Outlook 2013, part of the latest version of Microsoft Office, has a spruced-up look and new features that will make your daily work life easier and help keep you organized. The mail and calendar program has been redesigned to help you find important information faster. Outlook 2013 now connects you to your contacts and social networks more directly, coordinates complicated schedules, and has enhanced features to keeps your task list manageable.
The new version of Office, including Outlook 2013, is available to eligible nonprofits, public libraries, and charities through TechSoup's Microsoft donation program. To learn more about the entire suite of new Office software, see Microsoft Office: What Your Organization Should Know.
Take Control of Your Inbox
Like all of the programs in the new Office, Outlook 2013 has a more minimalist user interface. Outlook now functions and looks similar to web mail programs (such as Gmail or Yahoo). For example, you can now reply to an email within the main window. (In previous versions, a separate window popped up for replies.) However, if you're used to working in previous versions of Outlook, you can still opt to pop out a separate window if you like.
Sometimes your inbox can feel like a never-ending list. Outlook alleviates this problem with some useful inbox management tools. You can now more quickly delete messages in your inbox. An "X" is displayed next to the "flag" icon so you can quickly sort through your important — and not so important — emails.
Outlook 2013 lets you view the first few lines of an email, quickly delete messages from your inbox, and view All or just Unread messages.
You can tweak your Outlook inbox so it shows up to three lines of email text (rather than just the first few words, as in Outlook 2010). Users with a high influx of messages will appreciate the ability to quickly scan through their inbox without having to actually open each email.
At the bottom of the Outlook window, you'll find a navigation bar with icons for the four main tools in Outlook: Mail, Calendar, People, and Tasks. You can jump to each of those tools by clicking them (as you would in Outlook 2010), but Microsoft has also added a smart-preview feature. If you're in the Mail window, you can hover over the Tasks menu with your mouse and see if you need to follow up on an important project. To see if you have any upcoming meetings, you can hover over the Calendar to see a preview of your upcoming appointments — without needing to actually switch out of the Mail window.
You can view what's coming up on your calendar while viewing your inbox (Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft).
Forgetting to include an attachment is a common email mishap. Outlook 2013 helps you avoid this easy-to-make mistake with "warnings" that pop up if you mention an attachment in the body of the email but don't actually include it.
Find Information Faster
Outlook 2013 is designed to help you locate important information quickly so you can get on with your daily tasks. The search box in Outlook now has a search location filter that lets you choose between searching the current folder, the current mailbox, all mailboxes, and so on. You can further refine your searches to show all mail or only unread mail via new buttons at the top of your inbox.
In Outlook 2013, you now have the ability to create a Search Folder, a virtual folder that provides a view of all email items that match specific search criteria. For example, you can make a Fundraising Search Folder, which pulls together all emails containing the keyword "fundraising." Even if these messages were originally saved in different folders, you can view all of them together in your customized Search Folder. If you move email from your inbox to folders as you receive them, you can still see all of your unread mail in one location by creating a Search folder for unread mail. For more information, read Microsoft's support article Create a Search Folder.
A feature called Meeting Notes lets you take notes in OneNote from an appointment in your Outlook calendar. Your page of notes will automatically include the date, time, location, and people involved in your meeting — right from your Outlook calendar.
The Weather Bar feature lets you see your area's current forecast right in Outlook. This is very useful if you're organizing events, such as an outdoor fundraiser, or simply planning out your day. You can see the Weather Bar in both the calendar and your inbox.
The Meeting Notes feature helps you record meetings, and the Weather Bar feature is useful for coordinating events.
Connect and Share
The People Card is a feature that was first introduced on Windows Phone and is now integrated into Outlook 2013. It automatically collects important details about contacts, such as their phone number, email address, company or organization info, and social media updates, in a single place. You can schedule meetings, send instant messages, or call a contact right from their card.
The People Card feature automatically pulls in information about a contact to a single place (Screenshot courtesy of Microsoft).
Introduced in Outlook 2010, Social Connector lets you integrate your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts with your inbox and see updates from your contacts. With the updated Social Connector, you don't need to install any additional plug-ins to integrate your social networks. It can also sync your Facebook email, Twitter direct messages, and LinkedIn requests and present them in one single inbox. If you are responsible for handling social media at your organization, this feature could save you an enormous amount of time.
Out of all the updated programs in the new Microsoft Office, Outlook 2013 has the most drastic design update. Even so, your staff should feel at ease with the changes, especially since Outlook borrows some design cues from popular web mail programs. The subtle tweaks throughout the program will help keep your organization efficient and organized.