Microsoft’s Outlook 2011 ( ) isn’t just the same old Entourage 2008 e-mail program repackaged with a sleek new surface. From consolidated inboxes to Quick Look support, there are just as many improvements under the hood as there are on the surface. But despite the redesign, Microsoft made sure to retain many of the bonuses and shortcuts that made Entourage a power user tool. Here are some favorites you might have missed:
1. Keyboard shortcut savvy
Like Entourage, Outlook lets you access many options directly from your keyboard. Some keyboard shortcuts have changed (see our Outlook 2011 keyboard shortcut cheat sheet), but many haven’t, including such gems as Shift-Command-O, which quickly reveals all unread messages. Make sure you’re taking advantage of these useful ones:
Flag your messages When you’ve selected a message from your mail list, Control-1 through Control-4 will flag it for a follow-up today, tomorrow, this week, or next week.
Hide or reveal the viewing pane Command-\ (back slash) shows or hides the viewing pane to the right of the message list. Command-Shift-\ (back slash) shows or hides it below the message list.
Sending shortcuts To reply to a message, select it in the message list and press Command-R. To forward a message, press Command-J. When you're done composing a message, press Command-Return to send it.
2. Trash on a schedule
Plagued by warnings that your e-mail account is over its size limit? Let Outlook take out the trash for you. Under Tools -> Run Schedule -> Edit Schedules, you can tell Outlook when to empty your Deleted Items folder, whether that’s every hour, every week, or just every time you quit the program.
3. A custom calendar
Not everyone works from nine to five. Under Preferences -> Calendar, you can specify what days of the week you work, and for what hours. And since it never hurts to know when you can expect your next day off, Outlook will automatically add holidays for the U.S. and other countries to your calendar. You’ll find that feature under File -> Import; just select Holidays from the list that appears.
New addition for Outlook 2011, invitations that arrive via e-mail will also display your calendar for the date and time of the invitation alongside the body of the message. You can see at a glance whether the meeting to which you’ve been invited conflicts with the planning session you set up last week, or whether you’re free to attend.
4. A built-in typing assistant
The same AutoCorrect feature that fixes your fumble-fingered typos in Word can save you time in Outlook. By editing AutoCorrect’s database, you can specify short combinations of letters that will automatically expand into complete words. Go to Preferences -> AutoCorrect to add to the list of terms. (In Entourage 2008, this was under Tools -> AutoCorrect.) If you despair of having to type “Kyrgyzstan” 50 times in that all-important research summary, just set it to instantly expand from “kyr.” This trick could save your sanity—and spare you from a potential case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
5. Your secret identity
Entourage 2008 let you swap between multiple identities (Entourage -> Switch Identity), allowing you to keep personal correspondence and work messages and notes separate. Outlook 2011 can do this too, but where Entourage let you switch identities within the program itself, the process in Outlook is a bit trickier. You’ll have to open the Microsoft Database Utility, which hangs out in the /Applications/Microsoft Office 2011/Office folder. Better yet, zip right to it by holding down the Option key before you open Outlook. Once in the Database Utility, you can create, rename, delete, and switch between identities just like you did in Entourage.
Nathan Alderman is a writer, editor, and scrupulous reader of documentation in Alexandria, Va.