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Outlook secrets, Part 1

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Outlook secrets, Part 1

Bit Player for May 18, 1997

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers

Microsoft has a money machine. It's called Office 97. In the first few months since it was introduced, Office 97 delivered at least $1 billion in sales revenues to Microsoft's door.

The best part of Office 97 may be Word 97, the latest version of Microsoft's heavy-duty word processor. But the most glamorous part is Outlook, the do-everything personal information manager that handles e-mail, faxes, addresses, phone numbers, appointments, tasks, meetings, free-form notes and much more. I think Outlook is outstanding.

But Outlook is a Microsoft product, and that, unfortunately, means it has a few omissions and a lot of little flaws. This week and next I'll tell you how to get around some of the omissions and how to fix some of the flaws. I'll also list some tips and tricks that can make life a lot easier when you want Outlook to do things that seem impossible.

We'll start with the good stuff first. Microsoft's Outlook team built a lot of functions into the program, but didn't make many of them easy to use—or even easy to discover.

Take the fact that Outlook's individual sections—calendar, contact list, inbox and so on—can be opened separately, in their own windows. When Outlook is open, all you need to do is right-click one of the icons in the left-hand Outlook bar and choose "Open in New Window." Do that on the calendar icon, for example, and you'll see the calendar open in its own window.

Any parts of Outlook you open this way can remain open when you close the main program. It's a great way to keep your contact list available, to name just one use.

If you are adept at making shortcuts in Windows 95, you can go one step further. You can open up only those sections of Outlook that you need to use.

You won't hurt anything by trying this (Outlook can't be damaged if you make a mistake), so don't be put off by the complicated commands I'll be showing you.

To get just one part of Outlook to open, you need to create a shortcut to the Outlook program that has extra instructions within it. The first part of the shortcut is always the same (it merely lists the location of the main Outlook file); the second part changes according to what you want to open.

Start by making a copy of your current shortcut to Outlook. It's in the Start Menu somewhere. Open the actual Start Menu folder by right-clicking on the Start button and choosing "Open." Then navigate to the Outlook shortcut, right-click and right-drag, let go and choose "Copy Here." It will have a name that starts with "Copy of," but you can change the name later by clicking once on the icon, pressing F2 and typing a new name.

The new name for the first shortcut should be "Contacts" because I'll show you how to get the Contacts window to open all on its own. You can then use the same technique to get any of the other sections of Outlook to do open independently.

Get the Properties of the shortcut (right click, choose "Properties") and you'll see the path to OUTLOOK.EXE already listed. Move your cursor to the end of that line of text, type a space, then type the following, using the quote marks exactly as shown here:

/folder /select "Outlook:\\Personal Folders\Contacts"

Again, make sure you have used quotation marks as shown. (In many cases, Windows does not understand long file names unless they are set off in quotes.) And make sure there is a space in front of /folder, in front of /select and in front of "Outlook: when you type the commands.

This assumes that "Personal Folders" is the name of your main Outlook folder. If you've renamed it, use that name instead of "Personal Folders" in the command. (In my own setup, the main folder is caled "Mailbox." You can rename that folder—which Microsoft generically calls the Message Store—to anything you want, but keep the name short.)

Change "Contacts" to any of the other functions—"Calendar" or "Tasks," for example, to create shortcuts for them.

A reader's suggestions on solving problems using the Timex Data Bank watch with Outlook.

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