Tip o’ the Week #30 – Sending emails from the past


clip_image001Following on from ToW #9, regarding delaying sending email, this week’s episode was asked for by another reader, since he eagle-eyed-ly spotted that the email was send on one date but didn’t arrive in his inbox until a week later.

Aha! Now, it’s possible in Outlook to set that a message should not be delivered until a specific time but there are two distinct behaviours to this function.

Nowadays (since Outlook 2003, in fact), the default behaviour of Outlook is to be in “cached mode” – ie. mostly everything you do within Outlook happens to a cached copy of your Exchange mailbox, meaning the performance of Outlook in not dependent on the availability or speed of network access to the Exchange server.

In most cases, this is a great solution, however one downside is that that “Outbox” folder where email is held before being sent, doesn’t synchronise with the server, and is unique to the Outlook cached mode “profile” – so if you choose to send email at a later time and you’re in cached mode, it will only be sent if your PC is online.

The 2nd behaviour is if you’re using Outlook in “online mode” where the Outbox is a special folder that lives on the server, and mail sitting in it will be processed by the Exchange server at the appropriate time, regardless of whether you’ve got a client PC online or not.

If you need to regularly send mail at a time when you’re offline, the trick is to set up a second Outlook profile and use to actually do the sending… prepare in advance, hit send, and then amaze your colleagues by not only sending mail through a time vortex, but at a time when you’re known to be in the air/on a beach/asleep etc.

To set up a 2nd Profile

  • Go into the Mail application in Control panel (you’ll see it if you just type “Mail” at the start menu in Windows 7), and choose Show Profiles.
  • Click “Add”, give your new profile a meaningful name (like “Online mode”) then enter you name, email address and domain password (assuming you’re on Outlook 2007 or 2010, this info will be enough to “Auto Discover” where your server is) to the profile wizard…
  • After the wizard has found your server and says the account is configured, tick the “Manually configure server settings” box in the bottom left, then click next.
  • On the following screen, clear the checkbox that says “Use Cached Exchange Mode” then hit Finish.

clip_image002Et voila! The only challenge now is, how to get Outlook to actually use this profile?

Back at the Mail  configuration applet, you can choose to have Outlook prompt you for which profile to use every time it starts, and set which one will appear by default – in this case “Outlook” is the standard profile in Cached Mode, and a simple hit of the enter key will select that option when Outlook starts up.

If this is a once-in-a-blue-moon requirement, you could simply leave the setting to always use the Cached Mode profile, and then when you want to go into Online Mode, simply close Outlook, go into Control Panel, change this setting to prompt you, then start Outlook again (and maybe reverse that procedure when you’re finished)

clip_image003Now when you start Outlook up in “online” mode, you might see that it’s a bit more sluggish, since everything you do (open an email, open an attachment in an already-opened-email, sort a folder etc) requires that the client and the server send potentially large amounts of data back & forth. So it’s best to limit your “online” mode bit to as short as possible. You may notice that the status bar now says “Online with…” rather than “Connected to Microsoft Exchange”.

Sending mail from the past

The best way to do this is to draft the email you want to send when you’re in Cached Mode, and make sure a copy of it is in your Drafts folder.

  • Close Outlook down*
  • Restart, then select the online profile
  • open the email in question from your Drafts folder
  • change the “Do not deliver before” option in the ribbon’s Option tab | Delay Delivery 
  • hit send, and watch the email stay in the Outbox … now you can close Outlook down.

You won’t see the pending email in your Outbox when you return to cached mode, since that Outbox folder is coming from your PC and not the server. You will see the email sitting in the Outbox folder if you log in again using Outlook & the Online profile.

*on closing Outlook, you may need to close other applications that use Outlook, or wait a little for all the addins that Outlook could be running (like GSX), to shut down  – if when attempting to start Outlook in online mode, and you don’t get prompted for a profile as you might be expecting, that means Outlook is still running.

If this happens, try closing Outlook again and check in Task Manager to make sure OUTLOOK.EXE isn’t still there. Top tip for getting Task Manager running quickly, even if Windows Explorer has hung… CTRL+SHIFT+ESC. There you go, multiple tips for the price of one…

Tip o’ the Week #29 – Filtering email to reduce the noise

clip_image002Anyone who gets lots of email will appreciate the importance of Outlook rules. Most rules run on the Exchange server, but some (like rules which move messages to a PST folder on your PC) will run client-side.

In Outlook 2010, the Rules settings are available from the File menu (or Backstage).

clip_image004Over the last few versions, Outlook has made it easier to create rules – if you right-click on an email, you can now create rules to move email sent by the orginator or mail sent to the destination (such as a Distribution List). This can help you filter out the noisier DL’s (like Ltd Social) into a sub folder so they don’t clutter up your inbox.

If it’s Not Direct to Me -> take it away for now
This tip might take a few minutes to set up – you’d be well advised to print this message out, since you might not be able to refer back to it whilst you’re editing your rules.

A great use of Rules is to filter out any email which isn’t sent directly to you, or isn’t handled by another rule to move it to a specific place. Does that sound confusiing? If so, the logic is:
If <this new email> is sent to a DL that I want to move to a specific folder, then

Move it to the folder, and stop doing anything more with it.


