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Outlook Tips and Tricks

How to Customize the Display of your Outlook Email (or fix it.)

The outlook display is highly customizable. Below is an example display with the different pieces highlighted. This self-help will show you how to customize these individual pieces.


Screen shot of outlook with five circled areas.  1. Outlook Shortcuts  2. Folder List 3. From/Subject/Received 4. Received arrow 5. From/Subject of Previewed Message

1. This pane is called the 'Outlook Shortcuts' and can be toggled on and off by going to the 'View' menu and selecting 'Outlook Shortcuts.' Most users don't need this pane and hiding it will free up space on your screen.

2. This pane is called the 'Folder List' and can be toggled on and off by going to the 'View' menu and selecting 'Folder List.' It is highly recommended that you show this pane and use it to help you organize your Outlook.

3. This is the set of information columns that is displayed about your messages and is the most problematic piece of Outlook customization. To access these columns, go to the 'View' menu and select 'Current View.' This will give you a secondary menu, and you should select 'Customize Current View...' (near the bottom.) This should bring up the 'View Summary' window. Select the 'Fields...' button to bring up the 'Show Fields' window that is shown below.

Screen shot of the 'show fields' window, showing Importance, Read, Icon, Flag Status, Attachment, From, Subject, Recieved selected

The above list on the right is a good, standard list of columns to display for most Outlook users. The list on the left shows the many field display options you have in Outlook.

4. The small arrow on the received field shows how Outlook is currently sorting the messages in the folder you are viewing. To change this, simply click another field and the messages will re-order themselves by the selected field. In the picture, the arrow is pointed downwards, which signifies that the messages are being sorted in descending order by the date they are received. If the user were to click the 'received' field again, the arrow would point upwards and the messages would be sorted in ascending order. Messages can be found easily by re-sorting the folder by another piece of criteria (perhaps the name of the sender) temporarily and then returned back to the standard received sorting option.

5. This is a preview pane that shows the email of the message that is selected above. You can toggle this on or off by going to the 'View' menu and selecting 'Preview Pane.' You can also toggle on 'Auto Preview' under the view menu as well. When on, the first few sentences of the email are displayed in blue in the message list.