How to Write a Note in Outlook

By Bill Dyszel

A note is the only type of item you can create in Outlook that doesn’t use a normal dialog box with menus, Ribbons, or toolbars. Notes are easier to use — but somewhat trickier to explain — than other Outlook items.

No name appears on the Note icon, and no name exists for the part of the note you drag when you want to resize it, although you can see what one looks like in the following image.

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How did you ever live without those little yellow stick-on notes? They’re everywhere! The funny thing about stick-on notes is that they came from an inventor’s failure. A scientist was trying to invent a new formula for glue, and he came up with a kind of glue that didn’t stick very well. Like the computer scientists who came later, he said: “That’s not a bug; that’s a feature!” Then, he figured out how to make a fortune selling little notes that didn’t stick too well. It’s only natural that an invention like this would be adapted for computers.

If you group your items on your Windows taskbar (at the bottom of your screen), then each time you start a program, the Windows taskbar adds an icon. That way, you know how many programs you’re running. If you click an icon for a program on the taskbar, you switch to that program. If you start Word and Excel, for example, you see icons for those programs on the taskbar.

However, if you have two or more documents open in Word or Excel, for example, you see only one icon labeled — with a W for Word or an E for Excel. If you click that icon, you see a list of each open document or spreadsheet.

Outlook works the same way. When you create a new item in Outlook, you have to click the Outlook icon to see the list of open Outlook items. The list remains until you close and save each item. It’s like having two or more programs open in Windows simultaneously.

The advantage of this arrangement is that you can leave something like a note open for a long time and keep switching to it to add comments. The disadvantage is that if you don’t look at the taskbar to see how many notes you have open, you may be creating a clutter of notes when you prefer just one.

Another advantage is that you can have two notes open at the same time — or a note and an email message — and drag text from one to the other.

To take virtual notes while doing your work, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Notes button in the Navigation pane (or press Ctrl+5).

    The Notes list appears.

    You don’t actually have to go to the Notes module to create a new note; you can press Ctrl+Shift+N and then skip to step 3. Go to the Notes module first only so you can see your note appear in the list of notes when you finish. Otherwise, your note seems to disappear into thin air (even though it doesn’t). Outlook automatically files your note in the Notes module unless you make a special effort to send it somewhere else.

  2. Click the New Note button.

    The blank note box appears.

  3. Type what you want to say in your note and click the Note icon in the upper-left corner of the note.

    The first line of each note is the title or subject. You can use the first line creatively to help find a note or to quickly review the topics you have in your note pile. The following image shows an example note.

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  4. Press Esc.