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Working with Outlook Identities in Office 2011 for Mac

Outlook 2011for Mac has a special folder within the Mac OS X Finder called Office 2011 Identities. Just like it sounds, this special folder contains everything about your Outlook activities. Inside the Office 2011 Identities folder, Outlook stores one folder for each individual Identity. The name of the folder is the name of the Identity.

Each Identity folder stores your e-mail, account information, calendar events, tasks, and notes in a database for each Identity.

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For Outlook 2011, the structure of an Identity folder is completely new. Outlook now treats each item within an Identity as a discreet file. Each e-mail, calendar event, or task is stored as its own file. This means Time Machine backups for your Identity can take a fraction of a second instead of several minutes or longer as it sometimes did in Entourage. Spotlight searching is much improved as a beneficial side effect.

By default, Outlook makes an Identity for you called Main Identity, which stores your first e-mail account's information. It's a good idea to learn where your Identity folder is located, if for no other reason so that you know not to delete or move it. Use Mac OS X Finder application (on your Dock) to navigate your file system.

Keep in mind that when you upgrade or add an e-mail account, calendar, task, or note, the information is stored within an Identity.

These scenarios illustrate times when having more than one Identity is desirable:

  • Separation of work and private life e-mail accounts: Your work may require you to have an IMAP account, a Gmail account, and an Exchange account, but you want to keep your personal e-mail accounts, contacts, tasks, and notes from mixing in with your business activities. Use one Identity for work and another for your private life.

  • Keeping jobs independent: Perhaps you work two or more jobs and don't want to intermingle mail, calendars, and so on. Making an Identity for each job can help you keep your jobs from getting crossed.

  • Organization support: If you take care of the e-mail for a club or organization, make a separate Identity to keep that mail segregated.

  • Special event: If you manage a special event, such as a conference, webinar, or colloquium, starting a new Identity and e-mail account for the event is the perfect way to manage things.

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