Outlook 2007: 10 top tips

From speeding up attachment previews to integrating social network updates, these tips will help you get the most out of Outlook 2007.

Hate it or love it, there's a good chance that you use Microsoft Outlook, still the most popular e-mail client on the planet. Outlook 2010 for Windows was just released, but only to businesses, who may take a while to switch to the new version. Office 2010 won't be available to individual users until later this spring. So we thought this was a good time to help you with the Outlook you're most likely using (and still getting used to) now -- Outlook 2007.

Outlook 2007 does a lot of things that previous versions can't do, such as previewing attachments, handling RSS feeds and more. There are potential challenges to Outlook 2007 as well, such as its ability to handle .pst files from earlier Outlook versions.

In a previous article, we tackled some of the top Outlook annoyances and how to fix them. In this story, we'll give tips on how to get the most out of Outlook 2007. We've also got dozens of keyboard shortcuts and a listing of where Outlook 2007 stores its most important data and customization files.

These tips are written for Outlook using POP3 mail, not for Outlook in an Exchange environment. However, you may find that some of the tips work in Exchange environments as well. If you've got tips of your own, let us know in the comments below.

Note: This article assumes that you know the basics of Outlook navigation. Just as a reminder, Outlook has multiple panes, notably the Navigation pane for getting to the main parts of Outlook such as e-mail, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks. Outlook 2007 also includes parts of the new Ribbon interface found in other Microsoft Office 2007 applications, including Word 2007, Excel 2007 and PowerPoint 2007.

For some reason, the Ribbon wasn't introduced across the board in Outlook 2007 as it was with those other apps. So, for example, on the main Outlook screen there's no Ribbon, but when you open or compose an e-mail, the Ribbon appears. (The good news is that the Ribbon appears more consistently in Office 2010 -- not that that helps Office 2007 users any.) If you need help finding your way around the Ribbon, see our Word 2007 cheat sheet.

Now, on to the tips!

Teach Outlook 2007 to play nice with social networking sites

E-mail has been slowly losing its primacy as the way that people communicate electronically, as social networking sites and services such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn proliferate. But you can get the best of both worlds right within Outlook 2007 by integrating Outlook with some features of social networking sites.

Microsoft's Outlook Social Connector and the third-party Xobni are both free, and both work from right inside Outlook to do the integration.

Xobni is the more comprehensive of the two. It grabs information about your contacts directly from Facebook, LinkedIn, and to a lesser extent Twitter, and displays them right within Outlook. So, for example, you can follow a person's tweets as well as her Facebook and LinkedIn updates.

It also allows two-way communication, so you can post a Twitter update from within Outlook. It does plenty more as well, such as grabbing information about a contact's employer from Hoovers, displaying threaded conversations with contacts, and more. Since it's free, if you use a social networking site but still communicate primarily via e-mail, you'll want to get it.

Xobni add-in for Outlook

The free Xobni add-in integrates social networking services with Outlook.

Microsoft's Outlook Social Connector works similarly, although it's not as comprehensive as Xobni. At this point it works only with LinkedIn and MySpace, although Microsoft says that in the future it will work with Facebook and most likely Twitter as well. It's still in beta, but it's stable enough to download and use.

The Outlook Social Connector doesn't grab as much information from social networking sites as Xobni does, and it doesn't allow two-way communication, at least at this point. It's a little better integrated to Outlook, however, so it's good for basics such as seeing someone's most recent activity on LinkedIn. I use it in addition to Xobni.

If you're looking to use Twitter from within Outlook, try the free TwInBox plug-in. Like Xobni, it lets you send tweets and follow others' tweets from within Outlook, but it offers additional features such as archiving, grouping and managing tweets, and shortening URLs with bit.ly.

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