Microsoft Office Outlook Cheat Sheet

Check out these resources to work effectively in Outlook. Find shortcuts, tips, tricks, and more in our cheat sheet!
Microsoft Office Outlook Cheat Sheet

Microsoft Outlook is an application for managing your personal information and schedule. Although it's mainly known and used for it's emailing capabilities, it also includes features such as a calendar, journal, notes, contact management, task management, as well as web browsing. It's part of the broader Microsoft Office product family, though you can purchase it as a stand-alone program. Working alongside Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft SharePoint Server is also possible, which tends to organizations who need to share inboxes, calendars or other data.

With over a million users, Outlook is one of the leading email clients and personal management apps all around the globe. This is why it’s important to know all the tricks and features when working with it. Our cheat sheet aims to bring you instructions on how to get up and running with Outlook, and share some useful tips you can utilize in the future.

  • Tip: Do you know anyone who’s just starting out with Outlook? Share Outlook cheat sheet article with friends, classmates, colleagues or your employees to ensure they can learn faster. Knowledge is power, and you have the ability to help others by sending them this cheat sheet.

Perpetual Vs Subscription License? Which one should you choose?

Outlook is part of the Microsoft Office suite, which makes it available in two different versions. Both of these versions offer different pros and cons that are more suitable for contrasting audiences, so it’s important that we review your options before you decide to purchase.

The “perpetual” license offers a very cost-efficient solution, as you only have to make one payment to own Outlook forever. Because of this, Microsoft doesn’t offer any updates in the future - once you purchase something, you’re going to own the version available at the time and you’ll be required to purchase future versions.

On the other hand, buying an Office 365 subscription has its benefits even if it’s not something you’ll own forever. Though it might be more expensive, you get immediate access to multiple Office apps, as well as future updates and additional, unique features. If you need things like cloud sharing and simultaneously working together with a team, a subscription is definitely the way to go.

Get to know the Ribbon interface

You should know that the Ribbon has been a major part of Office applications for several years now. It was introduced all the way back in Office 2007 with the intention of making navigation easier. Old-fashioned menus and multiple tiers of sub-menus can get confusing and tiring quickly. With the Ribbon, you can use a visual interface that helps you locate the tools you know and love much better.

The Ribbon is your way of navigating in Outlook, opening up the opportunities to format text, insert elements, tweak your emails and access other features. This means that first and foremost, we need to learn everything there is about the Ribbon.

Ribbon interface


outlook inbox

As opposed to earlier Outlook versions, the Ribbon in new releases has a flatter design to allow for less clutter on your screen distracting you. The minimalist design gives the software a modern and stylish look that sets it apart from competitors. If you’re looking to keep up with the times, we definitely recommend using either Outlook 2016 or Outlook 2019.

Toggle the Ribbon

Toggle ribbon in outlook

There are several settings and ways to alter how the Ribbon displays itself. At the top right of your screen, you'll see an icon titled "Ribbon Display Options" which opens a drop-down menu with three different options:

  • Auto-hide Ribbon: This option hides the Ribbon itself, as well as the tabs and commands in it by default. When this is selected, the only way to make the Ribbon and its contents appear is by clicking on the top section of the Outlook screen.
  • Show Tabs: This option keeps the tabs of the Ribbon but hides all commands underneath. You can show commands by either click on one of the tabs, pressing the Ctrl + F1 keys on your keyboard, or selecting the “Show Tabs and Commands” option instead.
  • Show Tabs and Commands: With this option, you get to see the full Ribbon with both its tabs and commands visible at all times.

Be efficient with the Tell Me bar

Tell me what you want

While Outlook is a relatively beginner-friendly application, it’s easy to get lost in it especially for new users. Microsoft has made a change that helps everyone locate tools in the application with ease. Because of the huge amount of features and capabilities of Outlook, it can become tough to keep track of wherever every feature lives in the Ribbon. Spending a lot of time learning and memorizing tools isn’t an option for everyone, so we’d like to introduce you to this new feature.

