Spring cleaning: Mailbox clean up with AutoArchive

We have been using email for decades now. A lot of things have changed. But one thing has not – most of us don’t have the discipline of managing the mailbox in an optimal way.

I am not asking you to do a spring cleaning of your mails. I am showing you immediate actions you can take to make your mailbox management (and communications) more efficient.

Run AutoArchive NOW

Do you remember this dialog popping up randomly when you are busy? Nobody in the world has chosen YES here Sad smile

clean inbox with Outlook AutoArchive

Many of us got irritated and chose the option Don’t prompt me about this again!

There goes your chance of keeping the mailbox clean and light.

The idea is simple. AutoArchive does many things which are good for you. So just run it periodically. You have not run it before? Then run it now.

I am assuming Outlook 2010 or above.

Choose File – Cleanup Tools – Mailbox Cleanup

Mailbox Cleanup

Now a bigger dialog appears… You can explore other things later. Just click on the AutoArchive button.

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And let it do its job. It may take a long time. Status is shown on the status bar.

What does AutoArchive do?

To know what it does and to tweak the settings, go to File – Options – Advanced – AutoArchive options…

Look at the options and tweak them as required. Basically, it moves old items and puts them in a new PST file – ARCHIVE.PST.

Make sure you click the Apply these settings to all folders now option.

Later you can right click on a specific folder – go to properties and customize the settings if required.

AutoArchive settings

What is deleted?

Only deleted items which are older than the cleanup limit (default 6 months) are deleted. Everything else is moved to the archive PST file. No mails or calendar items are deleted. Contacts folder is never archived – that means all your contacts are always available in the main mailbox.

Finding archived items

You don’t have to do anything special for this. Outlook search indexes the Archive PST files as well. So these are available for navigation as well as regular search.

If the archive file is big, indexing may require some time to finish the job. It is a good idea to check the indexing status and if many items are pending.

To check the indexing status, go to Inbox – click inside the search box – on the search Ribbon, choose Search Tools – Indexing Status.

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The dialog below shows the pending number of items.

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Ideally there should be zero or very few items to be indexed. If a large number of items are shown here, leave the machine on overnight and check in the morning again. That should give enough time for indexing to finish the backlog.

Remember: Archive is not available online

The pst file is created on the PC on which you run the AutoArchive. Therefore, items which have been moved to the archive folder will NOT be available to you when you are working on a mobile phone or any other mailbox only device.

Finally – One Best Practice

Best Practice: Whenever you finish handling a mail, it should not remain in the Inbox.

Delete it. Or if you want to keep it, keep it in a PST folder. Not in the main mailbox. If you follow this simple rule, you will never face a problem of mailbox filling up every now and then.

By the way, Office 365 subscription gives you a mailbox that is 50 GB in size… did you know that?

Outlook: How to delete all old appointments in Calendar

Calendar view shows only Day, Week, Work Week and Month views. You can only select all appoints within a month. Even in the month view, CTRL A does NOT select all appointments.

In short, any bulk operation you want to do for appointments is a pain.

Solution is simple. Just change the view in Outlook.

Outlook delete all old appointments

Now all the appointments and meetings are shows as a simple list – like Inbox or Tasks..

Now you can sort, filter, multi-select any number of items and perform any operation you like – for example, Delete 0ld appointments or archive to another folder or PST.

AutoArchive does this automatically

Most of us don’t want old appointments to waste space in the mailbox – because the space is limited. The smartest way to clean this up is to run AutoArchive. We will cover this in the next article.

How to share calendar with external parties?

Often we need to arrange a meeting with some external party. Both are busy people. How do you share your free time with the other person?

Within the company, if you are using Exchange and Outlook, you can see each other’s Free / Busy time. But for external parties, this facility is not available.

Trying to make a list of free slots in next few weeks manually is obviously a lengthy process…

That is why there is an elegant way available to share calendar with someone outside your organization in just few clicks…

  1. Go to the Calendar… let us say it looks like this for next two weeks.image
  2. Now right click on the calendar and choose Share – Email CalendarOutlook share calendar with external parties
  3. Choose the duration and level of detail you want to show. Usually there is no point in showing more than couple of weeks because the schedule is bound to change.image
  4. Click OK. Now a new email message is created with a calendar showing free and busy dates. Ctrl Click on each date to see the availability.
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  5. Clicking on the hyperlink jumps to the details for that day.image
  6. This way the other party can find mutually convenient time without trial and error!

Key Learning: Right Click > Read Each Option >Learn!

Use Thesaurus for better communication – Shift F7

thesaurus shortcut Shift F7

This keyboard shortcut opens the thesaurus in Office products (including Outlook).

So what is the big deal?

Well… many of us know that the thesaurus exists. But we rarely use it.

Start using it more frequently.

Scenarios where thesaurus should be used

  1. Stinker Mails: Replying to mails where some kind of fight is happening or you are really angry with someone and writing a stinker … Press F7… choose the right words carefully. See the difference it makes.
  2. Writing copy for mailers, brochures, etc. Using the right word matters because this is going to be seen by thousands of people.
  3. Presentation titles: These are seen first. The space available is less. If the title is not relevant and powerful, audience will not read the rest of the content. Therefore, use F7.
  4. Resume: This is probably the most important document in our lives. So pay attention to it.

Warning: Don’t use big words. Use the right words!

