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You can view your messages in at least ten ways, beginning with the set that comes with Microsoft Outlook. You can modify each view by sorting on any column of information in any view by clicking the title of that column.

To change your view of your messages in Outlook, choose View-->Current View, and then choose one of the following views from the menu:

  • Messages. This is the no-frills picture of your Inbox — From, To, Subject — just the basics. Messages that you haven't read yet are listed in boldface type; the others are listed in plain type.

  • Messages with AutoPreview. When you don't have time to read all the messages you get, a preview is helpful. The first few lines can give you a hint as to which messages you want to read. AutoPreview shows you these first few lines.

    Normally, you see previews only of messages that you haven't read yet. You see only the titles of messages that you have read. Actually, Outlook assumes that you've read any message you've opened. You can also mark a message read or unread by right-clicking it and choosing Mark as Read or Mark as Unread.

  • By Follow-Up Flag. You can flag incoming messages to help you keep track of what you have to do in response to each message. Flagged view groups your messages according to whether flags are set on the messages, and lists what kinds of flags are set and when they're due.

    Some experts say that the most efficient way to deal with all your incoming messages is to file them according to what you need to do with them and then act upon them according to each message's priority and timing. Message flags are one handy way of getting a handle on what you have to do with the messages that you get. By Follow-Up Flag view automatically organizes your messages according to the action that they demand, making you instantly efficient, right?

  • Last Seven Days. When you're asked to take immediate action on a message you received a few days ago, it's not always easy to find the message that told you what to do, especially if you get lots of e-mail. Last Seven Days view shows you only the messages that you got within the past week. Finding an item in a short list is easier than in a long one.

    The Last Seven Days list limits your view to messages that arrive in a seven-day time period. It does not sort messages according to what's in them or who sent them. You can sort your messages according to the name of the sender or the subject of the message by clicking the titles at the top of the columns in the view.

  • Flagged for Next Seven Days. If you're flagging messages that are really important, the messages that you've flagged to get your attention in the next few days are likely to require your attention first. For a quick look at the hottest of the hot items, use Flagged for Next Seven Days view.

    Like Flagged view, Flagged for Next Seven Days view cuts to the essentials: who sent the message, what the subject of the message is, and when action is due on the message that is marked.

  • By Conversation Topic. You should always include a subject line that's easy to understand so that the person who gets your message knows at first glance the topic of your message and what to do about it. With any luck, other people do the same thing for you. Then you can really get some mileage from your messages by sorting them in By Conversation Topic view.

  • By Sender. When the boss calls and asks, "Did you get the e-mail message about bonuses that I sent you three weeks ago?" you probably don't want to spend a great deal of time sorting through everybody else's messages from the past three weeks. The quickest way to answer the boss's question promptly is to switch to By Sender view.

    You can instantly find the boss's name in By Sender view. Double-click the message titled Bonuses. Then you can tell the boss, "I certainly did; it's right here in front of me." You'll be able to reply so quickly that the boss will be glad to give you that bonus.

  • Unread Messages. You don't have to read every message that comes across your screen, but Murphy's Law says that the most important information will be in a message that you haven't read yet. The Unread Messages view gives you a quick peek at the things you haven't taken a quick peek at yet.

    Don't leave your Inbox in the Unread Messages view all the time because messages will seem to vanish when you finish reading them. It's easier to use Messages view most of the time and switch to Unread Messages view now and then as a strategy for finding things.

  • Sent To. It may seem silly to have a view of your Inbox sorted according to the name of the person each message is sent to. After all, it's your Inbox; everything should be sent to you, or it wouldn't be here, right?

    You have two reasons for using Sent To view. Some messages that come to you are addressed to everybody at your company, for example, so it's good to know that certain messages shouldn't be taken personally. The second reason is that the same set of views is available in the Inbox and the Sent Items folder. The Sent Items folder is where Outlook keeps copies of messages that you've sent to other people. Knowing what you sent to whom can come in very handy.

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Sent To view is only sorted, not grouped, which means that the messages appear in order of the names of the people who sent them. A grouped view would display as the heading of a group the name of each person who has sent you mail. If you click the Subject column, you lose the benefit of having the list sorted by sender. If your Sent To list appears to be sorted incorrectly, just click the word To at the top of the To column.

  • Message Timeline. The Message Timeline view is one of the most interesting views in Outlook; it draws you a graph of all your messages according to when they arrived. Message Timeline view is designed to help you find messages when you can remember when they arrived but not why they arrived or who sent them.

    The little icons that represent the messages are actually shortcuts to the messages that they represent. You can open a message by double-clicking the icon for that message. You can also right-click the message icon to reply to a message, delete a message, or move a message to another folder.

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