Basic tasks in Outlook

Outlook organizes your emails, calendars, contacts, tasks, and to-do lists, all in one place. That organization starts with your email account. From there you can start working with emails, turning them into tasks or appointments, and storing information about the people you interact with in your contacts so that you never have to remember an email address or a phone number. Let’s take a quick walk-through of some basic tasks.

Get started

Your first action is to set up your Outlook account. After that, you’ll be ready to start receiving and sending email, use the calendar, create contacts, and work with Outlook tasks.  

Setup is automatic if you used an earlier version of Outlook on the same computer. If you didn’t, the Auto Account Setup will start the first time you start Outlook and walk you through the process.

You’ll be asked for your name, email address, and a password. That’s usually enough, but if automatic setup fails, Outlook will ask for a few more pieces of information, such as your mail server name. If you don’t have that info, your email provider can give you the details.

Add Account button in the Backstage view

Note: If you want to add another email account later, when you're ready choose File > Add Account to start Auto Account Setup.

Quick access bar

The quick access bar is an important part of your Outlook experience. And it's an easy way for you to move among the top Outlook features—Mail, Calendar, People, and Tasks. The bar is in addition to the standard tabs and ribbons that provide you with an assortment of tools and options to help you use and manage Outlook.

Typically located at the bottom of the Outlook window, the quick access bar shows—depending on selected settings—either button names (left image) or icons (right image) associated with feature names.

Outlook quick access bar showing, by name, Mail, Calendar, People, and Tasks buttons, and More (the three dots or ellipses) options

Outlook quick access bar showing Mail, Calendar, People, Tasks, and More options icons

Change what appears on the quick access bar

You can control which buttons (or icons) appear on the quick access bar and even in what order they appear.

  1. Choose More More options > Navigation Options.

    Choose More (the three dots) on the quick access bar to view navigation options

  2. In the Navigation Options dialog box, do the following:

    Quick access bar Navigation Options dialog box

    • To change the number of buttons or icons that appear on the bar, increase or decrease the default setting of 4 for Maximum number of visible items.

    • To view icons instead of names, select the Compact Navigation check box.

    • To rearrange how buttons or icons are listed, select an item in the Display in this order box, and then choose Move Up or Move Down.

  3. Choose OK.

    Tip: If you don't like the changes you made, or just want to start over, choose Reset.

Email connects you to people inside and outside your organization. You can add an electronic signature and attachments to your email messages.

Create a new email message

  1. From any mail folder (such as your Inbox), choose New Email.

    New email

    Keyboard shortcut:    To create an email message, press Ctrl+Shift+M.

  2. When you’re done composing your email, choose Send.

For more information, see Create an email message.

Add an email signature to messages

Create personalized signatures that appear at the bottom of your messages. Signatures can include text, images, your Electronic Business Card, a logo, or even an image of your handwritten signature.

Create a signature

  1. In a new message, choose Signature >Signatures.

    Signature

  2. On the Email Signature tab, choose New.

  3. Type a name and then choose OK.

  4. Under Choose default signature, do the following:

    • In the E-mail account list, choose an email account to associate with the signature.

    • In the New messages list, choose the signature that you want to be added automatically to all new email messages. If you don't want to auto sign your email messages, you can ignore this option as (none) is the default value.

    • In the Replies/forwards list, choose the signature that you want to be added automatically (auto sign) when you reply to or forward messages. Otherwise, accept the default option of (none).

  5. Under Edit signature, type the signature, and then choose OK.

Add a signature

  • In a new message, choose Signature, and then choose the signature that you want.

    Signature

For more information, see Create and add an email message signature.

Forward or reply to an email message

  1. On the ribbon or in the reading pane, choose Reply, Reply All, or Forward

    Reply to the message

  2. In the To, Cc, or Bcc box, do one of the following:

    • To add a recipient, click in the appropriate box and enter the recipient's name.

    • To remove a recipient, click in the appropriate box, choose the recipient's name, and then press Delete.

For more information, see Reply to or forward an email message.

Add an attachment to an email message

To share a file, you can attach it to your message. You can also attach other Outlook items, such as messages, contacts, or tasks.

