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Setting E-mail Preferences

Outlook provides many settings for configuring e-mail, your default e-mail format and editor, and your e-mail options. Most of these settings are available when you select Tools, Options, click on the Preferences tab, and then select E-mail Options. Some other e-mail–related settings are located on the Mail Setup, Mail Format, Spelling, and Other tabs. You learned about the settings in the Mail Setup tab in Chapter 2.

The E-mail Options Dialog

In the top section of the E-mail Options dialog, shown in Figure 3.14, you set message handling options. In the bottom section, you set the appearance of e-mails you reply to or forward. Two buttons in this dialog, Advanced E-mail Options and Tracking Options, open additional dialogs.

Message Handling Options

The top section of the E-mail Options dialog is the Message handling options section. These options control how messages are handled when you move or delete, read, send, reply, or forward e-mails.

For the After moving or deleting an open item setting, you can choose the following:

  • Open the previous item in the folder. This is the default setting.

  • Open the next item in the folder.

  • Return to the Inbox.

Figure 3.14Figure 3.14 In the E-mail Options dialog, you set most of the e-mail handling and sending appearance options.

The Close original message on reply or forward setting selects whether to close an open e-mail after you reply to it or forward it.

If Save copies of messages in Sent Items folder is checked, copies of all messages you send are saved in the Sent Items folder. This setting interacts with the In folders other than the Inbox, save replies with original message setting in the Advanced E-mail Options dialog. Table 3.3 shows how these two settings interact.


The name and description of the After moving or deleting an open item setting are deceptive; the setting also applies when you move or delete e-mail items that aren't open but are visible in an e-mail folder. After you delete the e-mail item, the selected item in the folder view will be either the previous or next item in the folder, depending on this setting. If you select return to the Inbox, the next item in the folder will be highlighted when you move or delete an e-mail item in a folder view.

Table 3.3 Interaction of Save Copies Setting with Save Replies Setting



Save copies checked, save replies checked

Original messages, replies to items in Inbox saved to Sent Items. Replies to items in other folders saved in the original folder.

Save copies checked, save replies not checked

Original messages, replies from any folder saved in Sent Items.

Save copies not checked

Original messages, replies from any folder not saved at all.

If Automatically save unsent messages is checked, messages that haven't been saved or sent are automatically saved to the Drafts folder or another folder selected in the Advanced E-mail Options dialog. The autosave frequency is set in the Advanced E-mail Options dialog.

The Remove extra line breaks in plain text messages setting is used to condense Plain Text messages by removing extra blank spaces between lines of the messages. Extra line breaks are not shown but are not actually removed from the message. If extra line breaks are removed from an e-mail, the InfoBar for the e-mail notes the removal. To show the e-mail with the extra line breaks, click on the InfoBar and select Restore line breaks.

The Read all standard mail in plain text setting displays e-mails in Plain Text format. This option removes formatting and inline pictures from the display of HTML and Rich Text messages. The formatting is still there in the messages; it just isn't shown. If you remove this setting, the messages will be displayed with their original formatting. This option is used mostly to prevent active content such as links to Web sites in messages that might carry viruses from executing the active content.

The Read all digitally signed mail in plain text setting is enabled only if the setting to read all standard e-mail in plain text is checked. This setting is similar to the one for standard e-mails but applies to secure digitally signed e-mails only. The reason for a separate setting is that, because signed e-mails carry traceability to the originator and can be checked for forgery and tampering, they are less likely to be carrying a virus than unsigned e-mails. You will learn more details about digitally signed and secure e-mails in Chapter 18, "Secure E-mail."

On Replies and Forwards Options

When you reply to or forward a message, you can select whether to include the original message text in your reply or forward, and you can choose how the original text is inserted in the reply or forward. The following settings can be used for replies and/or forwards:

  • Attach original message—This setting includes the original message as an attachment to the reply or forward. This is similar to the way forwards received from AOL (America Online) users appear.

