3 Must Use Outlook 2011 Calendar Features to Stay Organized

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Outlook 2011 for the Mac is a very robust application. With the ability to manage your email, contacts, and calendar in the familiar Outlook interface, Outlook 2011 really shines. But for many of us, we only use the Outlook 2011 calendar to house invites for work meetings when it can do so much more to make your day more productive.

In this post I’ll show you how to work with three great calendar features in Outlook 2011 that will move you past meeting invites and get you using it to its fullest.

Let’s jump right in.

Set Up Reminders and Recurring Events

You can use Outlook 2011’s calendar to create events so you never forget to write that important wrap-up email, or pay a bill. Outlook 2011 gives you the ability to set up custom reminders and recurring events as well.

To set up an event in Outlook 2011, start in month view to get a better view of your appointments.

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Right-click on the day you would like the recurring event to start on, and select New Appointment. (If you want the appointment to be all day, just choose that option instead)

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Fill out the Subject and Location lines, when the event starts and ends, and any other pertinent information.

Tip: If you’re setting up a recurring task such as a bill payment reminder, set the location to “Pay Bill”. This way, the event stands out from regular appointments.

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The last fields to complete are status, reminder, and recurrence. For the status, let Outlook know if this appointment will make you busy and unavailable for other appointments, or if it is something that can overlap with other appointments. (For a bill reminder, you would be available, but a weekly meeting would definitely make you busy.)

The reminder is pretty self-explanatory. Outlook will remind you at a set time before the event, or not at all. The last big item here is recurrence. Outlook 2011 gives you some pre-defined options for recurrence, and they are:

  • Every week
  • Every month
  • Every year
  • Every day

These fit most recurrence needs, but sometimes you need to get a little more creative. For this, click custom.
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Let’s say your recycling is picked up the third Tuesday of every month. This makes a regular recurrence difficult to create because it’s always a different date. Here is how to set it up using custom recurrence:

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Understanding custom calendar events will help you to craft appointments and reminders that customize Outlook 2011’s calendar to your needs.

Switch to Using My Day

This one is a little bit more of a tip than a how-to, but a very useful one nonetheless. Instead of constantly opening Outlook to view your calendar, Outlook 2011 gives you a great feature called My Day.

My Day is a small window that can stay open independent of the Outlook 2011 window itself and shows your daily calendar and to-do list.
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My Day can do more than just display your daily events. It gives you single-click access to the events on your calendar, and you can even view days other than today, so if you’d rather keep tomorrow open and make appointments from that, you can do that, too.

With the + button in My Day, you can create new appointments and to-do list items easily and quickly. The last feature of My Day in Outlook 2011 to mention is the Contacts feature. Click the contact card in the bottom middle of the window to display a contacts search bar. This is great for finding contact information for people without opening the full contact interface in Outlook.
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All in all, My Day is a really useful feature that is often overlooked.

Get Organized with Categories

If you have a ton of events all entered under a single account, things can start looking messy pretty quickly. To help with this, Outlook 2011 supports Categories to mark your appointments by color. This is a very easy feature to use and can save you from letting an important event blend into the mix.

If you want to change the category of an existing event, simply click on the event and select the Categorize option in the Outlook 2011 Ribbon.

From here, you can select one of the default categories, or make a new one specific to something you use on a regular basis.

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The important feature here is color. Once you choose a category, that event will now show up in its corresponding color. In the image below, you can see that my daily “Work” events show up orange.

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Giving events unique categories will help you see at a glance the type of events you have each day.

Wrap-Up

The calendar in Outlook 2011 is often overlooked on the Mac, as most users utilize the built-in iCal app. While useful, if you spend most of your day inside of Outlook, it only makes sense to use as many built-in features as possible with Outlook to keep you more focused and productive.

Fast Facts

Here are some fast facts on calendars on the computer.

  • The first iCal – The first release of iCal for the Mac was all the way back on OSX 10.2 in 2002.
  • Changes – iCal is now known as Calendar as of OSX 10.8
  • WebDAV – WebDAV, or Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning, is an extension of the HTTP protocol and is used to store and edit calendars on web servers. It was first used in 1996.

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