The Outlook Windows program (not OWA) can be a productive tool once you tweak its UI, learn the keyboard shortcuts for your common tasks and learn how to find some useful tweaks.
Here are some keyboard shortcuts I find useful:
Ctrl + 1,
Ctrl + 2,
Ctrl + 3: Switch to Mail, Calendar, or Contacts view.
Ctrl + Shift + M: Create a new message.
Ctrl + Shift + A: Create a new calendar appointment.
Ctrl + R: Reply email to just the sender.
Ctrl + Shift + R: Reply email to all.
Ctrl + Alt + R: Create a meeting from an email. The same can be done by choosing Meeting option in the Home menu. This is a useful trick when I need to schedule a meeting for an email thread that is getting out of hand.
Alt + S: Send the composed email.
Backspace: Archive the current email or conversation.
Esc: Close currently open email window or any window or dialog.
Ctrl + Eor
F3: Switch to the Search bar at the top of Outlook.
Ctrl + Shift + F: Open the Advanced Find dialog.
F4to search in it.
Ctrl + Shift + B: Open address book to search for people.
Ctrl + Shift + G: Add a flag to current email.
Alt + Ins: Clear flag on current message.
Alt + Downor
Ctrl + .: Switch to next email.
Alt + Upor
Ctrl + ,: Switch to previous email.
Ctrl + Y: Go to a different folder.
Here are other useful features and tricks:
[x] Show messages from other folders [ ] Show senders above the subject [x] Always expand selected conversation [x] Use Classic indented view
To look at important emails: Emails marked with high importance are shown with ! symbol in the middle pane on both the email and the conversation it is part of. This makes it easy to scroll through and look for important emails. The symbol on the conversation (not the email) disappears once I archive that email.
To look at only emails that @ mention me: In the top-right corner of the folder, click the dropdown and choose Filter -> Mentioned Mail. When buried under email, I find this useful to first process the emails where folks have mentioned me to get something from me. Outlook also shows **@** as a column in the middle pane on emails or conversations which mention me. I like that Outlook does not show this on the conversation (not the email) after I archive the email that mentions me.
To restrict conversation emails to a folder: Right-click on the conversation and choose Move -> Always Move Messages in this Conversation. This moves the conversation to the folder you choose and also all future replies to this conversation are moved to that folder automatically for you. Note that the rules you have set in Outlook will take precedence over this and so not all replies might end up following this order.
To open Calendar in a separate window: Right-click on the Calendar icon at the bottom-left and choose Open in New Window. I find this useful to keep both my mail and my calendar open at the same time side-by-side or on dual display while working.
To switch to offline mode: Go to the Send/Receive tab and click on Work Offline. This is great for working through emails without being disturbed by incoming emails.
To clean up a conversation/folder: Outlook can look at a conversation and remove intermediate emails whose contents are fully captured in later emails. I like this feature because this saves both space in the folder and also time and focus to read emails. So I like to apply this on the Archive folder and on long conversations that I have missed out on. To apply this on a folder or a conversation, right-click it and choose Clean Up. To customize where to move the removed emails and which emails to not touch, go to Options → Mail → Conversation Clean Up.
To show most recent search results first: By default, Outlook tries to be intelligent and show the most relevant results at the top of search results. This does not work well if you are looking for email results to be sorted by most recent. (Why cannot I find Mark’s email from yesterday by searching for “Mark”?) To make search results dumb, go to File -> Options -> Search -> Results and disable the Show most relevant results at the top option.
To create an appointment from an email: For certain emails, I like to create an appointment on the calendar to study its contents or work on a reply. This can be done by creating a Quick Step for this purpose and using it whenever needed. To create this Quick Step, right-click on the email and choose Quick Steps -> Create New -> Create an appointment with (attachment | text of message). The with attachment option attaches the original email as an attachment to the appointment. The with text of message inserts the text of the original email into the appointment.
Customize existing styles or create new styles: I find creating my new styles useful so that I can apply them on parts of email. For example, creating a code style would be useful to apply on code snippets I paste or type into email.
To delay sending a email: Compose your email or reply in a separate window. Go to the Options tab and choose Delay Delivery in the More Options section. If this button is not present, click the ↘ and in the Properties dialog and set what you wish in the Do not deliver before option. The Delay Delivery button should appear in the More Options section after you use it once.
To import calendar file (
.ics): If you look for an import option in the Calendar, you will not find one! To import, go to File -> Open and Export -> Import/Export. Point to the file and import it into your Outlook Calendar.