  1. Create a new message, or choose an existing message and choose Reply, Reply All, or Forward.

  2. In the message window, choose Message > Attach File.

    Attach file to a message

For more information, see Attach a file, message, contact, or task to an email message.

Open or save an email message attachment

You can open an attachment from the reading pane or from an open message. After opening and viewing an attachment, you can save it. If a message has more than one attachment, you can save them as a group or one at a time.

Open an attachment

Depending on the version of Outlook you're using, there might be multiple options available to open an attachment.

  • Double-click the attachment.

For more information, see Open attachments.

Save an attachment

  1. Choose the attachment in the reading pane or the open message.

  2. On the Attachments tab, in the Actions group, choose Save As. You can also right-click the attachment, and then choose Save As.

    Save as attachments

For more information, see Save attachments.

Appointments and meetings are a byproduct of your personal and business life and your calendar is the perfect vehicle for managing both. With Outlook you also can set reminders of scheduled events.

Create a calendar appointment

In Outlook, appointments aren’t the same as meetings. Appointments are activities that you schedule in your calendar that don’t involve inviting other people or reserving resources, such as a conference room or equipment.

Click Calendar

  • In a Calendar folder, choose New Appointment. You can also right-click a time block in your calendar grid, and then choose New Appointment.

    Calendar new appointment

    Keyboard shortcut:    To create an appointment, press Ctrl+Shift+A.

For more information, see Schedule an appointment.

Schedule a meeting

In Outlook, a meeting includes other people and can include resources such as conference rooms. You’ll get responses to your meeting requests in your Inbox.

  • In a Calendar folder, choose New Meeting.

    Calendar new meeting

Keyboard shortcut:    To create a new meeting request from any folder in Outlook, press Ctrl+Shift+Q.

For more information, see Schedule a meeting with other people.

Set a reminder

Reminders pop-up in an alert window so you don’t miss an important deadline. You can set or remove reminders for almost anything in Outlook, including email messages, appointments, and contacts.

For appointments or meetings

  • Open an Appointment or Meeting, and then in the Reminder list box, choose the amount of time before the appointment or meeting when you want the reminder to appear. To turn off a reminder, choose None.

For email messages, contacts, and tasks

  • Choose Follow Up > Add Reminder.

Tip:  You can quickly flag email messages as to-do items by using reminders. These reminders make the message appear on the To-Do List and in the Tasks folder, but doesn’t automatically add a reminder. Right-click the flag in the message list to add a reminder. Or, if you have the message open, choose Follow Up > Add Reminder.

Follow up

People

People is the bucket name for those persons—and companies—who form your business and personal contacts. Who you add as a contact is completely discretionary and the only restrictions that might apply as to who you can or can't add are the limitations that you or your company impose. Your company, for example, might have rules about correspondence with certain external email addresses.

Create a contact

A contact can be as simple as a name and email addresses, or you can include, for example, details such as street addresses, multiple phone numbers, a picture, and birthdays. You'll find your Contacts under the People option in the shortcuts bar in the lower-left corner of the Outlook window.

People

  • In People, choose New Contact.

    New Contact

    Keyboard shortcut:    To create a contact from any folder in Outlook, press Ctrl+Shift+C.

For more information, see Create or add a contact.

Get a list of the contacts in your Outlook address book

Saving a copy of contacts in your address book is a good practice. In Outlook 2013 or Outlook 2016 for Windows, you can download a comma-separated value (.csv) file of your contacts to your device and open it in Excel.

  1. Open Outlook, choose File > Open & Export > Import/Export.

    Choose Open & Export, and then choose Import/Export.

  2. In the Import and Export Wizard, choose Export to a file > Next.

  3. Choose Comma Separated Values and then, on the Export to a File page, choose Contacts as the folder to export from for your account.

    Scroll up and then choose the contacts folder you want to export.

    Important: Before proceeding, make sure the Contacts folder you choose is attached to your email account. This is especially important if you're carrying out these steps from another person's computer.