  • Include original message text—This setting places the original message below the text for the reply or forward. Include and indent original message text is similar, but the original text is indented from the left margin of the reply or forward. Both settings place a separator line between the original text and the reply or forward text, and also list the sender, the date/time the original message was sent, and the person to whom it was sent below the separator line.

  • Prefix each line of original message—This setting includes the original message below a separator line with the sending information the same as in the previous settings, but it also places a prefix character at the beginning of each line of the original message.

You use the Mark my comments with setting when you use Word as the e-mail editor, and you enter comments mixed into the original text of a message that is replied to or forwarded. The text entered is placed between brackets and serves to identify comments that are interspersed with the original text.

Click OK to save the E-mail Options settings.

Advanced E-mail Options

Select Advanced E-mail Options to open the Advanced E-mail Options dialog, as shown in Figure 3.15.

Figure 3.15Figure 3.15 The Advanced E-mail Options dialog has additional, advanced e-mail settings.

The settings in the Advanced E-mail Options dialog are broken into groups for message-saving settings, actions to take when new e-mail messages are delivered to the Inbox, and settings used when sending messages. The first group of settings is for saving messages.

Save Message Settings

The Save unsent messages in setting enables you to choose to save unsent messages in the Drafts, Inbox, Outbox, or Sent Items folder. The default is to save unsent messages in the Drafts folder.

The AutoSave unsent every setting enables you to set how often to save unsent messages. The default setting is to save unsent messages every 3 minutes.

The effects of the In folders other than the Inbox, save replies with original message setting, combined with the Save copies of messages in Sent Items folder setting on the E-mail Options tab, are shown in Table 3.3.

The Save forwarded messages setting also works with the Save copies of messages in Sent Items folder setting on the E-mail Options tab. If both settings are checked, forwarded messages are saved in the Sent Items folder.

The next group of settings is for actions to take when new e-mail messages are delivered to your Inbox.

Actions Taken on Arrival of New Messages

The Play a sound setting in the Advanced E-mail Options dialog plays the Windows New Mail Notification sound when new e-mails arrive in the Inbox. The new mail sound doesn't play every time a new e-mail arrives; it plays at intervals of approximately 5 minutes. If new mail arrives more often than at 5-minute intervals, the new mail sound may not play for each new mail arrival.

To change the sound used for the New Mail Notification sound, follow these steps:

  1. Select Start, Control Panel and then Sounds, Speech, and Audio Devices. If Control Panel is not shown in the Start menu, open the Control Panel by selecting Start, My Computer, and from the Address drop-down, select Control Panel.

  2. Select Sounds and Audio Devices; then in the Sounds and Audio Devices Properties dialog, select the Sounds tab.

  3. Scroll the sounds listed under Program events until New Mail Notification is selected, as shown in Figure 3.16.

  4. Select the sound you want played in the Sounds drop-down, or if the desired sound isn't shown in the Sounds drop-down, select Browse and navigate to the sound you want to use and click OK. The sound must be in a .WAV file. Click OK to save the selection for the new mail sound.

The Briefly change the mouse cursor setting in the Advanced E-mail Options dialog displays a visual signal that a new e-mail has arrived in the Inbox. If you have a relatively fast computer, you may not see the cursor change; it happens too fast to notice.

The Show an envelope icon in the notification area setting shows an envelope signaling a new e-mail has arrived in the Inbox. The envelope icon is displayed until an e-mail is marked as read, is replied to, forwarded, or deleted. Figure 3.17 shows the envelope icon signaling new mail has arrived.

Figure 3.16Figure 3.16 The default sound played when new e-mails arrive is Windows XP Notify.wav.

Figure 3.17Figure 3.17 The envelope icon is shown in the notification area when new e-mails arrive in the Inbox, as is a Desktop Alert.

