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Outlook’s navigation pane lets you navigate to different folders, mailboxes, and groups. However, it includes folders you might never access but can’t hide. Here’s how to create a custom navigation pane that shows just what you need.

If you only ever use Inbox, Sent Items, Deleted Items, and Archive, this guide probably isn’t for you. Just add those folders to your Favorites (which you can learn how to do in our guide to the Navigation pane) and you’re good to go. But if you’ve got a lot of folders, access to various shared mailboxes, or you’re a member of multiple Office 365 groups, you might find the Navigation pane a bit overwhelming and untidy. Adding all of the folders you want to Favorites just won’t cut it, as there are too many to keep organized.

Instead, you can create your own custom navigation pane that contains just what you want, and nothing else. To do this, click on the “Shortcuts” icon at the bottom of the Navigation pane.

This will open up the blank Shortcuts pane.

To add a shortcut to the pane, right-click the “Shortcuts” title (right-clicking anywhere else in the pane won’t do anything) and select “New Shortcut.”

The “Add to Folder Pane” panel will open, which shows all of your available mailboxes. Select a folder you want to add to the Shortcuts pane and then click “OK” (or double click the folder).

This will add the folder to the Shortcuts pane. You can add as many folders from any mailboxes you’ve got access to as you want.

This isn’t as neat as it could be, so we’re going to add a new shortcut group and move some of the folders around. First, right-click the “Shortcuts” header again and then select “New Shortcut Group.”

This creates a new text box which you can rename to anything you want.

Give your group a name—we’ve gone with “Work”—and then hit Enter. Now you can either right-click your new group name and add new shortcuts, or drag and drop shortcuts you’ve already added. We’ve dragged and dropped 3 of the shortcuts we added earlier.

You can also right-click a shortcut and use the “Move Up” and “Move Down” options.

You might have noticed that you can’t add shortcuts to Office 365 groups in the “Add to Folder Pane” panel. However, you can add shortcuts to Windows folders. Open Windows Explorer, find the folder you want, and then drag it onto the “Shortcuts” header (or into a group header you’ve created).

A “Link” tooltip will pop up when you’re hovering over the group header, at which point you can drop the folder shortcut into the group.

You can also drag and drop shortcuts to files into the Shortcuts pane, making this an excellent way to group all of your work into one pane.

You can’t add URLs directly from a browser, but you can create a shortcut to a URL in a folder and then drag that in just like a file. When you click on the shortcut it’ll open up in your default browser, just like any other link. This means that if you’ve got a web URL for an Office 365 group, you can still add it to the Shortcuts pane.

Once you’ve got your Shortcut pane set up the way you want it, you can use it instead of the default Navigation pane. Outlook will open with whichever pane you had open when you shut Outlook down, so you never have to go back to the Navigation pane unless you want to.

Rob Woodgate Rob Woodgate
Rob Woodgate is a writer and IT consultant with nearly 20 years of experience across the private and public sectors. He's also worked as a trainer, technical support person, delivery manager, system administrator, and in other roles that involve getting people and technology to work together.
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