Outlook 2000 in a NutshellBy Tom Syroid & Bo Leuf
1st Edition May 2000
1-56592-704-4, Order Number: 7044
666 pages, $29.95
The Notes component of Outlook is a simple but effective tool for organizing all those Post-it notes that adorn your monitor casing. There are several advantages to storing your notes electronically: you can sort and group these notes under individual folders, associate them with a contact, categorize for fast search and retrieval, and edit freely. High-tech functionality aside, probably the best reason for using electronic notes is that they are less likely to fall off your monitor than paper ones.
Like their paper counterpart, the best way to use Outlook Notes is as a place to jot down reminders, ideas, or transitory bits of information. By this we mean lists that will be deleted when complete (daily to-dos or a grocery list), a snippet of information you don't know whether to keep or not (a potentially interesting URL), or the name and phone number of a contact you want to create a permanent record for later.
This chapter describes the two menus used to create and manipulate Notes:
- Actions contains the commands to create or forward a note to an email recipient. In addition to Outlook's system menus, the note form itself contains a menu with commands for creating, forwarding, cut and paste operations, saving the text to another format, categorizing, and linking to a contact.
- View lets you choose how notes are displayed (in icon or table layouts), as well as the sort order and filters applied to the view selected. Views are also available that group a notes folder according to category or color. Grouped views are fundamental for organizing more than one Outlook item at a time.
At the end of the chapter we show you several ways of moving notes into other documents or permanent Outlook records.
Notes Actions Menu
In contrast to the same menu in Mail or Contacts, the Notes Action menu (see Figure 10-1) is sparse. There are only two commands: New Note and Forward. The simplicity of this menu is due to the fact that each note has a command menu, which enables you to assign a contact or category, change the background color, and save in an alternate format.
Figure 10-1. Notes Action menu
Actions New Note
There are several ways to create a note in Outlook:
- Select the Notes icon from the Outlook Task Bar, and choose Actions New Note (Ctrl+N).
- From any Notes view, click the New Note icon on the standard toolbar. Alternatively, right-click an empty area in the Notes view pane and select New Note from the context menu displayed.
- Open an existing note. Select New Note from the form's command menu (see Figure 10-3).
- Double-click anywhere in the open space of the notes view.
- Use the global Outlook keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+N; this shortcut will create a new note from any Outlook component. (This is the equivalent of selecting File New Note.)
A new blank note is shown in Figure 10-2. The bottom status bar displays the date and time the note was created or modified.
Figure 10-2. New Note form
Text entered on the first line of a note doubles as the title. For this reason, keep this line descriptive and as short as possible. Text entered in a note automatically wraps to the width of the form.
There is no Save command for a new or edited note. To save the contents of a note, close the form (using the X on the form's upper-right corner), press the Esc key, or click anywhere outside the note. This nonintuitive save convention introduces the following behaviors when a new note is created:
- If no text has been entered into a new note, pressing Esc or closing the note cancels it.
- As soon as any text has been entered in a new note, pressing Esc or closing the form saves the note to Outlook's database.
In other words, once any information is entered in a note the only way to cancel it is by selecting Delete from the command menu (see Figure 10-3), or by closing the note and deleting it from the view you are working in.
Looking for the Minimize Command?
TIP: Right-click anywhere on the title bar that extends between the note icon on the left and the close icon on the right. The familiar Move, Size, Maximize, and Minimize context menu will be displayed.
To open a note's command menu, click the note icon in the upper-left corner of the note form as shown in Figure 10-3.
Figure 10-3. Note command menu
In addition to the expected commands to delete, print, copy and paste, or close the note, there are several useful items on this menu.
The Save As command saves the contents of a note in one of four formats: Text Only, Rich Text Format, Outlook Template, and Message Format. The Text Only and Rich Text Format (RTF) are useful to save information contained in a note for use in another program or document. Both RTF and Plain Text are universal file import/export formats in most current software applications.
Outlook Template format can be used to create a boilerplate note containing information entered on a recurring basis. A simple example might be a note template designed to save key information about downloaded files stored on your computer.
To create such a template, start with a new note and enter the boilerplate text similar to the example text shown in Figure 10-4. Next save the note in Outlook Template format (OFT ) with a name that clearly indicates the intended function. This template can be stored locally, or on a network server if other users will need access to it.
