written by: Mojave Media Group•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 4/3/2010
Outlook allows users to make changes to their message folders to filter content and to best suit their preferences.
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Outlook Custom Views
One of the comprehensive features of Outlook 2007 is the versatility of the view options that the user can configure. In any folder, the user can apply filters to only expose desired content or they can specify unique formatting based on certain message properties. Views can be customized and those modifications can be saved for future, optional use.
Custom views can be configured for other folders, like contacts and calendar, but message folders represent the most common category for customizing Outlook’s presentation of a user’s content. To customize a message folder, such as the inbox, navigate to View | Current View | Customize Current View in Outlook. This opens a mini-portal to several customization options [See Figure 1] as follows:
Fields - In the message pane for Outlook, the Fields option represents the columns visible to the user. By default, the Sender, Subject and Received date is there among others; however, the To and Cc fields for example are not [See Figure 2]. The field values here are mirrored in the Field Chooser window accessed by right clicking on a column in the message pane and selecting Field Chooser from the context menu [See Figure 3].
Group By - Messages in the message pane can be bundled into groups based on any of the fields and even hierarchically grouped into multiple fields.[See Figure 4].
Sort - Message folder contents can be sorted in the view based on properties of the messages described by column headers, which Outlook calls Fields. Typically, users keep the default of sorting by Received date to show the newest messages at the top. Clicking on any of the columns shifts the sort focus to that column. Clicking the same column again will toggle the sort between ascending and descending order. With the Customize Current View properties window, sort properties can be nested as well [See Figure 5].
Filter - Applying a filter to the message view can hide messages based on properties assigned to the filter. Filters can be generated based on multiple characteristics as well. Often in newsgroups when people claim Outlook is missing data, there is actually a filter applied to the current view hiding content.
Unread messages with a certain word in the subject with the user in the To field is a possible filter description, for example [See Figure 6].
Other Settings - This option controls the font type, size and color as well as other layout features of the Outlook message pane [See Figure 7].
Automatic Formatting - Automatic formatting allows the user to design the appearance of the message description in the message pane. Unread messages are typically represented using bold font, for example. The user can control font type, color and size for messages based on their characteristics [See Figure 8].
Format Columns - Finally, the user can control how the columns are presented in the message pane in Outlook. Column width and order can be controlled by manipulating the column headers with the mouse as well; however, the Format Columns interface allows a little more configuration options. You can even change the name of some columns, such as the Subject column [See Figure 8].
Overall, there is no shortage of customization functionality for working with content in Outlook 2007. The comprehensive ability to sort, filter and present messages (and other folder types as well) with specific detailed options add to the power of Outlook as a Personal Information Manager.
For more tips, visit a collection of popular Outlook help articles on the Outlook tips page.