Sunday, May 25, 2008

Shortcuts for Task and Appointment Creation in Outlook

If like me, you use Outlook's Tasks and Appointments to manage your time, here are a few easy-to-implement tips that will save you a lot of time.

These tips came about as a result of my laziness(as most shortcuts do) … I don't like having to switch to Outlook and then making the appropriate clicks to open the new Task or Appointment screen … there had to be a better way.

I wanted to either click a button on the Windows Quick Launch bar and/or use keyboard shortcuts that would work even when I wasn't in Outlook.

(For those who are not familiar with the Quick Launch bar … it is the set of icons that you have just beside the Windows Start button. If it is not displayed, right-click on the horizontal bar at the bottom of the screen, click Toolbars and tick Quick Launch.)

Shortcut to create a new Task/Appointment

  1. Right-click on any empty space on your desktop and click New-Shortcut.
  2. In the location box, click Browse and locate your Outlook.exe file. You will then need to add some switches to the end of it telling Windows that you want Outlook to open the new Task screen instead of just opening Outlook. On my computer the location field contains:

    "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE" /c ipm.task /a

  3. Click Next and type in a name for the shortcut. By default OUTLOOK.EXE is displayed. I changed mine to New Task.
  4. Click Finish.
  5. Now right-click over the newly created icon and click Properties.
  6. If you want to use keyboard shortcuts to open the application, click on the Shortcut Key field and press the combination of keys that you want to use (I use Ctrl-Shift-T)
  7. Click Change Icon and select the Task icon so that the icon is a bit more meaningful.
  8. Click OK (and OK again) to return to your desktop.
  9. Now right-click and drag and drop the new shortcut to your Quick-Launch bar. On my Vista computer I found that I had to leave of a copy of the shortcut on the desktop if I wanted the keyboard shortcuts to work i.e. I had to Copy the shortcut and not Move it off the desktop.
Now whenever I need to create a new Task, I either click on the New Task button on my Quick-Lauch bar or I press Ctrl-Shift-T.

You can use the same steps as above to create a new Appointment ... but change the location field to read:
"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE" /c ipm.appointment /a

But … I prefer to the following shortcut for appointments

Shortcut to open the Calendar folder
I need to see my existing appointments before I create a new appointment … here's a shortcut that opens Outlook with the Calendar displayed.

The steps to do this are identical to what is described above. The only difference is that the location field changes to:

"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE" /select outlook:calendar

You can have similar shortcuts to open your Tasks and Contacts folders but I find them less useful.
"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE" /select outlook:tasks
"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE" /select outlook:contacts

I hope that you find these tips useful. They may not seem like much but you will find that the time it saves you quickly adds up.

Please leave a comment on the blog if you have other ideas to make these tips even more effective.

Monday, May 5, 2008

(vCards) How to receive and send Business Cards in Outlook

In the physical (paper) world, printed business cards are a common way of sharing contact information. Do you know that Outlook also provides a very effective way of sending electronic business cards?

What is an electronic business card?

Electronic business cards are called vCards and are files with the extension vcf. vCards are now recognized by most email clients so you can use Outlook to send and receive vCards even if they do not use Outlook.

Outlook makes it easy to:

  1. Send vCards: Convert any contact record to a vCard file (and then send the file)
  2. Receive vCards: Convert a received vCard into a contact in your Outlook
Create your own Business Card (vCard)

vCards in Outlook are made from contact records. To make your vCard you first need to create an Outlook contact with your own details in it.
  1. Click File-New-Contact to open a new contact record (or create a new contact record using any other method).
  2. Enter any details about yourself that you want to share with others.
  3. Click Save & Close.
Your contact record is now ready to be used as an electronic business card.

Send your vCard with all your emails

The easiest way to send your vCard to others is to add it to your signature so that it gets attached automatically to emails.

The following steps explain how to create a new signature with a vCard. The steps to add a vCard to an existing email are very similar.

If you are using Outlook 2007:
  1. Go to Inbox
  2. Tools menu > Options
  3. On the Options screen > click on Mail Format tab
  4. Click on the Signatures button
  5. On the E-mail Signature tab and click New.
  6. Give a name to your new signature, click OK
  7. In the Edit Signature section, click on Business Card button to browse for the contact that you want to be inserted as your Business Card.
  8. Click on Save to save your newly created signature.
  9. Assign this signature to the Email account you want and click OK
If you are using Outlook 2003:
  1. Go to Inbox
  2. Tools menu > Options
  3. On the Options screen > click on Mail Format tab
  4. Click on Signatures button
  5. Click on New and Enter a name for your Signature
  6. Choose the option Start with a blank Signature and click Next
  7. Enter the text portion of your Signature
  8. Click New vCard from Contact
  9. Select your Contact, click Add and then OK
  10. Click Finish to create your Signature
  11. 11. Assign this signature to the Email account you want and click OK
Now (depending on your signature settings) when you create a new e-mail, your Business Card will be automatically attached to it.

If the signature is not assigned to your e-mail account, you can insert it by:

If you are using Outlook 2007:
  1. On your composed e-mail, go to Insert tab
  2. Click Signature and select your signature that has the Business Card
If you are using Outlook 2003:
  1. On your composed e-mail, go to Insert menu > Signature
  2. Select your signature that has the Business Card
Receiving vCards and adding them to your Contacts

If you receive an email with a vCard (vcf file), it is super easy to add it to your Contacts list.

If you are using Outlook 2007:
  1. Right-click on the Business Card in the received e-mail
  2. Click on Add to Contacts.
  3. A contacts window will open with all the fields filled-in from the Business Card.
  4. Make any needed changes then Click Save and Close
If you are using Outlook 2003:
  1. Double-click on the Business Card in the received e-mail
  2. Outlook will open the window in a Contact form
  3. Click Save and Close to save that contact to your Default Contacts folder.
Sending other people’s contact information

Do you need to send someone’s contact details to someone else? Now you can just send their vCard (I am assuming here that the person is in your contact list).

In Outlook 2007:
  1. Click on the Insert tab on the ribbon
  2. Click on Business Card and select the name you want to insert on the list (Click Other Business Cards if the name is not on the list).
In Outlook 2003:

  1. Open the contact (person whose business card you need to send).
  2. In the open contact, on the Actions menu, click Forward as vCard. Outlook attaches the contact information in a vCard file called contactname.vcf
  3. Complete the rest of the message and click Send.
I hope that this guide to vCards has been useful. Please let me know what you think by commenting.