Figure 10-4. Note Template showing example boilerplate text
Templates as Shortcuts
TIP: Tired of digging through four layers of menus and two dialogs to access your Outlook templates? Create a Desktop shortcut for those you access most frequently. Open your template folder in Explorer (to find, use Windows Find and search on *.OFT), right-drag any item to the Desktop, and select Create Shortcut(s) Here. You can also place a template shortcut on the Office Shortcut Bar.
Finally, to create a new note based on this template, use the menu command File New Choose Form, which will display the dialog shown in Figure 10-5.
Figure 10-5. Outlook Choose Form dialog
If the template you created was stored locally, select User Templates in File System. Opening the example template will create a new note item complete with the boilerplate text. From here, simply fill in specifics necessary to finish the entry. A completed note using the example discussed is shown in Figure 10-6.
Figure 10-6. Complete example note using Template Form
Using Hyperlinks in a Note
TIP: URLs embedded in notes are active links; click on the entry and your default browser launches and opens the web page listed. In addition to Internet locations, these links can be email addresses, a Newsgroup server, or a local resource path. See the section for a list of supported hyperlink formats.
Saving a note in Message Format creates a copy of that item, external to Outlook's database, in a file location you specify. This file will have an operating system file association of Outlook Item (extension .msg). Double-clicking on this file opens it in an Outlook Note form. Outlook does not have to be running to access and view this standalone file.
This same Message Format is used for any data record copied, moved, or saved outside the bounds of Outlook's interface. Common examples of such items are Save As files, message attachments, or a record dragged to the Windows Desktop.
Color, Categories, and Contacts
Referring back to the Note command menu in Figure 10-3, below the Paste command are three menu items useful to organizing notes.
The Color and Category commands work exactly as one would expect: Color changes the open note's background to one of the five available options; Category opens a dialog where you can associate the note with one or more of the descriptions listed. (See Chapter 3, Program Insights, for details on working with Categories.) Right-clicking on an existing closed note will also give you access to these commands. So, for example, you can easily change a single note from blue to green. See View By Color later in this chapter for details on changing the color of multiple notes in a single operation.
The third menu item from this group is Contacts. Figure 10-7 shows the dialog used to assign or modify a contact link to a note.
NOTE: The Contacts command for Notes is only found on a note's command menu. Assigning a contact to an existing note is a three-step process: open the note; access the command menu; then select Contacts from this menu.
Figure 10-7. Note contact dialog
Select the Contacts button to open the Select Contact dialog. The upper pane of this dialog allows you to choose a contacts folder; the lower pane displays the contents of that folder. Alternatively, you can skip the Contacts button and enter a contact directly in the field provided.
When you enter a contact directly, that entry will not be checked against the records contained in your contacts folder until the note is saved. If the contact does not exist or is misspelled, Outlook does not warn you. The note just obediently closes with a nonfunctional link.
Leveraging Name Resolution
TIP: To guard against Outlook's failure to pick up on misspelled or nonexistent contact records, make it a habit to enter a partial name and force the program to provide you with a name-resolution dialog. For example, instead of entering Tom Thumb as a contact, enter just Tom. If there is just one Tom in your address book, then the contact link will automatically resolve itself without further intervention on your part.
Once a link is established between a note and a contact, it is fully bidirectional:
- Open a linked note and return to the "Contacts for Note" dialog shown in Figure 10-7. Double-click the entry here, and the Contact entry/edit form is displayed.
- To view any notes linked to a contact, open the form associated with that individual or business, go to the Activities tab, and from the Show drop-down list select Notes.
This command attaches a selected note to a new email message. The Subject line will be entered automatically according to the note's title (
FW: Note Title). If your default mail format is configured for Microsoft Rich Text, the note is inserted into the body of the message as an embedded file. Plain Text or HTML mail formats show the note as an attachment in a pane below the body of the message.
After the message is addressed, send it as you would any other email. If the recipient also uses Outlook, the note attachment will be viewable in Note format. Other email clients display the forwarded note in the message body as either RTF or Plain Text, depending on how the recipient's viewing preferences are configured.
Notes View Menu
Outlook provides five preconfigured views for displaying notes:
- Icons--displays notes as colored icons, sorted by date created. Icons view contains three subviews:
- Large Icons shows each note as a large icon, ordered left-to-right, with the first several words of the note title below the icon.
- Small Icons represents each note as a small icon with the note title to the right of the icon. When the note's title is short, this view orders icons left to right; for longer note titles icons are ordered in rows.
