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Email Management Features

Most of us receive a lot of email these days—it has become a favored way to communicate. That means you probably receive a lot of it and ultimately that means more work for you. Outlook 2003 makes managing your email easier than ever.

Improved AutoComplete

AutoComplete's not new to Outlook 2003, but it's better. The AutoComplete feature is a convenient tool that finishes your email address based on just a few characters. In earlier versions, you had to type enough characters for Outlook to find a unique entry. Now, Outlook 2003 displays a pop-up box that displays all entries that match the current characters, similar to the one in Figure 3.17. For instance, enter mi and the pop-up box displays all the names that begin with the letters mi. Using the arrow key, you can select the appropriate entry and press Enter—saving yourself several keystrokes and the possibility of typos.

Figure 3.17Figure 3.17 Select the appropriate email address from the list of available addresses in AutoComplete's new pop-up box.

Intuitive Arrangements

Several predefined view arrangements are new to Outlook 2003, which we discussed briefly in the "Intelligent Grouping" section, earlier in this chapter. One arrangement bears mentioning: The By Conversation arrangement presents a much more intuitively displayed group, with indented replies, as shown in Figure 3.18.

Figure 3.18Figure 3.18 Conversations are easier to follow in this arrangement.

Every thread has at least one message, but not all are shown. You can tell at a glance which conversations have read or unread messages. If all messages have been read, only the latest message is displayed. When there are unread messages, only those are displayed.

The small arrows to the left of the message title can be your best clue:

  • If the arrow points down, there are more messages than those displayed in that thread.

  • If there's no arrow, all messages are there.

  • An arrow that points up simply means the thread is expanded. Click it to collapse it.

Expert Advice

To arrange messages, select Arrange By from the View menu and then choose from the predefined options. Or, click the Arranged By button in the Messaging pane's title bar.

Dynamic Distribution Lists

A distribution list includes multiple addresses; you use such a list to send the same message to a number of people at the same time. Outlook 2003 lists are more flexible than they were in previous versions. Now you can remove members temporarily—for one message—without removing that member from the original list.

To temporarily remove a member from a distribution list, you create an email and specify the list in the To field as you normally would. Then, expand the distribution list by clicking the plus sign (+) to the left of the list, as shown in Figure 3.19. Click OK when Outlook warns you that you can't collapse the list again.

Figure 3.19Figure 3.19 Expand a distribution list in the email.

Outlook expands the list so you can see all the members, as shown in Figure 3.20. (Larger lists are displayed in a pop-up box.) Select the member you want to delete and then press Delete.

Figure 3.20Figure 3.20 Expand the list to show all the members.

Filtering Junk Email

Outlook 2003's junk mail filter is based on four levels of protection. To set a filter, select Options from the Tools menu and click the Junk Email option on the Preferences tab to display the filtering levels shown in Figure 3.21.

Figure 3.21Figure 3.21 Choose from the new junk email filtering levels.

Select the appropriate option for you:

  • No Automatic Filtering—No filtering for junk email.

  • Low—Moves the most obvious junk email to the Junk E-mail folder. Check it occasionally, but you probably won't find too many messages that don't belong there.

  • High—Catches most junk email but also tags some valid messages. In the latter case, add the sender to your Safe Senders list and the filter will let mail from that sender through.

  • Safe Lists Only—This is the most restrictive setting because it filters out everything that isn't explicitly allowed. The sender must be in your Contacts folder or in your Safe Senders list.

Information rights management (IRM) helps you deal with sensitive and confidential information that's shared via email. IRM gives the author control over her content by preventing an email from being forwarded, printed, copied, or distributed. Learn about IRM in Chapter 12, "What's New in Rights Management."

Multiple Signatures

Most of us have more than one persona. For instance, you probably don't sign mail to your spouse and your clients in exactly the same way. That's why the capability to specify different signatures for each account is a welcome improvement. Of course, that means you'll also have to use different accounts when conversing with different people, but many do just that.

To configure an account signature, select Options from the Tools menu and click the Mail Format tab. Choose an account from the Select Signatures for Account drop-down list. Identify the appropriate signature for both new messages as well as replies and forwards. For instance, Figure 3.22 points to the signature file for Susan Sales Harkins for new messages on Susan's email account. (Click the Signatures button to create a new signature.) It's that simple—wonder why it took them so long to add this feature.

Figure 3.22Figure 3.22 Set up signatures for multiple accounts.

Attachment Freedom—Sort of...