There is a danger of using the Thesaurus. We tend to choose heavy, sophisticated, complex words instead of using simpler words. That is NOT the purpose of using a thesaurus.

The idea is to use the most suitable and impactful word in a given context.

If you are not sure about the usage, you can click on the word to get more details…

thesaurus in Office

Remember to hear pronunciations as well

Many of us pronounce common words in a wrong manner. In most cases, people around us either don’t realize it, don’t care or are too junior to tell you about your mistake. So that reduces the clarity of verbal communication – especially if you need present to a large group of audience on a frequent basis.

In any case, it is a good idea to hear the pronunciation and correct yourself if you notice a problem.

Did you know Right Drag Drop works?

This article assumes that you are a right handed person, if you are a left handed person, you have to use the other mouse button (secondary mouse button).

Drag and drop performs most popular action

When you drag and drop items, the most commonly expected logical action happens. For example, when you drag a file from one folder and drop it into another folder, it is moved.

That is called the DEFAULT ACTION.

Another example is… when you drag a number from the corner of the cell, it automatically adds further numbers.

This is a good thing in most cases. But if you don’t like the default or standard action, then you have a problem. To solve this issue, there is RIGHT DRAG DROP.

Press the RIGHT mouse button while dragging

That is called Right Drag (Drop). So what is the big deal? What benefits do you get?

right drag drop

Right Drag Drop shows you all the actions available

Here is what happens if you right drag drop a file… The item in bold tells you what is the default action.

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Right drag a number in Excel

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Right drag a shape in PowerPoint

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Right drag a mail from Inbox and drop it into Task folder

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The list is endless…

Simple rule: Try right drag drop and learn more Smile

How to show Bottom Up approach in PowerPoint

Example

Suppose you are talking about global warming – and want to show that action can be taken at various levels – starting from the lowest level – each individual.

Here are the bullets you have added…

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You want to talk about each item one by one. Therefore you added animation.

Select the text box – Animation – Add Animation – Appear.

Now when you run the slide, each click will expose one bullet at a time. This is good because you get time to explain each level. Therefore the audience cannot read ahead of what you are speaking.

There is only one problem. You want to show the approach BOTTOM UP… but the animation is going TOP DOWN Sad smile

Solution : Animation Pane (it eliminates the pain!)

Click on Animation tab – Animation pane. A window (pane) appears on the right side.

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Currently it shows only one entry but actually it has many entries which are collapsed to reduce clutter. The double down arrow can be expanded to show the animation for each bullet.

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The animation is simple – each item is triggered by a mouse click. The problem is the order.

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Can it be reordered? Of course… you can simply drag drop the animation sequence to reorder it. But wait… just because it works does not mean it is the best way.

In fact it is the worst way – why? Because repetition is inefficient!

Open the dropdown at the end of the animation entry and choose Effect Options…

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Notice that there is a nice tab for text animation.

Imagine, Microsoft thought of your needs 20 years back and provided that “in reverse order” checkbox, which displays your bottom up approach very nicely.

Show bottom up approach in powerpoint

You had a problem all along – the solution was with you all along.

But you never found it Sad smile

Moral of the story?
All that you need is already there.
Just look for it!

Create Interactive Presentation with Custom Shows and Hyperlink

When do you need this?

If you have a presentation which covers multiple topics and you want to have the interactivity to move from a main menu page to any topic, this article is for you.

We will use this presentation as an example…

Use this presentation for practice. Download Presentation

Interactive Presentation with custom shows and hyperlinks

White colored slides are the base presentation. Second slide is sort of an agenda and menu slide. You ask the audience which topic they want and then click on the desired option.

Blue slides are for Word, green for Excel and pink for PowerPoint.

If you clicked on, say, Excel icon in second slide, then PowerPoint should show slides 6,7,8 and then COME BACK to slide 2.

Hyperlink is NOT the answer

Usually you will put hyperlink on the Excel icon to jump to slide 6. But you know the problem – it will just go to all slides after 6 and spill over to the PowerPoint slides. To avoid that we put another link on the 8th slide which gets you back to second slide.

Pathetic.

There is a better way – using Custom Shows. Please read the previous article to understand how to create custom shows.

The solution

Step 1 – Create custom shows for each topic

This is easy. Just create three custom shows called Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Step 2 – Insert hyperlink to the CUSTOM SHOW (not to a specific slide)

Now click on each icon – in this case Excel and choose Insert Hyperlink…

Insert Hyperlink in PowerPoint

Choose the CUSTOM SHOW in the hyperlink. The Show and return option is your best friend Smile … but you never noticed it till now. Ha ha… why? Because most of the times this option used to be inactive – why? because this option requires you to select a custom show. And you did not ever create a custom show… why ? Winking smile never mind.

Insert Hyperlink in PowerPoint

Now you can run the presentation in an interactive manner.

What if you want to return to the main menu slide while you were half way through the Excel custom show? Don’t worry… just press Escape. It will go to the base slide. Next escape will stop the slide show (as expected). So remember, if you are in custom show, escape takes you one level back.

Sections v/s Custom Show

Office 2010 onwards, you can add sections to presentation to segregate various topics. These are similar to Custom Shows but following things are different.

  1. Sections are linear. Custom shows can contain slides in any order
  2. Every slide must be in some section. Custom show can contain only a subset of slides
  3. Hyperlink can be used only with custom shows – not with sections

I will cover sections in another article later.