Basic tasks in Outlook

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

Set up an email account

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

Setup gets taken care of automatically 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, choose File > Add Account to start the Auto Account Setup.

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.

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 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

  • 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.

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.


  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.


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

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

Create a contact

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


  • 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.

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.

Click Tasks

  • From the Tasks folder, on the Home tab, choose New Task

    New Task

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

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

Print an email message, contact, calendar item, or task

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.


For more information, see Print items in Outlook.

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