Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.

Total Workday Control book Newsletter, January 2007

Hello and Happy New Year! The topic of 2007's first newsletter is an introduction to the brand new Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 which is just now being released. This is a rich topic and I'll only brush the surface in the body of this e-mail by highlighting the main changes to Outlook. If you are a Total Workday Control (TWC) user you'll also want to know how to transition your configurations into Outlook 2007, and so I provide below links into a much more complete transition document that I've written and posted on the book website. It has all the information you will need.

If you are visiting this newsletter series for the first time and you'd like to sign up to receive a free new issue each month, click here.

Michael Linenberger, January 12, 2007

What's New in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007

Outlook 2007 has recently been released to corporate users, and is available as a free trial version on the Microsoft website (http://us1.trymicrosoftoffice.com/default.aspx?culture=en-US). The retail version becomes available on January 30, 2007. So sooner or later you may want to try this out or purchase it.

There are three main areas of change I want to cover in this newsletter:

  • Use of the new Office ribbon instead of menus/toolbars inside Outlook items

  • Changes to task tools (by far the most important topic for TWC users)

  • Changes to e-mail

Read on for these topics. And also look below for links into my longer article with more details and additional topics.

Microsoft Office Command "Ribbon"

The entire suite of products in Office 2007 has been redesigned to use a command "ribbon," instead of the menu and toolbar combination in use for decades. This is the most discussed change by far in the press. While ribbons take getting used to, I really like them. I think many of us were getting overwhelmed by the long menus and enormous stacks of toolbars being added to Office applications. What ribbons do is organize all the commands that previously resided in those tools into a much more logical and compact user interface. There is a lot of power in these ribbons. They allow you to start with simple controls at the surface, and then step into more complex controls, and they do that very effectively. Below is a sample of the ribbon at the top of a new Outlook e-mail item.

Outlook 2007’s To-Do Bar and Flagged-Mail Tasks

As you may know, I am a big advocate of using tasks in Outlook. The first big news on task features with Outlook 2007 is the arrival of the new To-Do Bar. The To-Do Bar in 2007 is essentially a replacement to the TaskPad used in previous versions of Outlook. If you are a TWC system user, then you know that the older TaskPad, which sits to the right of the appointment calendar in previous versions, is the key view for our daily tasks. The new To-Do Bar continues that tradition, but the new To-Do Bar also introduces some new task behavior compared to the TaskPad, new behavior I am very excited about.

Probably the most important new behavior is that the To-Do Bar is visible from within any Outlook view. That’s hugely important as it elevates the stature of tasks in Outlook, something I have felt for some time needed to be done. So once you open the To-Do Bar, as you navigate to various views and folders, it stays visible on the right side of your Outlook application window. You never lose sight of your important daily tasks, and so you increase the probability of working them consistently.

The To-Do Bar also adds a fantastic new feature: displaying flagged mail in the task lists. What this means is that when you click a flag at the right edge of an e-mail message, a virtual copy of the mail item is added to your To-Do Bar tasks list. In previous versions of Outlook clicking a flag added color to the flag on that mail item, and allowed some optional reminder capability. But it was not until this version of Outlook that the mail item was actually displayed in the task list. This enhancement adds a huge new utility as it provides a very quick way to convert e-mails to “tasks.” Any new feature that makes that easier I highly applaud.

But before you get too excited note that these new “tasks” are not equal citizens with true Outlook tasks, and so for experienced TWC users this new feature will present a challenge; you will need to figure out how to fit them into your system. The linked article below expands on that, and shows how to configure the To-Do Bar for the TWC system.

New Daily Tasks lists under the Calendar view

There is another totally new Task display underneath the calendar column in the Calendar folder view. And the formal name for this task display is interestingly “Daily Tasks," which is the same name we use in TWC for the list we manage daily.  Unfortunately, this list is not designed in a way that supports TWC daily tasks well. But there is still some usefulness here. Let me explain.

Here is how this task display works. If you focus on today’s date (in the figure above, it is Tuesday December 12), the list below the calendar for that date shows all tasks with a due date of today or earlier (configurable to start date also). This is much like our TaskPad/To-Do Bar filter, which filters the same. So you might think this is another way to view your TWC Daily Tasks. Unfortunately though, this view always sorts the older tasks to the top of the list, and that sort order is not configurable, including no way to sort high priority to the top. So this is not a great configuration if you use tasks extensively as in the TWC system. However do not give up on this display yet. What is useful to TWC users is to look at the days after today on the week calendar. There, you can see tasks that you have delayed to those days. I've always wanted that capability and this adds it. And you can drag tasks from day to day to defer them.

E-mail News: New Emphasis on Categories in 2007

You will now find a huge new emphasis on Outlook Categories in this version. This is true in both tasks and e-mail. As you know I am not a fan of using categories on tasks in Outlook, but if you have read my book you know I am a very strong advocate of using Outlook Categories as a core method for filing e-mail. So I am delighted to see this new emphasis on categories in Outlook 2007. If you use categories for filing, I think you'll find the enhancements very useful. Here are some of the ways these category enhancements are implemented.

