Dec 30, 2010
If you have hundreds of tasks in your task list, and you don’t know why, here’s an explanation—and a new way to fix it.
Adding a flag to a mail item in Outlook 2007/10 or 2011 creates a task-like entry called a flagged-mail task in your task list. A somewhat unfortunate side effect of this is that if you have used flags on mail in the past, and then more recently decided to start using the task system, your task system will appear overloaded with these. These accumulate even if the mail is stored away in older folders, even from years ago.
Clearly this is not something you want, given how old these items are, and if you have a lot of them it can make the task list almost unusable. So you will want to clean this up by clearing those flags.
You can clear these one at a time just by clicking each flag. Or you can SHIFT-select a number of the messages in the task list at once, right-click the flag, and choose Clear Flag (in Windows if you select more than one, the right-click choice will be Clear Flag/Delete Task—it leads to the same outcome). This operation preserves the original mail and removes the item from the task list, so it is just what you want. If the old mail still has meaning to you, consider applying a color category to that mail as a way to mark it for later search.
If you have hundreds of these scattered among hundreds of real tasks, then scrolling and selecting these can be hard to do. So better is to group all the flagged-mail tasks together and clear the flag on all of them at once, in bulk. In the 2nd. Edition of my Outlook book, I showed one way to clean those up. Here is another way that is a bit easier and more universally applicable. It also works with Outlook Mac 2011. This will appear in the book’s 3rd. edition, due out in early 2011.
How to Do a Bulk Flagged-Mail Task Cleanup:
- Go to your Tasks folder. Once there, Windows users be sure the To-Do List folder is selected in the upper left of the Navigation Pane.
- At the top of the list view, click the header of the Item Type Icon column; it’s usually the column at the far left. On Windows its symbol looks like a dog-eared document; on the Mac it looks like a tiny i inside a circle. Again, click that symbol in the header at the top of the column—this sorts all items on that column.
- Scroll the task list to find the top of the icons that look like an envelope and then use the SHIFT key to select all these (select the top item, scroll to the bottom item, press and hold the SHIFT key, then click the bottom item). You’ve just selected all your flagged-mail tasks. If you were flagging e-mail recently to indicate tasks, then leave unselected any new flagged tasks you may have created on purpose.
- Then, Windows users, right-click the flag column on any one of them, and choose Clear Flag/Delete Task from the shortcut menu. Mac users, find the Follow Up flag button in the Home tab of the Ribbon menu, click the small down arrow at its right, and choose Clear Flag from the shortcut menu.
Those steps will clear out your old unwanted flagged-mail tasks from you task lists, but will retain the original e-mail. It will also remove the flags from all those mail items in whatever mail folder they are stored in.
Windows users who upgraded from Outlook 2003 will most-likely find that all that mail has a corresponding color category still assigned. Decide if you want to remove that as well.
And speaking of categories, if you are afraid of not having your previously flagged mail marked in any way, in step 4 above while you have all that mail selected, consider assigning an Outlook category (like Red) to all that mail so you can still find it easily.
Some cautions: do not simply delete these items using the DELETE key, since that will delete the corresponding e-mails. And do not select any of the true tasks during step 3, as those really will be deleted. And finally, remember, if you have been purposely creating flagged-mail tasks for a while before doing this, do not clear those out.
One other tip. If you would rather not remove all the flags, but just want to filter them out of the To-Do Bar task list, see this post.