- List displays your notes as small icons, title to the right of the icon, each note beginning a new row in the view.
- Notes List--Table view with notes sorted by the date/time created or modified.
- Last Seven Days--Table view, filtered to show only those notes created or modified in the last seven days.
- By Category--groups notes in a Table view by category assigned and sorted within each category by date created or modified.
- By Color--groups notes in a Table view by color, and again, sorted within these groups by date.
Select a view using View Current View, Tools Organize, or through the Organize button on the toolbar, if available. From the Organize pane, click the Using Views tab, and then choose one of the five options from the list. Changing the view affects not only your view of the notes, but also the options available in the View menu and on the toolbar. The Icon types are only available when the Organize Icons option is active.
There are distinct advantages to each mode of organization. For example, while the Icon view shows note colors, it provides no way to manipulate or change the color of a group of notes. Switching to View By Color, however, allows you to drag more than one note from one color grouping to another.
Also remember that the views discussed in the following section are just preconfigured examples. All Outlook views can be extensively customized to accommodate users' preferences and work styles. A comprehensive overview of this topic can be found in Chapter 3.
All Note views can be toggled to display the Preview Pane in the lower half of the current window or to show an AutoPreview of your note's contents. The Preview Pane is a separate window that displays a selected item's contents; AutoPreview is an option available under most Table views that displays the first three lines of a note under a header row.
Configuration options for Notes can be accessed from the Tools Options tab. The Notes Options button opens the dialog shown in Figure 10-8. The options listed set the default appearance for a new note: background color (Blue, Green, Pink, Yellow, White), size (Small, Medium, or Large), and display font (point size, face, style, and color).
Figure 10-8. The Notes Options configuration dialog
NOTE: While color and size can be modified on a per-note basis, the font settings specified in the Notes Options dialog are global; there is no way to change the font of an individual note.
View Current View
The Current View submenu is shown in Figure 10-9. Selecting any of the first five choices from this menu displays the contents of your Notes folder with the preconfigured sort and filter associated with that view. The usual Customize and View commands access dialogs to modify these preset orders. Details on customizing default views can be found in Chapter 3.
Figure 10-9. Notes Current View submenu
View Current View Icons
This is the default view for Notes, and displays each folder item as a colored icon with a title. The title is a repeat of the note's first line of text.
Icon view provides three display options: Large Icons, Small Icons, and List. Toggle between these three views using the appropriate button on the Notes toolbar, or by selecting a display option from the right-click context menu.
Large Icons displays a full size icon with the note title below. Small Icons and List both display a small icon with the note title to the right of the icon. Table 10-1 shows the default placement, orientation, and sort order for each of these three views.
Table 10-1: Icon View Placement, Orientation, and Sort Order
Default Sort Order
Note that the sort orders referred to in Table 10-1 are defaults. Sort order changes are persistent across all Note views. This means if you re-sort your view in Large Icons to Subject this same sort order will be displayed if you switch to Small Icon view. The exception to this rule is the List view: it is always sorted on Date Created.
Quickly Re-sorting a Notes View
TIP: To quickly re-sort an Icon View on creation date, right-click and choose List from the context menu. Right-click again and return to your original view, where your notes will be displayed sorted by Date Created.
The Icon layout has configuration settings not available in other Note views. These settings are accessed from the Customize Current View Other Settings command, or by opening the context menu of an Icon View and selecting Other Settings. The Format Icon View dialog is shown in Figure 10-10.
Figure 10-10. Format Icon View customization dialog
Toggling an option button displays the effect of that option in the small virtual desktop to the right of the selections. The gray shaded areas within the icons illustrate sort order. In Figure 10-10 the sort order is None. If you select Sort and AutoArrange, the top-left icon would show the smallest slice of gray progressing to the bottom right icon showing the largest. This depicts an ascending sort order (Figure 10-11).
Figure 10-11. Icon Placement with Sort and AutoArrange
"View type" determines the options available for "Icon placement." "Large icon" and "Small icon" can use any of the four placement options. Choosing "Icon list" (shown in the top row of Figure 10-10) grays out these choices and displays all note items sorted alphabetically on Subject (ascending), arranged vertically in the view window.
- "Do not arrange" allows note icons to be placed anywhere in the window. Icons stay where you put them until you move them or choose a different placement.
- "Line up icons" positions your notes on an invisible grid. Moving an icon snaps it to the nearest grid line.