Move the email to the “not direct to me” folder
unless it’s sent directly to me or to a DL (in which case leave it alone, in my Inbox)

The key part here is the “Stop processing more rules” action within the Outlook rules wizard. After you’ve created the rule (through the one-click option above, perhaps), you can go back in and edit it, adding other actions or conditions. On the same part of the wizard that says to move the message to a folder, you can also stipulate that Outlook stops doing anything further with that message after it gets moved (otherwise, it could be moved to one place, then moved again to a different one).

If you arrange your rules so that each “move to a folder” type rule also stops processing any more (indicated in the rules list by the hammer/spanner icon on the right), then set the final rule in the list to be the one that dictates whether a message will stay in your inbox, or whether it gets moved to one other folder. clip_image005

This way, you can keep the most important emails coming into your inbox, and the “FYI” type DLs that aren’t noisy enough to earn their own sub-folder, will all get swept up into one place.

Happy rule tweaking!

Tip o’ the Week #28 – Windows Key is your friend

clip_image002Some people love keyboard shortcuts – producivity guru David Allen (not to be confused with the the late comedian) recommends, as part of his Getting Things Done methodology, that learning a few keyboard shortcuts will make everyone more productive in doing routine things more quickly. ToW #10 highlighted some Outlook shortcuts that can make everyone’s life better, but there are many that apply to Windows and other applications that are worth remembering.

Using the clipboard
Let’s start simply – copy (CTRL-C), cut (CTRL-X) and paste (CTRL-V) apply to pretty much every application in Windows. There’s no need to take your hand off the keyboard and go for the mouse right-click if you’re looking to manipulate text. These key combinations can trace their lineage all the way back to Xerox PARC, where pretty much everything we understand as the modern computer was invented or perfected and implemented (graphical UI, mouse, network, laser printer…)

Did you know you can also use CTRL-Insert for copy, SHIFT-Insert to paste and SHIFT-Del for cut? The handy thing there is that most keyboards have a shift and control key on the right hand side, near INS and DEL keys… so you can cut, copy & paste with your right hand only… add to that the standard commands to select text – CTRL <– and CTRL –> moves the cursor one word backwards and forwards, and holding shift down at the same time selects the text from where you were starting from. So, holding shift, and selecting a few words, followed by CTRL-C or SHIFT-Insert, and you’ve copied them to the clipboard. SHIFT-Home selects everything to the left of the cursor on the current row, & SHIFT-End selects everything to the right.

Windows Key in Windows 7

But Windows 7’s got a whole host of shortcut keys that can make life easy, from WndKey-L to lock your keyboard or Wnd-“+” and Wnd-“-“ to zoom in and out. What about:

· Wnd – rightarrow, which docks the current window to the right of the screen 

· Wnd – leftarrow, which docks to the left

· Wnd uparrow, maximises the current window…

… and the reverse, Wnddownarrow, restores it again, or minimises it to the taskbar)

· SHIFT-Wndrightarrow and SHIFT-Wndleftarrow moves the current window between two monitors (if you have them) or between your laptop and the projector (if you have it set to “Extend” rather than “Duplicate”, a choice you get when you use WndP to switch screens).

With a bit of practice on some of these, you can take several minutes off repeated processes like editing a document or an email – just think how much more you could Get Things Done with nothing but some keyboard shortcuttery?

There are many, many other shortcuts – more details here.

Tip o’ the Week #26 – multiple time zones in Outlook Calendar

Sometimes you need to create appointments that will make sense when you’re in a different time zone – it helps to use Outlook, Exchange and its phone integration to put relevant stuff in clip_image002the calendar, so you can make sure you’re in the right place and at the right time.

Now there are a couple of ways to make Outlook more timezone-friendly – if you right-click on the time bar to the left of the calendar detail, then a fly-out menu will let you Change Time Zone. An alternative, can be found in the “Time Scale” option on the View tab when looking at the Calendar. As with many things, there are several ways to skin the proverbial cat…

If you choose to change the time zone, Outlook displays its options dialog, which lets you select the current time zone (and also sets the whole PC into that time zone so you needn’t change the PC clock separately), but helpfully also lets you display a second clip_image004zone, and give both a label so you can see which is which…

If you edit an appointment, it’s also possible to show multiple time zones, and to set the destination time zone for an appointment to take place. In other words, if I’m arranging to meet someone at 7pm in Washington DC, I don’t need to manually figure out what time that is in the UK, I just set the time zone of the appointment to be Eastern Daylight Time.

clip_image006As it happens, Outlook always converts an appointment back to “UTC”* – what we still know as GMT in the UK, is actually the base for all appointments, and then a time offset is applied depending on whether the time zone(s) in question have Daylight Saving Time in effect, etc. So an appointment is never 7pm in Washington DC, it’s actually at 00:00 then -5 is offset, since their time zone is UTC-5.

It’s even possible to have an appointment which starts and finishes in a different time zone. The only example I can think of this is a flight, but there may be others. Suggestions on a postcard please…


* UTC doesn’t actually stand for anything – the ITU standards body wanted a single worldwide abbreviation; English speakers wanted “Coordinated Universal Time” or CUT. French speakers wanted “temps universel coordonné” or TUC. Unable to separate the two factions, they compromised and chose UTC.