Outlook’s advanced options are often ignored, but for the wrong reason: most users don’t know they exist. These advanced options give you a lot of control over the way you work in Outlook. Knowing that you can set these options as you see fit is key. In this article, we’ll discuss these advanced options. Once you know them, you can decide for yourself which settings best suit the way you use Outlook.
SEE: Software Installation Policy (TechRepublic)
I use Microsoft 365 on a Windows 10 64-bit system. The version you use determines which advanced options you have; unless you’re using Microsoft 365, you probably don’t have all the options discussed in this article. There is no demonstration file; you don’t need one.
Where are the advanced options in Outlook?
Outlook’s more advanced options are easy to find and customize: you’ll find them in the Backstage area under Options. Keep in mind that Outlook tries to meet the work needs of most users by default, so you probably don’t need to change all of these options. Knowing they are there and how to set them up for your work needs is key.
Now open those advanced options by clicking the File tab and choosing Options from the left pane in the Backstage area and then click Advanced in the resulting dialog to display the Outlook options shown in Image A† If you’ve disabled the Backstage, don’t worry: the items in the left pane are still there.
Now that you know where these options are, let’s take a look at them.
Using Outlook Windows
The Outlook Windows option allows you to reset the navigation and reading panes to their default positions, and then some. Most of these options, shown in Figure B, obvious. These options let you control how many links Outlook displays in the navigation pane. The Up and Down options let you control which Outlook window icons appear in the navigation pane. If you don’t like the changes, you can always click Reset to return to the out-of-the-box look.
You may notice that the Compact Navigation option is dimmed Figure B† That’s because I’ve enabled Coming Soon events. If you see the same thing and want to enable Compact Navigation, uncheck the Coming Soon option on the far right of the ribbon.
The reading pane options determine how Outlook handles email in your folders. They all speak for themselves, but let’s take a look at one of the settings that most users don’t know exist, but often ask for.
Change how to start and close Outlook?
When you open Outlook, would you like to bypass your Inbox and go straight to the Calendar window? It’s just a few clicks, but if you check your calendar before checking your email, this option will take you straight to your calendar.
Click the Browse button. The default choice is your Inbox. Change that to Calendar, as shown in Figure Cand click OK. Close and reopen Outlook, and it will open in the selected folder. You can select another folder; I chose Calendar because it is probably the most used window, other than the Mail window.
With this option, you cannot open Outlook in an account other than your default account. You can also check the option Empty deleted items folders when exiting Outlook. If you’ll be using your Deleted folder as storage for a while, you won’t want to check this option. Checking that option, however, is a great way to relieve yourself of remembering to clean that folder every now and then. Now let’s look at a misunderstood function.
How to use AutoArchive in Outlook
In my experience, this feature seems to be the most misunderstood of the advanced options. Leaving all your old messages and conversations in the Inbox or even other folders puts you at risk of poor performance. When an email reaches a certain age, this feature can kick in and move it from your hot folder to another one stored on your local system.
As you can see in Figure D, this feature is disabled on this local system. This choice is fine for users who don’t feel the need to keep up with old conversation threads. In fact, I think the average user probably doesn’t need this feature, but some do and then leave it disabled because they don’t understand: “Don’t use AutoArchive or you’ll never find your stuff again!”
The truth is that this feature is easy to use if you just learn how it works. The options allow you to do the following:
- Determine how often the function is executed.
- Notify yourself in advance so you can cancel a run.
- Determine whether older items are deleted or archived.
- Control how often older items are moved and deleted.
- Allows you to set a default folder for storing archived items.
This feature gives you all the power and decision making. Put them to work for you. We could cover dozens of scenarios, but you just need to know that these options exist to make the most of them.
How to Use Link Handling in Outlook
This option is checked by default and I recommend that you leave it that way. When enabled, this option allows you to click links on the web and open the appropriate web app. Clicking a link in a desktop document will launch the appropriate desktop app. I wouldn’t change this default unless you have a specific reason to do so.
Using reminders in Outlook
Most users are familiar with reminders and use them to their advantage. However, you can change the default settings:
- To display memories.
- To choose the sound that the memories use.
- To show reminders at the top of all windows; I recommend checking this option if you already rely on reminders.
- Shut Down Reminders Afterwards: There’s little reason to keep ignoring reminders once an event is over.
Allow using the pen in Outlook
This option is so simple that it doesn’t really require its own section, but if you have a system that supports the pen and you want to annotate on emails, check this option.
SEE: Office 365: A Guide for Tech and Business Leaders (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)
How to export in Outlook
Again, this option needs no explanation other than stating that it exists. Just click Export and follow the yellow brick road – I mean the Export Wizard. Use this option to export messages, calendar appointments, tasks, and contacts to Outlook on another computer or create a backup PST file.
Use an RSS feed in Outlook
This is a bit of an archaic option and I’m not sure why Outlook keeps it on board. In a nutshell, websites that supported this protocol. When a site has updated information, you have received an RSS feed notification. For those sites that still offer this service, Outlook still supports the inbound notification. I don’t know anyone who uses this service yet.
How to change the send and receive options in Outlook
Outlook’s sending and receiving options, displayed in Figure E, you can control when and whether e-mail messages are downloaded and sent. As with many of these options, these usually speak for themselves. Many users never change the default options, causing messages to come in and out all the time. I don’t work well this way, so I modified these options to suit me. I find the default configuration distracting, so now I have control over when email goes out and comes in.
As you can see, none of these options are enabled. When I’m ready to send and download, I click the Send & Receive tab and choose the account I want to communicate with at the time. You may be able to choose differently, but the point is, you have the option!
How to use the Developer option in Outlook
You know this option and whether you use it or not. It really deserves its own article. However, if you’re creating custom forms, you’ll want to learn about these advanced options that allow you to publish and otherwise manage custom Outlook forms.
Showing plug-in user interface errors is another unique option. When enabled, you will see errors generated by add-ins. That’s how you know something went wrong. By default, Outlook prohibits these errors.
When to use international options in Outlook?
If you are conversing with others in a global format, these options are important to you. For the rest of us, these options aren’t important. These options are so unique to the user that it is difficult to discuss with a wide audience. Most likely, the user doesn’t choose options, but an administrator sets them for users.
Other options in Outlook
This is the various group of options. As you can see in Figure F, they are self-explanatory, but with so many of these advanced options, they depend on the user’s situation. The Quick Click options allow you to set a default category, which may or may not be enabled. Most of these options will likely be set up for you by an administrator, but if you’re on your own, the default settings will probably suffice.
Outlook’s advanced options allow you to arrange many things so that you can work more efficiently.