Big Brother is alive and well at Microsoft—but he's beginning to respond to customer demand. If you've used Outlook before, you know that it totally blocks dangerous attachments. There's nothing you or your administrator can do about it. You can't have those files.

That's good for Microsoft because that serious limitation makes Outlook more secure (from viruses). What's good for Microsoft isn't always good for you—do you really want Microsoft deciding what you can receive and can't receive?

Outlook 2003 offers a bit of a compromise—it's not the easy-to-use switch most of us would like, but it's better than nothing. Earlier versions of Outlook had one level of attachment security—everything dangerous was blocked, period. Outlook 2003 expands that to three levels of attachments:

  • Level 1—These files are completely blocked. You can't save, delete, open, print, or access these attachments.

  • Level 2—You must save these attachments before you can open them.

  • Level 3—Outlook allows you to open these attachments.

Outlook 2003 brands 52 file types as Level 1 offenders. For a complete list of types, search Help for "Attachment file types blocked by Outlook." The trick is to change Level 1 files to Level 2 by changing the Registry. To do so, close Outlook 2003 and then launch the Registry Editor by selecting Start from the Windows taskbar, selecting Run, typing regedit in the Open control, and then clicking OK.

Upgraders Beware

Before modifying the Registry, back it up in case something goes wrong. For more information on this subject, refer to Microsoft Knowledge Base article 256986, at http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=256986.

Expert Advice

You don't have to modify the Registry. There's an add-in available at http://www.slovaktech.com that modifies the Registry for you.

In the Registry, find the following key:

If this key doesn't exist, you must create it. To do so, locate this key:

If the key does exist, skip to the next list. To create the key, follow these steps:

  1. Select Edit, New, Key.

  2. Type Security and press Enter.

  3. Select the Security key.

To alter the key, do the following:

  1. Select Edit, New, String Value.

  2. Type Level1Remove as the value name, and press Enter (see Figure 3.23).

  3. Right-click the Level1Remove entry and then click Modify.

  4. Type the file type extensions that represent those files you want to move to Level 2, and click OK. Use a semicolon to separate multiple extensions, as shown in Figure 3.24.

  5. Figure 3.23Figure 3.23 Create a new key value named Level1Remove.

    Figure 3.24Figure 3.24 Separate multiple extensions with a semicolon.

  6. Close the Registry Editor.

  7. Reboot your computer. You'll still have to save the attachments before you can open them, but at least you can control what you are able to receive.

Rules Rule!

Most of the time, rules just mean interference, but Outlook 2003's new Rules and Alerts Wizard is the exception to the rule. Use this wizard to create rules that corral your incoming mail and notify you when incoming mail meets certain conditions.

In previous Outlook versions you used predefined rules in the Organize pane to help Outlook correctly deliver your mail as it arrived. The Rules and Alerts Wizard is a bit more complicated, but it's worth getting to know. To launch the wizard, select Rules and Alerts from the Tools menu.

The Rules and Alerts dialog box offers several options:

  • New Rule—Creates a new rule.

  • Change Rule—Modifies an existing rule.

  • Copy—Copies an existing rule so you can use it as the basis of a new rule.

  • Delete—Deletes an existing rule.

  • Up Arrow—Repositions a rule, moving it up one at a time.

  • Down Arrow—Repositions a rule, moving it down one at a time.

  • Run Rules Now—Runs a rule and subsequently moves, copies, or otherwise acts on the specified messages accordingly. This is a good way to move messages to a new folder you've just created.

  • Options—Imports and exports rules from a previous version of Outlook.

Not all rules and alerts run while Outlook is closed—even if you use Microsoft Exchange as your email server. That's because Outlook stores some rules and actions on the client side. Consequently, if a message arrives at the server but the associated rule or action is on the client, Outlook 2003 can't apply the rule or execute the action because it isn't open. The rule or action is acted on when you open Outlook 2003, but not until then. The following rules and actions are stored on the client side:

  • With specific words in recipient's address

  • With specific words in senders' address

  • Flagged for action

  • Assigned to a category

  • With specific words in the subject or message

  • Notify Me Using a Specific Message

  • Flag Message for Action

  • Flag Message with a Colored Flag

  • Start Application

  • Run a Script

  • Display a Specific Message in the New Item Alert Window

  • Display a Desktop Alert

  • Clear the Message Flag

  • Assign It to a Category

  • Play a Sound

  • Move It to the Specified Folder

  • Move a Copy to the Specified Folder

  • Reply Using a Specific Template

  • Perform a Custom Action

You can learn more about alerts in "Exchange Server 2003 and SharePoint Integration," later in this chapter.

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