The Display a New Mail Desktop Alert setting shows an alert message when a new e-mail arrives; this alert shows the subject of the message and part of its text. Desktop Alerts are shown only when e-mail arrives as a result of a scheduled e-mail send/receive. E-mails that arrive after you manually send/receive do not trigger a Desktop Alert. Select the X in the alert to close it. Select the down arrow in the alert to open the incoming e-mail. A Desktop Alert for an incoming e-mail message is shown in Figure 3.17.

Select Desktop Alert Settings to open the Desktop Alert Settings dialog, shown in Figure 3.18, to change the configuration of Desktop Alerts.

You can set the length of time a Desktop Alert is displayed, its degree of transparency, and whether it should be hidden behind applications running in full-screen mode in the Desktop Alert Settings dialog. Experiment with the settings and select Preview to see how your settings appear. When you are satisfied with the Desktop Alert settings, click OK to save them.

The final group of settings in the Advanced E-mail Options dialog control settings used when sending e-mails. These settings are the defaults used for all e-mails, although you can change many of these settings in an e-mail before you send it.

Figure 3.18Figure 3.18 The Desktop Alert Settings dialog enables you to configure how the alert appears and how long it is displayed.

Send Message Settings

The Set importance setting in the bottom section of the Advanced E-mail dialog enables you to set the default importance of e-mails to Low, Normal, or High. The Set sensitivity setting enables you to set the default sensitivity of e-mails to Normal, Personal, Private, or Confidential. You will learn about e-mail importance and sensitivity in Chapter 4.

The Messages expire after setting enables you to set how long sent messages exist before they expire. Expired messages are shown as crossed out but otherwise remain available.

The Allow comma as address separator setting enables you to use a comma as well as a semicolon as a separator when you enter e-mail addresses in the To, Cc, or Bcc fields of an e-mail. The default is that only semicolons are acceptable as separators for e-mail addresses.

The Automatic name checking setting enables you to make sure an e-mail address is entered in an acceptable format. Automatic name checking is performed after you tab out of the e-mail address fields. This feature also checks names entered in e-mail address fields to verify they match a name that has an e-mail address in your contacts. Automatic name checking doesn't check for the validity of an e-mail address, only that it is formatted correctly. If you enter an e-mail address that does not exist but is in the correct format, it will pass automatic name checking. Names and e-mail addresses that pass automatic name checking are underlined.

The Delete meeting requests from Inbox when responding setting determines whether meeting requests you respond to are deleted or remain in the Inbox. You will learn more about meetings and meeting requests in Chapter 7.

The Suggest names when completing To, Cc, and Bcc fields setting presents suggestions for completing names after you start typing in the e-mail address fields. This Outlook feature is called autocompletion. You can do the following:

  • To accept a suggestion, press Tab or Enter when the highlighted suggestion is correct.

  • To accept alternate suggestions, use the arrow keys to highlight the suggestion you want to use.

  • To use none of the suggestions, continue typing to complete the name you want to enter.

The Add properties to attachments to enable Reply with Changes setting enables you to add tracking information to Office documents sent as attachments to e-mails. When the attachments are edited by the e-mail recipient and sent back using Reply with Changes, the changes are tracked in the attached document.

Click OK to save your advanced e-mail settings.


Autocompletion suggestions are made based on a most recently used (MRU) basis. If you type the letter m and you recently sent an e-mail to your friend Mark, his e-mail addresses will be at the top of the suggestion list.

Tracking Options

Select Tracking Options to open the Tracking Options dialog, as shown in Figure 3.19.

Figure 3.19Figure 3.19 The Tracking Options dialog enables you to configure options for read and delivery receipts and for meeting requests.

When Outlook receives meeting and other requests, the requests can be processed automatically during free time when Outlook isn't doing anything else, or they can be processed only when you open the items. The same is true for requests for read and delivery receipts. Delivery receipts are similar to certified mail that you must sign for when it is delivered by the postman, and read receipts are similar but are generated when you read an e-mail.

