Outlook is fairly synonymous with email. Therefore, beyond all its other features, you want to make sure you know how to use it with e-mail as effectively as possible.

We’ve been covering using aspects of Outlook for some time and grizzled Office vets will already know all this stuff, but new users, like those who need to know how to use Outlook in an office setting, might have to know how to use Outlook on a daily basis. That said, it’s a multifaceted and mature e-mail application that Windows users ought to have in their toolbox.

Since there’s so much to learn, we’ve little time to lose, so let’s get started right away with how to compose and send messages, as well as a breakdown of all the options you can tweak to make Outlook a more useful and enjoyable experience.

Quickly Composing and Sending a Message

If you want or need to understand the very basics of Outlook, we’ve written a handy beginners guide to it. We recommend you read it if Outlook is entirely new to you.

Otherwise, from the Outlook inbox, you can click the “New Email” button or use “CTRL+N”.

The resulting new message window should be pretty straightforward. If you’ve ever used Microsoft Word or similar text editing program, the Basic Text features will no doubt look familiar to you.

At this point, you’d specify who you’re sending your message to, compose your message, and click the “Send” button. That’s all well and good if you’re just composing a one-off message and then you’re done with it, but there’s more to it than that.

A Contacts Refresher

When you compose a new email, the first thing you will probably do is enter your recipient or recipients. You can do this by simply typing in their email address(es) or you can click “To…” and choose names from your address book.

Remember, if you want to quickly choose two or more addresses simultaneously, hold CTRL and click each name you want to select, then choose your addressing options: To and Cc (or Bcc). When you’ve selected all your recipients, click “OK.”

If you don’t have an address book already, we’ve got you covered. You can import your contacts into Outlook from your Gmail or similar e-mail service.

Changing the Reply-To Address

Let’s say you have more than one email account associated with Outlook. How do you send email from your other accounts?

You’ll notice that on the “From” button there’s a little arrow. Click that button, and you’ll see your other accounts in a drop-down list so you can choose another email account.

Alternatively, you can use an email account that isn’t associated with Outlook, such as if you’re using someone else’s computer or you’re using your computer at work and you want to route replies to your personal account.

If you do this, keep a couple things in mind. First, whatever message you send will be copied to the Sent Mail folder, so don’t send anything personal unless you intend to delete it and empty the Trash. Also, if you send a message from your work, they will probably store it on their mail server.

Signatures and Stationary

You may already be familiar with the concept of signatures, or you may even use them yourself. Basically, signatures are special pre-composed bits of text you can append to every message. This can be your contact details, vital information about a product or event you’re promoting, or just a profound quote you really like.

In this example, we’re going to attach a signature detailing future vacation plans. We’ll attach this signature to all emails originating from our work account, but not to replies and forwards.

From here on, until you remove the signature using these settings, your vacation warning will appear every time you compose a new email message.


Signatures are easy enough to figure out but what about stationary? As long as it’s right there, let’s go ahead and discuss it. Such as with signatures, you’ve probably seen email stationary in some form or another but basically it works like this: since you’re sending e-mail as HTML, stationary just lets you assign backgrounds, different font styles, and color to your messages.

You see here how this works. We selected the “Bears” theme from the list, which gives us a background with teddy bears adorning it.

Of course, if you’re at work, you may want to refrain from messages with teddy bears and such but if you want your messages to really stand out, then you can use the stationary feature to create some really attractive results.

Replying To and Forwarding Messages

Replying to and forwarding messages is simple and you probably already noticed the response tools on the Ribbon.

You see the reply, reply all (use with caution), and forward options, which are fairly self-explanatory, but what of the other options?

If you click “Meeting” then you can request a meeting when you reply; check out all the options you get when you do this.

We’re going to cover meetings in greater detail in an upcoming article where we’ll discuss Outlook’s calendaring powers.

Setting Reply and Forward Options

Let’s pop open the reply and forwards options for a quick look. There are several ways you can change how original messages look when you reply or forward, or whether it is included as an attachment, or not at all.

You can also set how replies and forwards open, and whether your comments are prefaced with your name.

The Rest of Outlook’s Mail Options

There’s a lot of other stuff going on in the Mail options, so before we leave you today, we want to spend some time talking about them.

Here’s some basic stuff like editor options for changing how you compose messages, spelling and autocorrect options, and signature and stationary options, which we already touched upon.

Many of these options open up to sub-options For example, if you click “Editor Options…,” you’re going to discover a whole slew of further checkboxes (broken into two categories, Proofing and Advanced) to wade through.

Scrolling down, there are message arrival options to select how Outlook alerts you when messages arrive in your inbox.

As well as how Outlook marks items as read when you use the reading pane.

You can decide how often messages are automatically saved, where they’re saved, and so on.

When you send messages what happens? With the “Send messages” options, select default importance and sensitivity levels, automatic name checking, and quite a few other tiny but distinct tweaks you can make to your user experience.

If you’re interested in tracking messages, there are ways to make adjustments to that too. For example, it’s here you can turn on read receipts, which sends you a notification whenever someone reads your email.

Finally, we find some options to change your messages format, which you may likely never use.

The Other options have some useful features, such as showing paste options (possibly annoying) and whether to show next and previous links in message headers when reading through multiple messages in your inbox (probably useful).

There are also options to configure how the program performs conversation cleanup, but we’ll cover that and other aspects of managing Outlook mail in an upcoming article.

Email is such an integral part of Outlook, it’s little wonder there’s a lot of ways to configure it. Needless-to-say, as you learn to use Outlook, you’ll find yourself returning to the options on occasion to change certain aspects of how e-mail is formatted and behaves.

We aren’t done exploring Outlook, we still have much to show you, such as the ways you’ll handle sending and receiving attachments, calendaring, tasks, and much, much more. For the time being however, we’d like to hear more from you, so please take a moment to drop us a quick note in our discussion forum.

Profile Photo for Matt Klein Matt Klein
Matt Klein has nearly two decades of technical writing experience. He's covered Windows, Android, macOS, Microsoft Office, and everything in between. He's even written a book, The How-To Geek Guide to Windows 8.
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