June 29, 2015
You may know that Outlook 2013 allows you to “peek” at bits of the major datatypes (Mail, Calendar, People, and Tasks) by hovering your mouse over their labels in the lower left. The People Peek may be a mystery because it probably shows nothing—rather you really want it to show a list of key contacts, as in the figure below.
The reason it may be empty for you is because you haven’t yet added any favorites. To learn how to do that, read on!
First, Finding the New People View
The key to adding favorites is in using Outlook 2013’s new People view. As some background, you may know that all datatypes in desktop Outlook allow you to apply various customized views to the data. These are views that sort and filter the data in different ways. In Outlook 2013, a new view has been added to the old Contacts datatype called the People view. That People view is the only place you can add favorites.
To activate the People view, first activate the People datatype by clicking on the People label in the lower left of Outlook. There are then two ways to activate the People view.
The first way is this: From the Home tab, look for the Current View subpane in the middle of the Home ribbon. In there, you should see a People choice, as shown below; click it and that will activate the new People view.
If you don’t see People listed in the Current View subpane as shown above for some reason, try this: Go to the View tab, and at the far left choose Change View, and pick People from its popup list.
Choosing Favorites in the People View
When the People view is active, things look a lot different. Instead of the standard list view of contacts, you’ll see a list of pictures (or picture placeholders), along with contact information. If you click on one of these you’ll see that a very different rendition of Outlook’s old contacts card appear to its right. I could go into great detail on the advantages of this new card, but that’s not the purpose of this article. You can read more about that here (and I recommend you do read that article later, there is a lot of good info there).
The main point of my article here is to show you how to populate the People Peek by marking favorites. Here is how: Right click one of the contacts in the People view list, and from the context menu choose Add to Favorites, as shown below.
Now try hovering over the main People label in the lower left corner of Outlook, and you’ll see that contact appear in the popup list. You’ve now populated the People Peek list! Next you should add a few more key favorite contacts so the Peek popup becomes useful to you.
Digging Deeper into the People Peek List
Okay, so now you can pop up a list of favorites just by hovering over the People label. But that popup list really doesn’t show much useful information; it only shows the picture, the name, and a person’s availability (based on their Exchange calendar commitments I presume). What now?
Well, you can dig deeper through more hovering—several layers deeper in fact.
First, if you hover over an item in the list, that pops up a small mini-contacts card with buttons at the bottom, and those buttons (highlighted in the smaller red box below) represent direct links into various communication tools.
In my installation those buttons initiate either a Skype IM conversation, a Skype voice call, a Skype video call, or open a pre-addressed Outlook e-mail. I suspect if your company were using other tools instead of Skype, then access to those tools would result instead (let me know in comments, okay?). If there are multiple phone numbers or e-mail addresses to pick from for a given contact, a small arrow appears to the right of a button (see above) and clicking that arrow drops down a choice list.
My main complaint about this Peek process is if you don’t want to initiate the communication, but just want to look up a phone number, say to physically dial on your office phone system, it takes yet another step. You have to click again on the arrow next to a button as described above. Or, you have to click the bigger arrow to the far lower right corner on that mini-contacts card to open the main card—the larger card that shows everything (try that now, you’ll want to learn how to do that).
While it’s nice having popup access like this, that’s a lot of steps. I wish instead there were a way to designate showing, say, the primary phone number on the mini-contacts card or even on the Peek popup, perhaps in the place of the availability information. It should be configurable in my opinion.
You can do some configurations on how that first Peek popup looks. Under File>Options>People, you can turn off the photos and you can turn off the availability information. But why didn’t Microsoft add some checkboxes to add things like primary phone number or email address in their place? Perhaps in future versions they will.
One more thing. If you click the box-with-arrow icon in the upper right corner of the Peek list popup, you can “dock” the Peek popup onto your To-Do Bar. However, I don’t recommend doing that for 1MTD or MYN users because it takes away from your task list space on the To-Do Bar.
And yet another thing. If you right-click a contact in the Peek popup list, a context menu appears that allows you to: remove the item from favorites, edit it, open the main People contact card, or copy the card.
Using the Search People Box
One thing useful about the Peek popup is the Search People box at its top. Typing in that box searches your entire contacts list, not just favorites. So it saves a step of opening the full People datatype to do your contact searches. Of course, there is also a Search People box at the top of the Find section at the far right of the Home tab.
As you can see, the new People Peek is a useful tool with a number of hidden features. Let me know in comments if you discover anything else you like about People Peek. And don’t forget to read the article here to learn more about the new People card, and how to use it.