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Arranging Your Outlook 2007 Messages

Nobody gets a little bit of e-mail anymore. If you get one message, you get a ton of 'em. Fortunately, Outlook 2007 offers you a whole bunch of different ways to arrange that mess of messages so you have a fighting chance to figure out what's important and what can wait.

When Outlook is set up to display the Reading Pane on the right side of the screen (choose View --> Reading Pane --> Right), you see two buttons at the top of the list of messages:

  • Arranged By button: This leftmost button describes the system Outlook is using to organize your messages.
  • Detail button: To the right of the Arranged By button sits another button with a label that offers some detail about the arrangement Outlook is currently using. (For example, if your messages are currently arranged by date, the button on the right says either Newest on Top or Oldest on Top.)

To change the way Outlook arranges your messages, simply click the Arranged By button to reveal a shortcut menu of all the arrangements you can use.

These are the arrangements Outlook offers:

  • Date: The most common way to organize messages is by date. When you first set up Outlook, this is how your messages will be arranged. Click the button on the right to alternate between newest messages on top and oldest messages on top.
  • Conversation: This arrangement groups messages of the same topic together. If you've been exchanging a series of messages with someone about a specific project or idea, you can choose the Conversation arrangement to follow the thread of the conversation.
  • From: As you might guess, this arrangement organizes your message collection according to the person from whom the message was sent.
  • To: Most messages you receive are addressed to you, but not always. Sometimes, you receive messages addressed to a list of people, so your name doesn't appear on the To line of the message. This arrangement separates your messages according to whether your name is on the To line of each message.
  • Folder: When you're viewing messages in a Search folder, the messages you're viewing may actually be located in a variety of different folders. If you want to know exactly which folder contains each message, use the Folder arrangement.
    When you're viewing your Inbox, the Folder arrangement isn't available; it's only for Search Folders.
  • Size: Some e-mail messages include photographs, music, and all sorts of heavyweight files that can really clog up your company's e-mail servers. So when your system administrator asks you to thin out your Inbox, use this feature to identify and delete the messages that are the most overweight.
  • Subject: This arrangement lumps together messages that have the same subject.
  • Type: Not every item that arrives in your Inbox is a simple message; you may also receive Meeting Invitations, Task Requests, and all sorts of other items. When you want to separate the messages from the Meeting Requests, switch to the Type arrangement.
  • Attachment: When you go to your Inbox, you may not be looking for a message, you may be hunting for an attachment. Arranging your messages by attachment enables you to examine the likeliest suspects first.
  • E-mail Accounts: Sometimes, you want to know which message came from which address or what messages you sent to a particular address. With this arrangement, Outlook shows you only the messages from the accounts that interest you.
    If you want to see only the messages sent to a single address, choose the E-mail Accounts arrangement and then click the minus sign (–) next to the names of accounts you don't want to see.
  • Importance: When you need to see the messages marked with high importance first, use this arrangement.
  • Categories: You can assign categories to any message you send, and sometimes other people can assign categories to the messages they send to you. To see which message falls into which category, use the Categories arrangement.
  • Availability: The Availability setting is for people who use a laptop on a corporate network with Microsoft Exchange. You can set up Exchange to send only the subject, date, and sender name for each e-mail message, not the main body of the message. Until you actually click the message to read it, the rest of the message stays back on the main computer in the home office. The messages you can access in their entirety are considered available.
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