  4. Choose Next > Browse, and then go to the location where you want to store the comma-separate values (.csv) file.

  5. Type a file name, and then choose OK > Next.

    Save your contact address book as a .csv file

  6. Choose Finish to start the export process.

    Note: Outlook doesn't display a message when the export process is complete.

Open your contact .csv file

The comma-separated value (.csv) file of your exported contacts typically is opened in Excel.

  1. Browse to the location where you saved the .csv file and open it.

  2. Confirm your contacts are listed in the file.

    Example of Outlook .csv file opened in Excel

    Note: There might be empty cells. It's normal.

  3. Close the file without making any changes to avoid potential problems importing the file on a different device that has the same version of Outlook or a different email service.

Tasks

Create a task

Many people keep to-do lists—on paper, in a spreadsheet, or with a combination of paper and electronic methods. In Outlook, you can combine various lists into one, get reminders, and track task progress.

  1. Open Outlook, and on the Home tab, in the New group, choose New Items.

  2. Choose Task, fill in the task form as needed, and then choose Save & Close.

Keyboard shortcut:    To create a new task, press Ctrl+Shift+K.

For more information, see Create tasks and to-do items.

Assign a task

  1. Choose Tasks icon on Outlook quick access bar on the quick access bar or Tasks on the navigation bar.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Choose New task icon on the ribbon or press Ctrl+Shift+K to create a task.

      or

    • Open an existing task.

  3. Choose Assign Task.

    Assign task command on the ribbon

  4. In the task form, do the following:

    • In the To box, enter a name or an email address.

    • Add a Subject, choose a Start date and Due date, and set Status and Priority as needed.

      Start and Due Dates properties for an assigned task

    • Accept or clear the default selection of the two check boxes: Keep an updated copy of this task on my task list and Send me a status report when this task is complete.

    • If needed, type a message in the content block below the check boxes.

  5. If you want the task to repeat, choose Recurrence on the ribbon, select the options you want in the Task Recurrence dialog box, and then choose OK.

    Note:  If you assign a recurring task, a copy of the task remains in your task list, but it never updates. If you select the Send me a status report when this task is complete check box, you receive status reports for each completed occurrence of the task.

  6. Choose Send.

Tip: Outlook can track the progress of a task assigned to one person. If you want multiple people to work on a task, divide the task into smaller pieces or assign each task individually. For example, to track a report to be written by three writers, create three separate tasks and assign each individual task to the appropriate writer.

Accept or decline an assigned task

When a task is created and assigned to you, it appears in your Inbox.

Accept and Decline commands in a task request viewed in the Reading Pane

  • In the reading pane, choose Accept or Decline.

    or

    Open the task, choose Accept or Decline on the ribbon, and regardless of the option you chose, select either Edit the response before sending or Send the response now, and then choose OK.

    Note: Accepted tasks appear in your Outlook task list.

If you open a task, you can Reply, Reply all, or Forward to the person who assigned the task to you and to others as appropriate. You also can include a comment in the message block.

View a task

  1. Open Outlook, and on the quick access bar, choose Tasks icon on Outlook quick access bar .

  2. In your To-Do List or Tasks list, double-click an item to view the full form.

You can change how you view tasks at any time.

  • On the Home tab, in the Current View group, choose a different view.

    Current view options for tasks .

Print a task

You can choose how you view your tasks, and then, based on what you choose to print, in what format—Table Style or Memo Style—the task is printed. If you select a single task to print, for example, then the only print setting available is Memo Style. But if you choose a list such as the To-Do List, a Table Style print format also is offered.

  1. Choose Tasks icon on Outlook quick access bar on the quick access bar.

    Outlook quick access bar

  2. Choose a single task in one of your folders—To-Do List or Tasks list—or choose a folder.

  3. Choose File > Print and select the format (if available) under settings.

Print an email message, contact, or calendar item

In Outlook, you can print items such as email messages, contacts, calendar items, or larger views, such as calendars, address books, or content lists for Mail folders.

  1. Choose an item or folder in Outlook that you want to print.

  2. Choose File > Print.

Print

For more information, see Print items in Outlook.

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