10 Accessories for Microsoft Outlook

By Faithe Wempen, Bill Dyszel

Microsoft Outlook can do plenty for you without any outside help, but a few well-considered accessories, such as Sharepoint, can make your life even easier. Some accessories make up for capabilities that Outlook ought to have but doesn’t. Other accessories help use Outlook data anywhere, anytime.

Smartphones and Microsoft Outlook

Smartphones are everywhere today, and they’re probably the most powerful Outlook “accessory.” If you haven’t shopped for a new cell phone lately, smartphones are cell phones with built-in personal organizing software. The top smartphones at the moment include the iPhone and Android-based devices, such as the Samsung Galaxy.

Although you can enter and manage data in a snap with Outlook, you can carry your most important Outlook information in your pocket on whatever smartphone you’re carrying. You can even read email on the subway using a smartphone (something you might not want to try with a laptop).

You have a choice of email applications on most smartphones, and Outlook might not necessarily be your favorite in the end. But at least give it a try. It’s got some features that most of the free applications don’t have.

A tablet computer and Microsoft Outlook

Tablets are rapidly finding an important place in many people’s lives. The Apple iPad is the best known and most popular brand of tablet, but there are many tablets on the market that run the Android system. Many Android tablets are also insanely cheap. An older iPad 2, for example, is perfectly sufficient for running the mobile version of Outlook. The larger screen on a tablet lets you read email more comfortably, which is a bonus if you’re one of those people who receives hundreds of email messages every day. At the same time, the lightweight and convenient size of a tablet can give you the freedom to comfortably scan your email in a coffee shop or diner or in the backseat of your limo.

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Microsoft Office

When Outlook was first released, it was a part of the Microsoft Office 97 suite. (Yes, it’s over 20 years old!) In certain situations, Microsoft offers Outlook as a stand-alone product (or in a package with Internet Explorer), so you may not always have the benefits of using Microsoft Office and Outlook in concert. Office enables you to do all sorts of tricks with outgoing email and graphics, while Outlook makes it a snap to exchange the work you’ve created in Office via email. Use both if possible.

Business-card scanners and Microsoft Outlook

You can use several brands of business-card scanners to copy contact information into Outlook from the business cards you collect at meetings, conferences, and trade shows. Of course, you can enter all the information manually, but if you collect more than a few dozen cards per week, a business-card scanner can save you lots of work.

Online backup for Microsoft Outlook

There are several good online backup services available at sensible prices, including Mozy, Carbonite, and many others. If your computer crashes, or if — heaven forbid — you should suffer a fire, flood, or another disaster that destroys your computer, you can get your information back and start up where you left off. You’ll need a high-speed Internet connection to make use of any of these services. They charge by the month, and the peace of mind is worth every penny.

Make sure the folder containing your Outlook data files is included in your backup set. To see where your data files are stored, choose File, Account Settings, Account Settings, and then click the Data Files tab. By default, on most Windows 10 PCs, Outlook data files are stored in C:\Users\username\Outlook.

Skype with Microsoft Outlook

Skype is a surprisingly easy way to maintain a virtual conference service you can use to host the online meetings you’re likely to organize in your Outlook Calendar. There’s even a button on the Outlook Calendar Ribbon that launches a Skype meeting for you (if you have a business version of Office 365). If you hold lots of meetings with work colleagues who work from home or who work in many geographic locations, Skype can make your life a lot easier.

Microsoft SharePoint

Until recently, Microsoft SharePoint was found most frequently in large organizations that needed a way to share information and collaborate smoothly. The program was too cumbersome and expensive for private users and home businesses. Nowadays, though, anybody can buy SharePoint through an Office 365 subscription. You pay depending on the level of service you want. If you have a regular team that collaborates on business projects, you might consider trying SharePoint as a tool for sharing documents and other information.

Microsoft Exchange

Many of the business-ey features that appear to be built into Outlook, like shared calendaring, actually require you to run a program called Microsoft Exchange. Exchange lets you share your Outlook information with other people in your office and coordinate meetings and tasks. You can rent Microsoft Exchange accounts as part of an Office 365 subscription. The fees vary according to how many optional features you choose and how many people work in your organization.

OneDrive

OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud file-sharing service. If you have a Microsoft account (which you probably do if you’re signed in to Windows at the moment), you have a OneDrive account; they are one and the same. Go to onedrive.com and sign in with your Microsoft ID to access it.

In Windows 10, OneDrive access is also built into File Explorer, so you can access it via the OneDrive icon in the navigation pane. OneDrive files can be locally cached so you can use them even when you are not on the Internet; check out OneDrive’s settings to determine which files and folders are treated that way. (To get to OneDrive’s settings, right-click its icon in the notification area on the taskbar and choose Settings.)