We’ve covered a lot of Outlook jujitsu techniques over the years, and we’re sure our readers have adapted their own higher-level workflows with the corporate staple. How do you get things done inside Outlook? What tools are indispensible for managing the Office tool? Tell us everything in the comments.