The new "Tell me what you want to do" or simply "Tell Me" aims to eliminate this issue. You can use it by clicking on it right next to the last tab on the Ribbon, or pressing the Alt + Q keys on your keyboard. You'll notice that the feature allows you to type - this is when you can tell Outlook what you want to do.

For example, let's say that you want to insert a digital signature at the end of your email. In this case, you should open Tell Me and type in “digital signature.” Then, Outlook will return every tool related to signatures and lets you use tools without ever knowing where they are in the ribbon itself.

Other results may come in handy too and suggest possible solutions to your problem. With each task you type in, you always have a link to get help on the topic or use the Smart Lookup feature for searching online.

In conclusion, Tell Me allows you to perform tasks quicker and search for solutions right within Outlook 2019. Even if you consider yourself a veteran with the software, you can continue to find ways for speeding up your work. Tell Me remembers tasks you’ve previously searched for, allowing for even better reachability in the future.

Enjoy a focused inbox

Focused inbox

It’s evident that Outlook is capable of simple tasks such as reminding you if you forgot to attach a file to your email, spell checking, text formatting or inserting your very own digital signature with a click of a button, but it offers much more than that.

The new Focused Inbox feature helps you separate your incoming emails into two different mailboxes labeled "Focused" and "Other". This change was implemented to help you see important things right away, as opposed to seeing a messy overview of all incoming mail. Important things arrive in your Focused tab.

  • Note: Focused Inbox replaces the old Clutter feature first introduced in Office 2013. If you're using a perpetual version of Office 2016, there's a possibility that you still have the Clutter feature and don't have access to Focused Inbox. In this case, the only thing you can do to get the Focused Inbox feature upgrades to a version of Outlook that includes it, such as Outlook 2019.

Everything else flows to the Other inbox. This includes things such as newsletters, computer-generated emails, and promotions. You have the ability to switch between tabs easily, and still get alerted about emails that arrive into your Other inbox as well. You can also fine-tune this feature to your own preferences, meaning that if you think something should've shown up in another tab, you can easily put it there yourself.

Make use of your voice and ears

Dictation in outlook

The Dictate feature allows you to speak into your microphone and turn your words into text automatically via speech recognition. It's one of the Office Intelligent Services, bringing speech recognition services to the next level. You can easily add punctuation, edit and correct your text while talking simultaneously, and enjoy the fast work you can achieve with just using your voice.

You can also listen to your emails through an Ease of Access feature. It goes hand-in-hand with Dictate, as it makes Outlook read your messages out loud. Now, it’s much easier for people of lesser abilities to communicate than ever before. Even if you don’t have any disability, you can greatly boost your multitasking abilities and increase your productivity.

Work together with Office 365 Groups

Office 365 groups

If your company or team works with Office 365 Groups, you're now allowed to join groups, create new groups, and even schedule meetings on a group calendar from Outlook. These groups are available in most Office 265 business and enterprise plans, making online collaboration and organization way easier than before. This allows you to share resources such as document libraries, calendars, notes, and email accounts even while working remotely.

Get someone’s attention with @Mentions

@mentions in outlook

Those who have an online, social media presence should be familiar with mentions. Inserting the @ symbol in front of someone’s user ID can send them a notification, allowing you to get attention even if the person is away from the keyboard. Just like on social media, you can @Mention people in your messages, making all tagged recipients to receive a copy of your message, allowing for continuous communication even across different timezones.

Useful Outlook shortcuts everyone should know

To end this cheat sheet, we decided to include some of the most helpful Outlook keyboard shortcuts you can use to speed up your work:

  • Ctrl + Shift + M: Create a new email message.
  • Ctrl + A: Select all messages in an inbox to quickly move or delete batches of messages at once.
  • Ctrl + D: Delete the selected item(s).
  • Ctrl + Q: Mark email(s) as read.
  • Ctrl + U: Mark email(s) as unread.
  • Ctrl + Shift + G: Flag a message for the follow-up to remind yourself for later.
  • Ctrl + Shift + K: Make a new task.
  • F3: Open the search box to quickly look through your inbox.

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