5 Quick Tips to Make Outlook 2013 Work Better

Sign reading 'Scenic View Outlook'

Staying on top of emails, calendar events, and contacts can be tough, especially with the amount of time we have to devote to email daily. With a real push for productivity, anything that can help manage email and make your time inside of Outlook a little better is not only welcome, it’s sought after.

We’ve collected five of the best ways to make Outlook 2013 work a little better for you so you can tailor the email client to fit your needs. Check out the tips below and start making Outlook bend to your will – instead of the other way around.

1. Create Custom Views

Like every other application out there, Outlook 2013 starts you off with a default view that includes items that Microsoft feels the majority of people will find most useful. If this view just isn’t doing it for you, you can update it so the items you want show up how you want them to.

Click on the View tab of the Outlook 2013 Ribbon and you’ll get a variety of view adjustments.

Closeup of Outlook 2013 Ribbon

Click on View Settings to check out the defaults. Here you can edit the columns that show up in the Outlook window, change how conversations are grouped, and even set up conditional formatting.

Outlook 2013 Advanced View Settings window

If you change things too much and need to start over, click on Reset Current View to take things back to square one.

There’s no right or wrong way to set up your default view, so play around and see what looks best to you. Remember, you can always go back.

2. Change How Emails Get Marked as Read

Outlook highlights unread emails so you know what needs your attention and what’s already been looked at. There are a few ways for Outlook to know that an email has been read, though.

For example, maybe you want an email to show as read only after you select it and then select something else. Maybe you want it based on time viewing the message, so that if you quickly glance at the email it still shows as unread until you dive into it for a little while.

Whatever the case, you can change this setting so emails are marked as read only when you want them to be.

Just click on the File tab of the Ribbon, then Options in the sidebar, then the Mail tab in the Outlook Options Sidebar. Under the Outlook Panes section, click on Reading Pane.

Mail tab in Outlook 2013 Options window

If you want messages to show as read after a few seconds, check the first box and change the time as you would like. If you want it to show as read almost immediately, change this to 1 second.

Reading pane dialog box in Outlook 2013

3. Create Rules to See Emails More Easily

Nobody likes to follow the rules, so why would you want to create more? Unlike rules about dress code and when you can take your lunch break, you may actually like email rules. They help you to view messages better and make sure your inbox works how you want it to.

You can ignore emails that are meaningless and get extra notification on important emails. Check out our post on the three game-changing Outlook 2013 email rules to see how you can set them up as well as make your own.

Closeup of Rules and Alerts window in Outlook 2013

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4. Fix Contact Information

Outlook 2013 is great at managing your contacts, but with the available information in each contact listing, it’s easy to get duplicate contacts and mismatched information.

Just like with the iPhone, you can link contacts in Outlook so that multiples all show up under one listing. You’re not technically merging contacts and deleting duplicate contacts like Scrubly does. But this trick will make everything appear to be nice and tidy so that when you search for a contact, the linked ones will show, too.

To link contacts, click on the Home tab of the Outlook 2013 Ribbon and select People from the bottom quick-launch bar.

Closeup of Home tab of Outlook 2013 Ribbon

Click on the contact you want to link and in the right side of the screen click on the … item, then Link Contacts.

Linking contacts in People tab of Outlook 2013 Ribbon

Next, search for the contact you want to link to the selected contact and click OK when you’re done. You can use this technique to link multiple contacts to the top contact listing.

Linked contacts in Outlook 2013

5. Update Outlook’s Search Capabilities

When you use the search feature in Outlook 2013, by default it searches in your inbox. While this if fine if you leave all your emails in your inbox, it can be very limiting for those of us that like to keep inbox zero by using tricks like the Trusted Trio.

You can change where Outlook searches on a one-off basis, but if you constantly search, this can get annoying fast. To make things easier, you can change where the default search looks.

Click on the File tab of the Ribbon, then click on Options in the sidebar. Here, click on Search in the Outlook Options sidebar to see the search defaults.
Search section of Outlook 2013 Options window

There are tons of changes you can make here to make search fit your needs better. First, under Results, you can change this setting to “All mailboxes” so your search is never limited.

You can even include the “Deleted items” folder in your searches if you’d like. Also, depending on how many items you plan to see when you search, you can uncheck the box labeled “Improve search speed…” to make sure every result shows up and none are omitted.

You can always change these on a per-search basis, but whatever you choose here will be your new defaults.

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