Getting to Know the To-Do Bar in Outlook 2007

Outlook 2007 has a new feature called the To-Do Bar that pulls together all the things you need to do and displays them in one area on the right side of the Outlook screen. The goal of the To-Do Bar is to let you know what you need to do at a glance instead of making you check your calendar, then check your email Inbox, and then check your Task List. The items you see most often in the To-Do Bar include

  • Tasks you've entered
  • Your next few appointments
  • Email messages you've flagged for action

At first, the To-Do Bar can seem a little confusing because things might turn up there that you didn't put there directly. For example, if you receive an email message on a Monday and apply the flag labeled This Week, that message turns up for action two Fridays later, when you might have forgotten about it. That's what the To-Do Bar is for — to prevent you from forgetting.

Adding a new item to the To-Do Bar

Adding an item to the To-Do Bar in Outlook isn't such a big to-do. You have both a quick way and a really quick way to enter a new task.

A little box appears in the To-Do Bar on the right side of the screen that says Type a New Task. Do what the box says. (If you can't see the box, go on to the following section to discover the regular, slightly slower way to enter the task.)

To enter a task by using the quick-and-dirty method, follow these steps:

1. Click the text that says Type a New Task.

The words disappear and you see the insertion point (a blinking line).

2. Type the name of your task.

Your task appears in the To-Do Bar Task List.

3. Press the Enter key.

Your new task moves down to the To-Do Bar Task List with your other tasks.

Isn't that easy? If only the tasks themselves were that easy to do.

Customizing or minimizing the To-Do Bar

Although the To-Do Bar is handy, it takes up quite a bit of space on the screen, which is a nuisance when you're reading email or checking your calendar. You can clear the To-Do Bar out of the way by clicking the double arrow to the left of the words To-Do Bar. Clicking the double arrow shrinks the To-Do Bar into a tiny ribbon along the right side of the screen.

Click the ribbon along the right side of the screen to get a quick glance at the To-Do Bar; clicking anywhere else on the screen makes the To-Do Bar shrink again.

Customizing the To-Do Bar

Three types of information can appear in the To-Do Bar:

  • The Date Navigator, which is a small calendar
  • A few of your next appointments
  • A list of tasks

If you want to adjust how much of each of those items appear, or you want to turn one of them off, choose View --> To-Do Bar --> Options and enter your preference. If you don't like the first choice you make, go back and make another. You can always change your To-Do Bar options.

Closing the To-Do Bar

Clicking the X to the right of the words To-Do Bar closes the bar completely, and it disappears without a trace. You can reopen the To-Do Bar by choosing View --> To-Do Bar --> Normal.

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