After a receipt is processed, you can have it automatically deleted or moved to a folder. Check After processing, move receipts to and then select Browse to open the Select Folder dialog. Select a folder to move receipts to and then click OK.

The next setting, Delete blank voting and meeting responses after processing, determines whether voting and meeting responses are deleted if you don't enter a reply message in the response.

The For all messages I send, request setting enables you to request read and/or delivery receipts for all e-mails you send. The use of receipt requests is generally encouraged only for important items, and some e-mail clients don't support sending delivery or read receipts. Consequently, even if you request receipts, they may not be returned to you. Some e-mail clients also enable you to prevent receipts from being sent. If a recipient using one of those e-mail clients doesn't want a receipt to be sent out, it won't be.

The final setting in the Tracking Options dialog controls whether you return receipts requested over Internet e-mail. You can select to always send back a receipt, never send one, or decide each time a receipt is requested whether you want to send it back.

Click OK to save the tracking settings.


The first two settings in the Tracking Options dialog control whether requests and receipts are processed automatically or only when the items are opened.

Junk E-mail Options

Select Tools, Options, click on the Preferences tab, and then select Junk E-mail to open the Junk E-mail Options dialog, shown in Figure 3.20. The Junk E-mail Options dialog has four tabs: Options, Safe Senders, Safe Recipients, and Blocked Senders. You will learn about using the Safe Senders, Safe Recipients, and Blocked Senders tabs in Chapter 4.

Figure 3.20Figure 3.20 The Junk E-mail Options dialog enables you to configure how the junk e-mail filter works.

The Options tab enables you to select the degree of Junk E-mail filtering you want Outlook to use. You can choose from the following settings:

  • No automatic filtering—This setting completely turns off the junk e-mail filtering.

  • Low—This setting moves obvious junk e-mail into the Junk E-mail folder. Microsoft estimates that this setting catches between 50% and 70% of all junk e-mails.

  • High—This setting is a more restrictive filter. Microsoft estimates that it catches 90% or more of all junk e-mail and moves it to the Junk E-mail folder.

  • Safe lists only—This setting moves all e-mails except those from people or domains listed in your safe senders list to the Junk E-mail folder. You can select to trust anyone in your contacts in the safe senders list, but this setting is the most restrictive and will probably filter a significant number of nonjunk e-mails into the Junk E-mail folder.

The checkbox for deleting suspected junk e-mail doesn't permit you a second chance to decide that an e-mail isn't junk, so check this setting only if you haven't had e-mail you want to keep filtered into the Junk E-mail folder for a while.

Click OK or Apply to save the junk e-mail settings.


Even if you haven't had false positives filtered into the Junk E-mail folder in a long time, the last setting on the Options tab can cause deletion of e-mails you wanted to keep, so be very careful before you enable it.

Mail Format Tab Settings

Select Tools, Options and then click on the Mail Format tab to display the tab shown in Figure 3.21; it contains options for setting your default e-mail format, e-mail editor, Internet format, and international options. You will learn about the remaining tab settings for stationery, fonts, and signatures in Chapter 4.

Figure 3.21Figure 3.21 The Mail Format tab enables you to set your default e-mail format and editor.

On this tab, you can do the following:

  • Select your default e-mail message format from the message format drop-down. Your choices are HTML, Rich Text, or Plain Text.

  • Check the Use Microsoft Office Word 2003 to edit e-mail messages checkbox to enable Word as your editor for all new e-mail messages. This setting also applies to messages you reply to or forward.

  • Check the Use Microsoft Office Word 2003 to read Rich Text e-mail messages checkbox to enable Word as your editor when you open Rich Text format messages.

  • Select Internet Format to open the Internet Format dialog, as shown in Figure 3.22. This dialog has settings for sending copies of pictures over the Internet instead of sending links to the pictures, converting Outlook Rich Text messages to HTML format when sending the messages over the Internet, and using line wrapping for Plain Text messages and encoding attachments in Plain Text messages. Generally, you should leave these settings at their defaults. You can restore the defaults by clicking Restore Defaults. To save any changes in this dialog, click OK.

