10 tricks that prove Outlook.com is the email provider of the future

Illustration for article titled 10 tricks that prove Outlook.com is the email provider of the future

The all-new Outlook.com is here, and as Gizmodo has already said: It's pretty fantastic; Microsoft basically reimagined the idea of Web-based email from the ground up. Our favorite part? They didn't just fill it up with novel new features — they went out of their way to lay them out in plain English (no engineer-to-English dictionaries needed here). After spending some time with the new service, here are 10 of our favorite tips and tricks.

Got your own favorite trick or shortcut you've stumbled upon? Share them in the comments below!


1. Automatically Transform Attachments into SkyDrive Links

Large attachments are the mortal enemy of overactive spam filters and size-restricted inboxes everywhere. One of the coolest features of the new Outlook.com: It can automatically transform your attachments into clickable URLs that live on Microsoft SkyDrive (the feature feels like a baked-in YouSendIt). To turn this feature on or off, click "Options" (the little gear-like icon at the top right of your screen), then "More mail settings" and "Attachments" under the "Writing email" header. From there, you can choose to send your attachments as actual attachments, SkyDrive links, or "Let Outlook.com choose" (which gives you the SkyDrive URLs for large attachments and Office docs).

2. Take Action Without Actually Opening an Email

Often, you don't need to actually open an email to figure out that you want to junk it (promises from foreign princes in the subject line are often enough). Outlook.com's "Instant actions" feature makes it easy to manage your messages without actually clicking them. When you scroll your mouse over a message in your inbox, a series of action icons will pop up next to the subject line. By default, these icons allow you to instantly move messages, mark them as read/unread, delete them, or flag them. But you can add other instant actions too, like archiving messages! Just go to "Options" (that gear at the top of your screen again), and click "Instant actions" under "Customizing Outlook.com."


3. Sweep Your Messages Clean

Speaking of Outlook.com's Instant Actions, my favorite has to be "Sweep" (access it by following the steps above). In a nutshell, this lets you instantly move or delete all messages from a single sender. It's basically Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Inbox.


4. Float Your Flags

There's something almost sad about the futile flagging of a message that just ends up lost in your inbox. Keep your flagged messages floating at the top by going to the Options gear, then giving a click to "Flagging" under the "Customizing Outlook.com" header.


5. Choose Your Shortcuts

Thinking of moving from a different email provider, but don't want to give up those keyboard shortcuts that are baked into your muscle memory? Outlook.com lets you keep the ones you're used to. To turn on Yahoo or Gmail shortcuts, go to the Options gear, then click "Keyboard shortcuts" under "Customizing Outlook.com". The service currently gives you four options: Outlook.com's native shortcuts, Yahoo Mail's, Gmail's, or the option to turn them off completely.


6. Thread Your Messages

Email threads are a matter of taste: Some folks like their conversations tied together into tidy threads, while others like every individual message to float free. Choose your poison: Go to the Options gear, then click "Group by conversation and pre-load message" under the "Reading email" header.


7. Load Messages Faster

That same settings screen that lets you tie together or unwind conversation threads (see the last tip) also lets you save time (or navigate shaky Internet connections) by pre-loading messages before you click them. As Outlook.com puts it: "Pre-loading makes it faster to move between messages by downloading them before you need them."


8. Link Your Old Email Account

When you move to a new email service, no amount of friendly prodding is enough to get all your friends to instantly stop blasting your outdated account. Fortunately, Outlook.com makes it easy to turn your inbox into a depository for messages sent to any POP-enabled email account. To add accounts, click on the Options gear, then "Sending/receiving email from other accounts". Bonus: You can also also make messages from Outlook.com look like they were sent from these other accounts (this can help bypass spam filters if your new address isn't your friends' systems yet).


9. Automatically Forward All Your Emails

Outlook.com lets you automatically forward all your mail to one other email account (useful if you're still tip-toeing your way into the service). To turn this on, click the Options gear, then "Email forwarding" under "Managing your account".


10. Find Tracking Numbers

Why didn't we think of this? Outlook.com lets you automatically filter out messages that it detects contain shipping tracking numbers. To do this, look under the "Quick views" header on the Folders bar that, by default, lives on the left side of your screen. See where it says "Shipping updates"? Give it a good click.


There you have it: 10 invaluable tips for your big switch. Head here to get your own Outlook.com account.

Seth Porges is a New York-based writer, editor, on-air commentator, and entrepreneur.


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