First of all, Microsoft has added a Categories column to the default e-mail Messages view in Outlook (see right side of figure below)

You may recall that adding that column manually was one of the first e-mail configuration recommendations in my book, so Microsoft is catching on. But they've gone even further and added a color coding scheme that associates a color with each category in the category list. This does two things for you. It makes it easier to delineate categories at a glance. On small screens you may even be able to set the column width narrow in the list view and still make sense of the categories. It also make it easier to display multiple category assignments, since a colored square take much less space than written text.

They've also added a quicker way to choose categories. Previously, four steps were needed to assign a category to an e-mail. In Outlook 2007 it now takes only two steps: right click within the category column and then select the category from the context menu. And it can take as little as one step (just one click) for the default category. There are some caveats though and they are explained in the linked article.

And finally, if you are like me and prefer to use bulk full-text searches rather than filing mail by topic, Microsoft has added a true fast search engine that makes searching for e-mails within Outlook truly practical.

Linked Article has Much More Detail, and Transition Instructions

To thoroughly cover these topics requires way more information than can be covered in an e-mail newsletter. I recommend if you are a TWC user converting to Outlook 2007 that you read my entire article, which can be found at www.workdaycontrol.com/TransitionTo2007.htm. Later in the year I'll release a new edition of the book that includes all of this, and even more. But in the mean time, using the current book and this article will give you all you need to be productive in Outlook 2007.

Here are the main topics in that article, topics you will need to learn to make the transition. The titles of each topic link you to sections within the main article.

  • How to view the To-Do Bar
    There are a few subtleties since this bar is now available in all major Outlook folders. It has some excellent (but at first confusing?) view and hide features, including a temporary pop-up mode.

  • How to size the To-Do Bar to show more tasks
    Microsoft has packed quite a few things into the To-Do Bar so you may need to adjust its contents and size to get the tasks focus you need.

  • How to apply the standard TWC TaskPad configurations to the To-Do Bar
    If you configured for TWC in your previous Outlook version, note that during 2007 install most of your previous views should be picked up and converted to 2007. And if you use ClearContext, The TWC views in there should be picked up as well.  However the TaskPad configurations will not be picked up by the new To-Do Bar. And at the time of this writing, the new versions of ClearContext, even if freshly installed, will not automatically configure the To-Do Bar for you (future versions will sometime in Q1). This section of the article describes how to do those To-Do Bar configurations manually.

  • Understanding Flagged E-mail Tasks and how they are treated in the To-Do Bar, and in the TWC system
    Flagged E-Mail Tasks are a major new addition to Outlook 2007. While they add valuable new functionality, they are not true tasks and so may be confusing at first. I recommend a specific use in the TWC system, and this part of the article tells you why and what that is.

  • How to clean up the To-Do Bar contents resulting from the default install conversion
    If you are installing 2007 to replace an older copy of Outlook, Outlook picks up all your old mail (even after the required uninstall of your old Outlook). However the install process will also convert old flagged mail into new Flagged-Mail Tasks. So you will probably see a whole bunch of "new" (but old) tasks in your To-Do Bar, and those will need cleaning out. This section of the article tells you how.

  • Changes to Tasks folder and views: the Tasks folder To-Do List
    With the arrival of Flagged-Mail Tasks, how do they work in your Tasks folders? There are a number of impacts and this part of the article describes them and how to recover from a key possible install side-effect: missing views.

  • Brief coverage of the new tasks display under the daily and weekly calendar
    Outlook 2007 also ships with a third place to view tasks: under the Calendar folder view in its daily and weekly mode. It can be useful but has a few gotcha's; learn about them here.

I think you'll find Outlook 2007 to be a valuable and worthwhile upgrade to the earlier versions, especially for TWC users. The new features are great improvements and make Outlook even better for use with the TWC system. With Outlook 2007 and TWC, you should be able to get your e-mail and tasks totally under control. Making the conversion will take a bit of effort though, so read through the article linked above and then dive in.

Workshops and Training on
Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook

Don't forget, if you have a team or department that you'd like to get more productive, consider having a full day workshop at your company site for the entire group. The complete TWC system is taught, and students leave ready to go. There is no better way to jump start your team's productivity. All workshops are taught by me, the author. See my workshops page, or call 935-277-3448.

That’s all for now. Good luck with all your endeavors, and please do this: commit today to getting your e-mail under control. Once you do, it will change your whole attitude about work.

Michael Linenberger


PS: Remember to forward this e-mail to a friend if you think they could benefit from it. You can use the Forward to a Friend link below for a form that gives your friend a discount on the book if they sign up for the free newsletter subscription. Or just use your e-mail Forward button to forward this newsletter only.

© Copyright 2007, Michael Linenberger and New Academy Publishers