Outlook automation is possible using the “Quick Steps” feature. I seem to live most of my professional life in Outlook. It used to be something I did with a lot of grumbling, but I have to admit that I’ve come to like it. With Office 2010, Microsoft seems to have shaken some of the major bugs out, and when you take advantage of some of the built-in tools to keep things organized, it has become a worthwhile personal information manager for my work life.

I’ve written about automating your workflow with Outlook files, rules, and tagged searches (here’s a link to all my Outlook articles) — but I have one more Outlook productivity tip to write about: “Quick Steps.”

The Quick Steps Two-Step

Quick Steps were introduced in Outlook 2010. These allow you to assign an activity to an icon or keyboard shortcut, much like macros in Word or Excel. Think of it as a home for button-activated macros that you activate with a click (or a keyboard shortcut) — great for keeping your emails organized or to tame an unruly inbox. My chief use of Quick Steps is to sort emails into folders. I click one of my Quick Steps (see the image below), and that will move the selected messages to that folder.

To create a Quick Step, click on the “Expand” button in the lower-left corner of the Quick Steps panel (shown circled in red below)

This will list all your quick steps, allowing you to edit them, change their order in the list, or create new ones.

Click the “New” button, then choose “Custom”. You can create a Quick Step to perform any of these actions:


After creating the Quick Step, use the drop-down at the bottom of the Custom screen to assign an optional keyboard shortcut and write the tooltip so on a mouse-hover you can be reminded what the Quick Step does.

The moral of the story

They’re not as powerful as a rule or as completely flexible as a macro, but Quick Steps are yet another handy tool in Outlook to help you keep your mass of messages organized. Combined with PSTs, rules, tagged searching, and the other Outlook features I’ve written about here, Quick Steps helps Outlook be a great hub for your email communications.



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