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Five Outlook Shortcuts You Should Know

Outlook: Love it or hate it, there's room for improvement.

Personally, I tend to view Microsoft's information manager as bloated, confusing, and frequently annoying, which is why I'm always on the lookout for ways to make it better.

And I've found several such ways. Without further adieu, here are five time-savers every Outlook user should know.

1. Automatically spell-check every e-mail.

Tired of running a manual spell-check before sending an e-mail? In Outlook 2010, click File, Options, Mail, then tick the box marked Always check spelling before sending. In Outlook 2007, click Tools, Options, then the Spelling tab, and then that same box.

When you're done, click OK. Now Outlook will automatically perform a spell-check on each outbound message.

2. Save keystrokes with killer keyboard shortcuts.

Alt-S Why reach for the mouse every time you want to send an e-mail? This handy shortcut sends your current message on its way.

Alt-F Forward the current e-mail.

Alt-R Reply to the current e-mail.

3. Turn an e-mail into an appointment

Your boss just e-mailed you the date, time, and agenda for the upcoming sales meeting. Wouldn't it be nice if you could quickly add all that info to your Outlook appointment calendar? You can: Just drag the e-mail from your Inbox to Outlook's Calendar icon (usually located in the lower-left corner of the screen).

That action creates a new appointment with the body of the e-mail in the notes section. Set the time and date as needed (Outlook can't automatically pluck this info out of an e-mail, alas), tweak the subject line if necessary, and presto: You're done.

4. Turn an e-mail contact into an Outlook contact

So you just got an e-mail from a new hire in your department. Instead of switching over to your contact list, creating a new record, and manually entering (or copying and pasting) all the info, here's a shortcut:

In the e-mail message proper, right-click the sender's name, and then choose Add to Outlook Contacts. Presto: You'll get a new contact window with the name and e-mail fields already completed. Now just paste in the phone number(s) and you're done.

5. Choose a range of days to display in the calendar

Want to see several days' worth of appointments in the same view? In the date picker (that small calendar in the upper-left corner of the screen), just click and drag the days you want shown.

Have you discovered any Outlook time-savers you want to share? Tell me about them in the comments. In the meantime, check out Preston Gralla's awesome round-up of add-ons to power up Outlook.

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