Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) combines the tools we know best (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) packages them as a monthly or annual subscription, and combines them in an online suite of cloud-connected services, including file storage, email, and other communication and organizational tools. This week’s feature looks at the tools and benefits for small businesses using Microsoft Outlook.
Outlook is Microsoft’s tool for sending and receiving emails and data management tools such as calendars, tasks, and notes. The Microsoft 365 subscription gives you access to their business-class email with a 50GB mailbox, built-in malware and spam filtering. Outlook also integrates with the calendar, contacts, and tasks tools allowing you to work efficiently from your email.
Without a doubt, Outlook has some of the best tools for efficiency and working smarter from your email. One great tool is the Reading Pane, where you can preview and reply to an email without opening it. This feature allows you to review the content and respond to the email in the same Outlook window, reducing the number of tabs you have to click through while working. And by using this along with the Conversations View tool, you can see what emails you’ve already replied to without having to click through and open windows for each and every email in your inbox.
You can also use the Clutter tool to organize your email, which helps you sort high-priority messages first. Other messages are moved to the Clutter folder so you can view them later, helping you prioritize the way you work in your email account and keeping distractions literally out of view.
Additional folders to help sort your emails are Active, Inbox, and Archive. This a great way to prioritize your emails further and keep you working efficiently, rather than being overwhelmed by your inbox or frustrated by how long it takes to locate a specific email from the search bar. You can also use the email flagging system to quickly categorize emails as they come in. These flags allow you to add a timeline or due date to the email, flag an email as important, or tick a flag to remind yourself that you’ve followed up. The flag system helps you save time because you can quickly note what emails you’ve attended to, or what emails you should work on first, without having to open each one.
The Calendar connected to Outlook has several tools for working smarter. It automatically creates birthday and holiday event calendars, and allows you to make your own events and appointments as needed. A unique tool with the calendar is that it allows you to attach documents, which is a great way to organize or share any files you may need for each meeting. You can even drag-and-drop an email into your calendar to instantly create an event that includes all pertinent information from the email!
You can also share full calendars with colleagues, and details with HTML and rich-text editing as well. You can set the view for a specific day of the week, the whole week, the work week, or the full month, and toggle easily back and forth between views to get both big-picture and day-of snapshots of your timeline and upcoming tasks.
If you’ve ever been pulled into an accidental reply-all situation, Outlook also has an option to ignore a conversation. Choosing this will keep the email thread out of your inbox and stop unnecessary interruptions that may happen.
There are also some great shortcuts to memorize if you want to work from email at top speed.
Tasks and Organization
Microsoft Outlook has great tools for task management and overall organization with Microsoft 365. The Actionable Messages feature allows you to complete other tasks from your email, such as adding a meeting to your calendar or sending out a Tweet. Using the Outlook People function allows you to organize and edit contacts into folders, and link or import contacts from outside sources like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Tasks can also be sorted into categories, folders, due dates, subject, and completion, which gives you a lot of flexibility for filtering and prioritizing your tasks for the day. Just search your tasks based on the criteria you want and batch your day’s tasks for maximum efficiency.
Both your email and your calendar events can be color-coded, which can also be a tool for prioritizing incoming emails, organizing your events by type, or even grouping related emails and events together to streamline your work between your email and calendar.
Admin and Security
Microsoft Defender gives you anti-malware protection and anti-spam filtering built in, protecting you and your small business from cyber attacks that can sneak in through email attachments and links. Their cutting-edge defense system combined with rich reporting allow you to not just flag threats, but understand who is being targeted and how, giving you better information to improve your security.
A simplified admin center in Microsoft 365 tools helps you set up new users with emails, restore accidentally deleted accounts, and provides archiving capabilities for legal compliance.
Have you ever sent an email and then realized you sent it to the wrong person? Sometimes it’s a small matter, something to laugh over at the water cooler. Other times it’s serious, with sensitive information released that could damage a client relationship. Outlook has an option to recall an email, giving you a chance to fix the problem before that sensitive email gets opened by the wrong party.
On a related note, if you’ve ever deleted an email that has important information or client data, with Microsoft Exchange you can recover an email even if it’s been deleted from your trash can, because deleted emails still reside on their server.
Microsoft 365 allows you to create custom email formats, include images, and use a personal domain name. With 100GB of storage and the ability to send messages as big as 150 MB, you have to worry about overloading your storage space with custom formats and images.
With Microsoft 365, Outlook can provide small businesses with a professional competitive edge. Tech Masters can provide a free business assessment to give you recommendations to fulfill your email and communication needs.
“Without a doubt, Outlook has some of the best tools for efficiency and working smarter from your email.”
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