Outlook 2010 cheat sheet

How to find your way around Microsoft Outlook 2010 and make the most of its new features

If you've just upgraded to Outlook 2010 from an earlier version, expect to see some very big changes, most notably the ubiquity of the Ribbon interface. The Ribbon first made its appearance in Outlook 2007, but in a relatively minor way: On the main Outlook screen, there's no Ribbon, but when you open or compose an email, the Ribbon appears. Now, it's everywhere.

There are other significant changes in Outlook 2010 compared to earlier versions, including integration with social media networks like Facebook and improved handling of threaded messages.

Whether you're coming to Outlook 2010 from Outlook 2003, Outlook 2007 or a different email client, we've got you covered. This cheat sheet shows you how to get around; it also explores features that are brand-new in Outlook 2010.

And don't miss our other Office 2010 cheat sheets: Word 2010, Excel 2010, PowerPoint 2010 and SharePoint 2010.

Get acclimated to the new Outlook

To help you find your way around Outlook 2010, here's a quick tour of the revamped interface; follow along using the screenshot below.

The Ribbon. Love it or hate it, the Ribbon is the main way you'll work with Outlook 2010. Instead of old-style menus, submenus, sub-submenus and so on, the Ribbon groups small icons for common tasks together in tabs on a big ribbon. So, for example, when you click the Send/Receive tab, the Ribbon shows buttons for sending and receiving all mail or just from certain groups, for showing the progress of mail being sent and received, for determining whether to download email headers or not, and similar tasks.

The tasks underneath each tab on the Ribbon change according to what you're currently viewing in Outlook. For example, when you're viewing your calendar, the Home tab has items for creating appointments and meetings, changing the calendar view and so on. When you're viewing mail, the Home tab has items for creating a mail message, sending and receiving messages and similar tasks. You can also customize the Ribbon, as we'll cover later in the story.

Outlook 2010 overview

Get to know Outlook 2010's interface. Click to view larger image.

The Quick Access toolbar. Introduced in Outlook 2007, this mini toolbar offers buttons for the most commonly used commands; you can customize it with whatever buttons you like.

The File tab/Backstage. Click the File tab in Outlook 2010 and it leads you to Backstage, a new command center where you can handle an array of tasks -- changing your email account settings, cleaning up your mailboxes, opening a calendar, creating rules and printing, among others.

The Navigation pane. Think of this as Command Central for Outlook -- the way you navigate your mail folders, RSS feeds, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks. You can expand and contract folders for easier navigation, and collapse the Navigation pane to the left to give more room to the main content area. You can also turn it off.

The content area. What you see here changes according to what you're doing in Outlook. In Mail, it shows you a list of mail messages; in Calendar, it shows a calendar; in Contacts, it shows your contacts; and so on.

The Reading pane. As in earlier versions of Outlook, if you click a message in your inbox or another folder, the Reading pane gives you a preview of it. You can rearrange the screen so that the Reading pane is below the content area instead of to the right. You can also expand the pane so it's large enough that you can read many messages without having to open them, shrink the pane or even turn it off.

The To-Do bar. Largely unchanged from previous versions of Outlook, the To-Do bar shows your current calendar items and any tasks you've created. It can be minimized by rolling it off to the right of the screen, and can also be turned off entirely.

The People pane. This new pane shows you information about the person who has sent you an email or to whom you have sent an email. It includes the person's name and email address, and a list of previous communications with him or her. With the Outlook Social Connector, another new feature in Outlook 2010, the pane includes information from social networks including LinkedIn and Facebook. The People pane can be resized, rolled down or made invisible.

The View toolbar. The new View toolbar at the bottom right of the screen lets you choose between a variety of views, which are different according to whether you're looking at mail, the calendar, contacts or tasks. There's also a slider that lets you zoom in or out.

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