Category Archives: Microsoft Outlook

Ctrl+F1: Switch off the task pane in Office

When you start up Excel or other Office programs, they often stick a “Task Pane” up on the right, usually with the “Getting Started” heading. Annoying, isn’t it?

Switch it off one time with Ctrl+F1.

Switch it off permanently by following these steps (which you have to repeat for Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc.): Hit Alt+T to open the Tools menu, O to select the Options command, then deselect the “Startup Task Pane” checkbox using Alt plus whatever is the underlined letter (which is different in different programs — nice consistency there, Microsoft), then press Enter for OK.

F6: Cycle through panes (Firefox, Outlook, PowerPoint)

Whenever you have an application screen with multiple sections, try pressing F6 to cycle between them.

In Firefox, it toggles between the address bar and the web page — unless you’re viewing a web page with frames, in which case each press of F6 moves you to a different frame.
In Outlook, you can switch between the header of an e-mail (where you type the To address, Subject, etc.) and the body of the e-mail.

In PowerPoint, you’ll move between the slide, the notes, and the outline on the left.

F7: Spell Check (Microsoft Office)

In most Microsoft Office apps (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook), tap F7 to begin the spellcheck process.

In the spellecheck dialog box, don’t forget to use Alt plus an underlined letter to hit the button! Using Alt+A to Add a correct word (such as your last name) to your custom dictionary is smart because it saves time in two ways — now, by saving you from having to use your mouse to hit the button, and later, by preventing this correctly spelled word from ever wasting your time again.

Ctrl+[, Ctrl+]: Increase, decrease font size in Word, Outlook & PowerPoint

If you have selected text and want to change its point size, you can easily do so with a simple keystroke: Ctrl+[ (the square bracket key next to the letter P on most keyboards) will lower the selected text by 1 point. Tap it a few times to see the effect. Similarly, Ctrl+] increases the text size.

You can also use Ctrl+< and Ctrl+> — but while that may be easier to remember, you have to use the Shift key, so I prefer the square brackets. Also, that keystroke doesn’t work in Outlook.

(If you need to, you can review how to select text with the keyboard.)

Excel doesn’t allow any of these keystrokes. Excel is a bit of a fuddy-duddy that way, refusing to play along.

Ctrl+L: Left justify, Ctrl+R: Right justify, Ctrl+E: Center, Ctrl+J: Justify

If you’re using Word, Outlook or PowerPoint, you can change the justification of a paragraph using the following four keystrokes:

  • Ctrl+L: Left justify the current paragraph, but keep the right margin ragged
  • Ctrl+R: Right justify the current paragraph.
  • Ctrl+E: Center the current paragraph (since Ctrl+C is already taken with Copy, they had to use the second letter.)
  • Ctrl+J: Left justify the current paragraph, but keep the right margin justified

What does “justification” mean? Nothing to do with justice. I’m not sure why justification is called what it is. But that’s what it’s called; for more, check out wikipedia’s entry on justification.

This is left (Ctrl+L).

This is centered (Ctrl+E).

This is right (Ctrl+R).

This paragraph is fully justified, which means the right margin is in a straight line. The rest of this paragraph is just nonsense text. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

This paragraph is left-justified, which means the right margin is uneven, or “ragged.” The rest of this paragraph is just nonsense text. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum

Quite a few other applications alllow the use of these four keystrokes as well. But not Excel.

Ctrl+Shift+G: Flag for Follow Up in Microsoft Outlook

You may know that you can right-click on the flag icon at the end of each e-mail you have listed in Outlook. But you can more efficiently set follow-up flags using the dialog box that appears when you press Ctrl+Shift+G.

First, select an e-mail. (Remember to press F6 to make sure you’re in the e-mail plane, then use the arrow keys or home and end to select the e-mail you want to flag.)

Second, press Ctrl+Shift+G, and the Flag for Follow Up dialog box appears. Your cursor will be in the “Flag to” field. Use the up and down arrow keys to select the appropriate flag. Press Tab to flip to the flag color field. You can again use up and down arrow keys to select a color (or use Alt+Down Arrow to see the list).

Third, if you want to enter a due date, press Tab, and type in your date. You can optionally press Tab and type in a time. Then press Enter to select OK (or Esc to change your mind and cancel).

To quickly clear a flag, highlight an e-mail and press Ctrl+Shift+G, then press Alt+C to select Clear Flag. This removes the flag entirely.

To mark an item completed, highlight an e-mail and press Ctrl+Shift+G, then press Alt+O to select the “Completed” box, then press Enter.

Alt+O: Move to “Today” in Calendar

When in the Calendar view for Microsoft Outlook and browsing around different dates, you can press Alt+O and you’ll jump to today’s date.

Why does this work? On the toolbar, note the underlined “o” in the “Today” button. Any of the underlined letters can be used along with Alt instead of moving the mouse to click on the button.

Some useful shortcuts are then easy to find — Alt+I for Find, Alt+Y to go to Day view, Alt+W for Week view, Alt+M for Month view, and so on.

Ctrl+Shift+M: Start new message in Microsoft Outlook

No matter which Outlook view you’re in, Ctrl+Shift+M creates a new message.

(Remember, use Tab to move from field to field when creating your e-mail message, jumping from To to Cc to Subject to the body.)

Another way to skin that cat is to press Ctrl+1 (using the tip from yesterday), then Ctrl+N.

You can find a lot of similar shortcuts by checking out the File | New sub-menu (remember, Alt+F opens the File menu, then you can press either w (since the w in New is underlined in the menu) or Enter or the Right Arrow key to open the New menu.

Ctrl+Enter: Send e-mail

It’s Microsoft Outlook week this week.

To start things off, when sending e-mail, don’t bother clicking on that “Send” button — press Ctrl+Enter to send. You’ll need to confirm with a dialog box the first time.

(Note that this will work with many other e-mail programs as well.)

Ctrl+N: New Document

For most applications that support working with more than one document at once, Ctrl+N starts a new document, without having to answer questions about what kind of new document you want. Try it in Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.

Be careful when using Microsoft Outlook, because Ctrl+N has a different meaning depending on what section of Outlook you’re in. For example, in Calendar mode, Ctrl+N creates a new appointment, while in Mail mode, Ctrl+N creates a new e-mail message.