  • Select International Options to open the International Options dialog, shown in Figure 3.23. You should generally leave these settings at their defaults.

Figure 3.22Figure 3.22 The Internet Format dialog enables you to control how messages sent over the Internet are sent out.

Figure 3.23Figure 3.23 The International Options dialog controls how messages are encoded when using languages other than English.


Usually, you should not change the settings for international e-mail options. Changes in these settings can make your e-mails unreadable in English.

Spelling Options

Select Tools, Options and then click on the Spelling tab to display the tab shown in Figure 3.24; this tab contains options for spell checking in e-mails. The settings are similar to those used for setting spell checking options in Microsoft Word and won't be covered in any detail in this book. The spelling options are somewhat misleading because, except for the Always check spelling before sending and Ignore original message text in reply or forward settings, these settings apply only when the Outlook editor is used for e-mail, not when Word is used as the e-mail editor.

The custom dictionary supplements the standard dictionary and enables you to add words that otherwise would be flagged as misspelled. Select Edit to open the Custom.dic file in Notepad to add, remove, or edit words in your custom dictionary. This custom dictionary is shared with Word. When you select Edit, you see a dialog saying that changes may not be reflected in open messages. Click OK to close this dialog and check Please do not show me this dialog again to never display the dialog when you edit your custom dictionary. When you are finished editing the custom dictionary, select File, Save to save your changes and File, Exit to close the editor and return to Outlook.

Figure 3.24Figure 3.24 Spelling settings control spell checking when you send e-mail.

You can select the primary dictionary used for spell checking by selecting your preferred language from the Language drop-down in the Spelling tab.

Click OK or Apply to save the spelling settings.

E-mail Options on the Other Tab

Some additional e-mail or e-mail related settings are located in the Other tab of the Tools, Options dialog.

Reading Pane Options

Select Tools, Options, click on the Other tab, and select Reading Pane to open the dialog shown in Figure 3.25. In this dialog, you can set how the Reading Pane works.

Figure 3.25Figure 3.25 The Reading Pane enables you to read messages without opening them and can automatically mark messages as read.

When an e-mail is selected in the Reading Pane, it can be marked as having been read after a certain amount of time has passed and/or when you select a different item in the Reading Pane. To mark items as read after a time interval, check the first checkbox in the Reading Pane dialog and enter a time to wait before marking the message as read.

If you select a different item before the time interval has expired, and you haven't checked the second checkbox for marking items as read when the selection changes, the e-mail will not be marked as having been read.

If the Single key reading using space bar checkbox is checked, you can move from one message in the Reading Pane to another message by pressing the spacebar. The setting for moving or deleting an open item in the E-mail Options dialog controls whether the next or previous message becomes selected after you press the spacebar.

Click OK to save your Reading Pane settings.

Person Names Options

Select Tools, Options, click on the Other tab, and use the Person Names settings at the bottom of the tab to control whether a Person Names Smart Tag is enabled when you use Word as the Outlook editor. The Person Names Smart Tag recognizes a name in an address field of an e-mail and provides a context menu for that person.

The Display Messenger Status in the From field checkbox controls whether a sender's Instant Messaging status is displayed in the From field of an open e-mail. Messenger status can be displayed for Windows Messenger.

Click OK or Apply to save the Person Names settings.

E-mail Options in the Advanced Options Dialog

Select Tools, Options, click on the Other tab, and then select Advanced Options to display the remaining e-mail settings.

Check When selecting text, automatically select entire word to enable this option. This setting is enabled only when you are using Word as the e-mail editor.

Paste Options buttons are Smart Tags that are similar to the Paste Special button in Word; they enable easy text layout and formatting options. This option applies only when you are using Word as the Outlook editor.

Click OK to save these settings.


The feedback with sound option requires installation of the Office Sounds add-in, which you can download from the Office Update Web site.

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