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Going Further with Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook offers several features that can help organize your busy life. If you’re just getting started with Outlook, check out Part 1 of this series here. One often overlooked feature that exists within Outlook is the fact that you can click and drag emails in order to create new contact information, calendar items, and tasks. Dragging the selected message to the Calendar, Contact, or Task tab on the left-hand pane of your Outlook window will automatically pull up a prompt to create one of these new items with your email message already attached. You may need to add a few things – such as a specific time of the meeting or the job title of an individual you are adding as a contact – but overall, this does save some time. Managing Your Contacts Outlook’s Contact Manager allows users a quick interface in which they can access anyone in which the user wishes to keep in contact with. The simplest way to create a new contact is within an email itself. Right-clicking the email address or name that you wish to add as a contact will bring up a drop-down menu in which you will want to select “Open Outlook Contact” or “Add to Contacts.” This will bring up the contact menu in which you can add as much information as you like. Notice that Outlook also gives users the option to categorize the contact, which becomes useful when you want to keep things in order. You may also create new contacts from directly from Outlook’s UI. Simply click “Contacts” on the left-hand pane and then select “New” from the ribbon above. You will then see a drop down menu in which you can select “Contact” and then manually enter all of the information. Operating within the contacts menu is very useful within itself.  Highlighting the contact you want to correspond with allows the user several quick options. After clicking you contact, simply click “E-mail” if you would like to send an e-mail to that contact or click “Meeting” if you would like to schedule a meeting. Outlook will auto-populate the email address. Calendar Outlook’s Calendar feature allows users basic features such as creating an event, but it also allows more advanced features, such as setting up meetings, reminders, and tasks. Clicking the “Calendar” option on the left-hand pane of the Outlook menu will bring up Outlook’s main calendar UI. The first thing to notice is that you will have many different viewing options available from the ribbon above. “Day” view will show an in-depth view of the day’s planned activities. “Work” will show a slightly less in-depth view of Monday-Friday. “Week” shows Sunday-Saturday. Finally, the “Month” view only puts highlight bars on the days in which events are planned. You will need to click on the bar itself in order to view its details. It is important to note that Outlook will provide a calendar for every email account that you have synced with it. Because of this, any calendar that you have set up through another client, for example Gmail, should automatically sync with Outlook. This provides a convenient link if you are not able to use Outlook wherever you are. For instance, if your work uses Google Apps, anything you set up in your Gmail calendar will automatically sync with your Outlook account at home. Setting up a new event, or “Appointment” as they are called within Outlook, within the calendar is simple. Double-click on the day in which you would like to add the event and a new window will appear prompting you to...

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Using Google Apps for Your Small Business

For many of us, the advent of the cloud has given us a convenient location to store files that we may need to access on the go. However, the cloud is much more than storing grocery lists and Christmas ideas on Dropbox and Evernote. The cloud has given businesses the means to access all of their data and workflow from anywhere, at anytime, from any Internet connection. While this may mean that you can never truly leave your work at work anymore, it has produced quantum leaps in employee collaboration, coordination, and productivity. This week, we will focus on the corporate giant that truly has small businesses in mind at all times, Google. Google is no longer just your favorite search engine – it should be your go-to destination for small business IT solutions. Gmail   Many of you may already be familiar with Google’s fantastic webmail client, Gmail. However, if you are not also using it for your small business, you need to be. Gmail’s largest asset is that it functions in the cloud. This means that you do not have download or sync your messages to various locations. The inbox will look the same from any location that you access it from. Gmail’s defining difference is that it “threads” conversations. This means that emails with the same or similar subjects are grouped together. This allows the user to see all of the messages sent and received on a particular topic in one place. Every time a new message is received, Gmail “bumps” the entire thread to the top of the inbox, streamlining multi-party conversations by reducing the amount of time a user has to search in their mailbox for past messages. If you do have the need to search for an old email however, Gmail’s built in search browser does the trick nicely. It quickly searches the subject and body of any email that is still being stored on the cloud. Gmail also has some useful setting that may be of value for your business: Signature: Allows you to modify and store your email signature in the same manner Outlook would Forgotten Attachment Detector: Notifies you if you have mentioned an attachment in your email but did not add one. Undo Send: We’ve all sent emails to the wrong person or made a grievous typo that we wish we could take back. This feature gives a few additional seconds to take that email back. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides While not as refined and stable as its big brother (Microsoft Office), Google’s own office suite of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides does provide a viable (if not better) business alternative. What Google’s suite lacks in elegance, it makes up for with online storage, shareability, and collaboration options. In the world of small business, it is rarely possible for everyone to be present in the office at all times. With Google Docs, employees can collaborate real-time on a document anywhere that has an Internet connection. If you do not want everyone to have the ability to edit the document, you can set permissions that allow certain users to view and edit. You may also edit these settings to allow people outside of your office to view and edit if you wish to share with them. Calendar If you are like me, you can never turn down any tool that helps you stay organized. Google’s Calendar feature can do just that.  In Google Calendar, you can set up sharing and permissions in which you can add other employee’s calendars to your own and they may do the same. This...

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Schedule Once a Big Help in Event Organization

I know sometimes I look like a really busy man, at least on paper. My friends and family often ask me how I keep all my classes, shows, tasks and events organized. Many years ago, I relied on old-school paper organizers, a couple of highlighters and a lot of sticky notes. I had a pretty amazing scheduling system that no one else on this planet would be able to understand. My appointment acronyms and color coding of meetings might’ve looked like the handywork of a messy third-grader, but it made perfect sense to me and that’s all that mattered. Today, life is even more complicated and I’ve ditched my paper system for a combination of nine Google calendars, a smartphone and a lot of automated reminders. I still make mistakes from time to time, but these tools provide me with enough power to know where I need to be at all times. While I may know where I’m supposed to be on most days of the week, other people I may need to collaborate with are a different story. Recently, one of my employees introduced me to an amazing tool called Schedule Once. It’s already saved me a couple of times when trying to plan events based around other people’s schedules. My old-school method would’ve involved me setting an event date and time, contacting the invitees by phone or email, hoping enough people can attend the event as planned and then, upon finding out the date only works for half the invitees, finding a new date and starting over. Hours would be wasted going back and forth through this process. With Schedule Once, the nightmare of scheduling with other people has gotten a lot simpler. First, I can set the preferred date and duration that I want the event to be held. Next, I invite the attendees and have them go online to my Schedule Once calendar to see what I’ve posted. Each invitee can then mark which dates will work best for them. Then, Schedule Once sends me an email to alert me that someone has responded on the calendar. I can check in once all the invitees have gotten back to me. Finally, Schedule Once provides a simple, user-friendly interface to show me the best date and time for the entire group based on their responses. It even suggests the perfect time based on the number of matching responses, the duration of the event and other pertinent details. To top it all off, Schedule Once is free and integrates with my existing Google calendars. When I’ve locked in the event time, I simply confirm it in Schedule Once and it adds an appointment in my Google calendar automatically. My highlighters and organizers might hate it, but Schedule Once has become of my new favorite online tools. [Originally published in The Coloradoan on...

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