- "AutoArrange" orients the display arrangement horizontally with no sort order. Moving a note within a matrix of other notes makes room for that note in its new position and realigns all notes on invisible grid lines.
- "Sort and AutoArrange" arranges your notes as just described and sorts them on Subject (ascending).
When using icon placements:
- If you select AutoArrange in "Large icon" view and switch to "Small icon" view this setting remains in place. Switch to List view and back to either Large or Small icons and this setting is lost.
- "Line up icons" and "Sort and AutoArrange" are not persistent. That is, they are a quick way to arrange or sort your notes, but moving an icon after applying either command returns placement to "Do not arrange."
View Current View Notes List
Notes List is a simple table layout of your Notes folder. Fields displayed are Icon, Subject, Created, and Category. There are no groupings or filters applied. By default, the sort order is descending by note creation date. This view, shown in Figure 10-12, is an excellent working layout for notes as it is uncluttered and functional. All commonly referenced fields are visible, and if the Preview Pane is enabled (View Preview Pane), items can be quickly scanned for content. Selecting an item and using the right-click context menu allows quick edits of both note color and category. A note can be edited by opening the item, or in the Preview Pane.
Figure 10-12. View Current View Notes List with Preview Pane enabled
NOTE: Unlike other Outlook tables, Notes does not allow editing directly from the Table view. To modify a note, you must open it.
View Current View Last Seven Days
This view displays the contents of a Notes folder in List View, but filters the view to show only notes created or edited within the preceding seven days.
View Current View By Category
Like all components in Outlook, you can assign Notes a category to help sort and retrieve them. By Category view displays the fields Icon, Subject, and Created, grouped by header rows on category. Items listed under these groupings are sorted on a note's creation date and time (descending).
TIP: Don't bother assigning categories to temporary notes, but take the time to categorize notes you intend to convert into other Outlook items. Categories you assign to a note transfer to the newly created item.
To assign a category to a note, select it and use the Category context menu command. The Categories list is the same dialog seen across all components of Outlook. Place a checkmark beside the category you wish to associate with the note, or use the Master Category List button to add a new description to the list.
To change a category assignment, invoke the Categories dialog or simply drag the note from its current grouping to a new category grouping. As you drag the item a pop-up displays the new category change.
Dragging a note from (None) to a category grouping assigns that note to the category of the group you drop it on. If a note already has a category assignment, dragging it to another grouping displays a copy of the note under both the original grouping and the new dropped location, and in doing so assigns both categories to the note.
WARNING: Be careful when deleting notes displayed in multiple groupings: deleting an item from one group deletes all instances of that item. For example, if you have a note displayed under both the Home category and the Business category, deleting either entry deletes the note.
View Current View By Color
Notes can be created in or changed to one of five preset colors: Blue, Green, Pink, Yellow, or White. The default color used for a new note is set from Tools Options Notes Options. The By Color view is grouped on Color, sorted on date last modified, and has no filters applied.
To change a note's color, select it and use the right-click context menu. You can only change color this way for a single note at a time. You can, however, drag several selected notes to another existing color grouping. When you drag selected items to a different grouping, a pop-up displays the new note color. See Figure 10-13.
Figure 10-13. Dragging a note from one color grouping to another
Working with Notes
In the beginning of this chapter, we introduced the idea of using notes as a temporary container for ideas or scraps of information. Notes can be deleted when the information is no longer needed. On the other hand, notes gain immense value when you use them to create other Outlook items, or external documents. This section explains how to do that.
NOTE: Remember when you exchange data between Outlook items, or with external documents, that data is a copy of the original.
Creating Another Outlook Item from a Note
To create another Outlook item from the contents of a note, drag the note's icon to the Outlook Bar.
- Dropping a note on the Inbox or Outlook Today icon creates an email message containing the date the note was last modified, any categories or contacts assigned to the note, and the text of the note itself (see Figure 10-14, top). The message will be in Rich Text Format; this can be changed using the techniques outlined in Chapter 5, Mail Editors.
Figure 10-14. A note dropped on the Inbox icon (top); a note dropped on the Journal icon (bottom)
- Dropping a note on the Tasks, Contacts, or Calendar icons creates a new item of the appropriate type. The free-form text field contains the contents of the note, again including any categories or contacts assigned. The first line of the note becomes the subject of the task or appointment.
- Dropping the note on the Journal icon embeds a shortcut of the note in the free-form text field as shown in Figure 10-14 (bottom). The shortcut still points to the correct note, even with modifications, but changes are not reflected in the name of the shortcut. However, deleting the note orphans the shortcut.
