How to Work with Polls in Outlook 2013

One of the great features in Outlook 2013 is the ability to create polls for voting in email messages. This means you can ask a question of your team and see everyone’s answer in one place. Polls in Outlook 2013 give recipients an easy way to vote, and the Tracking feature gives you a nice, orderly way to view the results.

Note: This only works for users on a Microsoft Exchange Server, as polls utilize the Tracking feature in Outlook 2013.

Creating a Poll

  • Start a new email message, which can be completely new or simply a reply to another message.
  • With the new email open, click the Options tab of the Outlook Ribbon.
  • Click on the button labeled Use Voting Buttons.

Options tab in Outlook ribbon

On the menu you will see some standard voting options, including:

  • Approve;Reject: This is great for sending design ideas or finalized documents.
  • Yes;No: Perfect for simple answers. This can be used for meeting notes or even lunch plans.
  • Yes;No;Maybe: Gives the recipient a third option. Use this one wisely, as “maybe” is rarely the wanted answer.

At the end of this list there is also a Custom setting. This is useful in case the standard voting options won’t work for you.

Properties window in Outlook 2013

As you can see in this image, under Voting and Tracking options you can change the items to whatever you want.

In the example above, the standard items were replaced with Option 1, Option 2, and Option 3. When typing your own items, be sure to separate them with a semicolon and no additional spaces.

If you made custom buttons, click the Close button to exit the Properties box and return to your email.

  • Add the recipients for the message and fill out the subject line and message content. Make sure to explain to the recipients how voting works.
  • Once you’re done, just send the email as you would any other.

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Voting

Now that you’ve sent your email with the voting buttons, it’s time for your recipients to vote. When a recipient receives the email there will be a line at the top of the message body stating there are voting buttons.

Message about voting buttons in recipient's email

The recipient just needs to click on the voting button text to display the voting menu. Once the menu opens, the recipient just needs to click the option he or she wants to send back.

Menu with voting options

Once an option is clicked, a dialog box will appear. The recipient can now choose to edit the chosen response or just send it as is. If the recipient is happy with the response, he or she clicks the OK button.

Email response dialog box

Viewing Results

Results can be viewed two ways.

  • You’ll get an email response from each person being polled with the option each person chose. While for two or three people it’s easy to just count the responses and be done with it, for larger polls you’ll want to use the Tracking options in Outlook 2013.
  • First, locate the email you sent with the voting buttons in it and open it. This is most easily found in the Sent Items folder. With the email open and on the Message tab, click on Tracking in the Show section of the Ribbon.

Tracking button highlighted in Message tab
When you click the Tracking button you will see the results of everyone who replied and what each person’s response was. This can help you easily see who voted how and tally the votes.

Note: The Tracking button will not appear until at least one vote has been cast.

Wrap-Up

The ability to vote within email can be a huge benefit to anyone working in an office or on any collaborative effort. The better you can define paper trails (so to speak), the easier finding mistakes and issues can be. Outlook 2013 comes with tools like this to help anyone using an Exchange server get as much benefit as possible.

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