Microsoft Office

Outlook Productivity Tip: Changing How Long It Takes to Mark Emails as Read

Reading Pane Options ScreenDon’t you just hate it when you click on an email by accident and Outlook marks it as read? When this happens, you have two choices – 1) mark it as unread, or 2) do nothing, and hope that you remember you haven’t actually read the email, even though Outlook claims you have.

How often do you choose option two? Probably more often than you realize, when you factor

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in all the times when you felt too busy, and didn’t bother to take the two or three seconds to change the email status.

But you don’t have to settle for one extreme or another. Instead, opt for a better alternative – change how long it takes for Outlook to mark your emails as read, and make this problem a thing of the past.

To access this feature, click on File at the top of Outlook, then go to Options. When the Outlook Options screen opens, click on Mail. Locate the Outlook Panes section in the middle of the screen (under stationery), and click on the Reading Pane button.

The Reading Pane Options will appear. Select “Mark items as read when viewed in the Reading Pane” and allot the appropriate amount of time, in seconds, for Outlook to wait before marking an email as read. The default allotment is 5 seconds.

Tip: See the “Single key reading using space bar” option? Selecting this option allows you to easily page down in your emails, using your space bar only. To make this feature work, make sure this option is selected. Then, click on any email in the preview pane, and begin reading. When you need to page down to read more, simply hit the space bar. Hitting the space bar at the end of the email will allow you to progress to your next email.

Now just click OK twice, and test out your new features. If you find you’ve set your time for too long or too short in duration, simply return to the Reading Pane options, and change the time allotment.

Customizing Outlook with features like these allows you to take the guess work out of your email, and helps you better prioritize your email work flow.

Do you have a great Outlook tip? Leave us a comment and tell us about it.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who wants to help demystify your software. Email:

Outlook Productivity Tip: How to Create Search Folders

Outlook Search Folders

Outlook Search Folders Menu

Do you feel like you often waste time just searching for emails in Outlook? Did you know that Microsoft understands this pain-point, and created a solution to help? They’re called Search Folders, and by using them, you can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to locate emails.

Search Folders are virtual folders that you setup in Outlook, which gives you all email items that match a certain pre-defined criteria. You will typically find them located at the bottom of your Folder List in Outlook, under the RSS feed. Just look for Search Folders in your Folder list.

There are probably a few Search Folders already setup, even if you aren’t using them. By default, Outlook comes with three Search Folders: Categorized Mail, Large Mail, and Unread Mail.

Categorized Mail – This Search Folder will display only those email items categorized by Color Category. In order for this predefined search to work, you will have to change the criteria to the Color Category you are using. To change the criteria, right click on the Categorized Mail folder, click on Customize This Search Folder, click the Criteria button, and define the colors you are using for categorization.

Large Mail – Includes all email items larger than 100 KB.

Unread Mail – Includes all email items that are marked as unread.

However, just because these are the default folders doesn’t mean you need to use them this way. Feel free to create your own folders with the criteria of your choosing.

To create new Search Folders, either: a) Right click Search Folders, and click on New Search Folder OR b) Click on Folder on the Ribbon at the top, and then click on New Search Folder.

The New Search Folder screen will appear. Microsoft has compiled a list of common uses for Search Folders. Select your use from the list. If nothing in the list matches your needs, scroll to the bottom and click on “Create a Custom Search Folder.” Input / verify your specific criteria, then click okay.

When the Search Folder is created, it automatically begins processing the request. Depending on the size of the search and your volume of email, it may take a moment or two to process.

That’s all it takes to setup Search Folders. Once setup correctly and in place, you should find that the amount of time it takes you to search your emails is greatly reduced. And, if you later find that you spend lots of time searching for something else, you can always setup another Search Folder.

What do you use Search Folders for? Leave us a comment telling us about it.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who wants to help you be more productive with your email and Outlook. Email:

Microsoft OneNote: Powerful Note Taking Software


Image Credit: carl.lacey2

Are you constantly chasing down notes and scribbles from random pieces of paper? Do you look at your notes and wonder what your last scribble was and why? Do you have so many notebooks going at once that you are constantly misplacing your “working” notebook and starting a new one?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, or if these questions got you thinking of a multitude of other problems when it comes to taking notes, then you should consider using Microsoft OneNote.

OneNote is a robust note taking software. Take notes on the computer, scan hand written notes, or simply take a picture of your notes – it doesn’t matter, OneNote will capture and organize them all.

You can also share your notes with your team for collaboration. OneNote allows you to share both online and across your network, allowing you maximum flexibility for collaboration.

OneNote is setup to look like a virtual notebook. You can create tabs to separate and organize sections. You can even create new notebooks for different types of work, allowing you to easily organize your items to ensure nothing is lost.

Additionally, OneNote has a host of fantastic features, making it easy to access and organize your notes, so you never miss a task or project again.

OneNote features include:


Anything you put into OneNote is automatically saved, without you having to do anything. This is a great feature when you’re in hurry, or when an emergency happens, like a power outage.

Built In OCR

OneNote has a built in OCR for scanned items or photographs, allowing these types of items to be easily searchable and editable.

Collaboration Features

Collaborate across the web, or across your network. OneNote allows you to work with others on projects and notes. OneNote allows you to track changes, so that you can easily see who has edited / contributed the notes. You can even password protect tabs, keeping sensitive data safe.

Mobile Flexibility

You can use OneNote from your computer or your mobile phone. OneNote has an app for windows-based phones, android phones, and iPhones. The app is free for the first 500 notes, after which there is a one-time fee of $4.99.

Outlook Compatibility

OneNote is cross-compatible with Microsoft Outlook, allowing you to send emails, tasks, and events into your notebooks with a click of a button.

Want to start using OneNote? It’s available with most of the newer versions of Microsoft Office, so see if it’s already installed. Or, you can download a free trial of OneNote from Microsoft here. A full license is available for $100.

Do you use OneNote? Leave us a comment and let us know what feature you use the most.

Julie Strier is a freelance writer who is interested in helping you find smarter ways to use your software. Email: