In the first post of 2010 I highly recommended to use Categories in Outlook to help you organize items and actions easier. The Outlook categories are a great way to visually see the groupings you want to interact with for your business. Plus, since they allow you to be flexible with naming and coloring, you can customize them to whatever you want without feeling restricted. However, one more step should be created when looking at the power of this system.
It’s nice to have a category listing of events but … having a listing isn’t enough when you are looking at functionality. Being able to do something with a grouping is equally as important. This is where the power of “Custom Views” is shown.
When looking at the Contacts view in a number of different looks into the information is shown. The main look that people like is the Business Card view. This presents the contact information in a visual experience:
But … if you play around with the other views you can find the information that might work better for you visually. I know that I really like the Phone List view when looking at quick numbers without a lot of graphic fluff.
But … I’m here to talk about making the most out of your categories. The nice thing about categories is that once you add them to your objects you can search on that category term. So look at your top right corner of the contact window and you will see a search box. If you type in your search term a filter will take place. Try it with one of your categories … like Friends.
You should see your view being filtered. If you have the Phone List view the category words should appear highlighted. The problem with this method is that you will get any contact with the Friends word in the title, company, position, etc. If you are trying to make a list of friends this way then it might not be the best way to go about it. We need something with a little more substance! So let’s look at making a view based on our categories …. substance!
To start we need to modify a view. I guess if we really wanted to create a new view from scratch we can, but if we want to move quickly … copying a view will be much easier.
To get to the form where we need to create a view its as simple as opening the View menu –> Current View menu –> and finally Define Views option.
Once you have followed down this path you will get to the Define Views screen. Every object in Outlook has a way of being displayed. The Define View screen will display what types of views can be displayed depending on the objects you are looking at. If you are on the Contacts you will see views that appear for the Contacts views. When on the Calendar, or Events objects, you will see views displayed for the Calendar. Same thing with Tasks, Journal, Notes, and Emails. If you want to create a quick way to customize how these items are displayed … the Define Views option is where you can customize what you see.
Once you are at the Custom View Organizer you can create New, Copy existing, or Modify a view. This will allow you to add fields for your active default views, create new views or copy an existing view so you can modify the view afterwards. Instead of recreating the wheel and starting from scratch it is easier to just find a view you like and Copy it.
Be very careful … don’t Modify the default views in the application … unless you REALLY want to change the way they operate. There is a “Reset” button which I guess means you can change the view, but why tempt fate.
After you have decided to Modify the view, just click the Modify button and a new dialog will appear that gives you a number of different options. With each of these options another dialog box will appear. Let’s not go too in-depth with each of these dialogs (Fields, Group By, Sort, Filter, Other Settings, Automatic Formatting, and Format Columns) with one exception: Filter. Since we are trying to create views based upon Categories the Filter option will give us the best place to start.
So here is the quick way to get the category customization.
1) Click on Filter button
2) Go to Second Tab in Filter Dialog: More Choices
3) Click on Categories button
4) Select which Categories you want to see in your view
Now there are more options available to filter out views. And even more options to customize the views available. But when we are focusing on the Categories this is the most simple and direct way. Great thing about this is the ability to craft multiple displays based upon groupings you define.
This is one of the reasons why I enjoy Microsoft products … it’s the ability to define a system the way you want a system defined. So you can create data and information the way you want it. Then you can display it and recall that information in a way that is best for you. That’s powerful when dealing with a tool: the flexibility to use the data you need and not what someone else thinks you need. So what’s the tip?
This tip should be obvious. Take 10 minutes to create views of data that you can use … that you need. For instance, if you subscribe to a “Path to Advocacy” program create a list of “prospects” based upon placing them in a category. Then from that list you can create campaigns and tracking information. This will allow valuable statistics to be created that will help define if a campaign was successful. So in your 10 minutes create a view to help draw the information out you need quickly.
Now once you have this information in place it’s pretty simple to send a quick email. Select Your View, Select All Contacts, then hit the “Send Message to Contacts” button and you have the email created. Or if you want to do some special cool things … create a mail merge, but that’s definitely a topic for another post. You’ll just have to wait and see what that’s about … :)