In the View By Category section, we suggested assigning categories to notes that had long-term value. This advice bears fruit here--Outlook always transfers categories assigned an item to new items.
There is another method of creating new Outlook items that gives you more control over how data is copied from the original item. Instead of dragging and dropping the note using the left mouse button, hold down the right mouse button. When you release the item, a dialog similar to that shown in Figure 10-15 is displayed. The top option in this dialog reflects the default behavior exhibited by left-click drag-and-drop. Most items are created as "with Text" by default; Journal items are created "with Shortcut" by default. What "Attachment" means depends upon what type of item you create. If you create a message, Attachment is an OLE item. For journal entries, Attachment is a copy, unlinked to the original. Each context is potentially different, due to the different uses of the various Outlook components.
- The first option places the text of the note in the new item (substitute Contacts for the Outlook type you're creating). For a new Contact item, this is the drag-and-drop behavior.
- The second option creates a shortcut to the note in the new item's text field. This allows you to update the original note from the new item, although changing the note's first line of text will not change the name of the shortcut as it does the name of the note.
- The third option copies the note to the new item, and inserts it as an attachment represented by an icon. The note is copied; there is no linkage between the original note and the new item.
- The fourth option moves the note from its original folder and inserts it in the new item as an attachment.
Figure 10-15. Outlook's right-drag context menu
Copying a Note into an Office Document
Outlook notes can also be copied into an Office document (or any other OLE-compliant application, for that matter), where they are inserted as an embedded object.
Office applications are annoyingly inconsistent when it comes to dragging items between documents. For example, dragging a note from Outlook into Word embeds an OLE object. Drag a note from Outlook into Excel, however, and only the first line of the note's text is copied to the open spreadsheet.
Always experiment before dragging and dropping between Office applications so you know what to expect. Better still, make it a habit to select just the material you want copied, and move it between documents using the Windows Clipboard Cut/Paste commands.
To copy an Outlook note into a Word document:
- Open Outlook and Word, and position them side-by-side on your Desktop.
- Select a note from Outlook and drag it to the location in Word where you want it inserted.
To insert the contents of a note (versus the note itself), open the note, select the text desired, use the Copy command from the note's command menu, and the Paste command from Word's Edit menu.
Copying a Note to the Windows Desktop
You can also drag a note from Outlook and drop it on the Windows desktop. This is an excellent way to put reminders or a simple scratchpad within easy reach while you work in another application. Remember that Outlook does not have to be running to open and modify a note on the Desktop.
Use the Right Mouse Button to Drag a Note
TIP: If you drag a note from Outlook to the Windows Desktop while holding down the right mouse button, you can choose to copy or move the item from the context menu displayed when you release your mouse button. This tip works for any Outlook item (Note, Contact, etc.).
Once you drag a note onto the Windows Desktop, you can manipulate it just like any other filesystem object. Right-click its icon to display the context menu shown in Figure 10-16.
Figure 10-16. The Windows context menu available when an Outlook item is dragged to the Desktop
Working with multiple notes on your desktop is a very powerful way to manipulate discrete chunks of information. Here are just a few tips to consider:
- You can move or copy (the default is move--hold down the Ctrl key to copy) selected sentences or ideas between two notes by simply dragging and dropping.
- You're browsing the Web and find an interesting URL you want to investigate more fully later. Open a new note on your Desktop, and drag the address there. Or perhaps you find a phrase on a web page you want to save; select it, and drag it to an open note.
NOTE: Instructions for creating a New Note shortcut on your Desktop are in Chapter 2, under the section "Starting Outlook from a Custom Shortcut."
You have a note on your Desktop as a reminder to call someone. Instead of opening Outlook to look up the phone number when you make the call, select the record in Contacts, and drop it on the note when you create it. Now you have all the information you need in one place.
You can drag your Desktop To-Do list to the Recycle Bin icon.
One final comment regarding working with notes on your Desktop. If you look closely at Figure 10-16, you'll notice that the icon for the "Command Lines ..." note is depicted as an envelope, because when this screenshot was taken, the note was in the process of being edited. Outlook items external to the program default to a message format (.msg), and are considered as objects of this type by the operating system. Saving and closing the note returns its icon to the original yellow scratchpad.
Back to: Outlook 2000 in a Nutshell
© 2001, O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.