How-To Geek

Keyboard Ninja: Create a Hotkey to Switch to Your Open Outlook Window

Have you ever wondered how many times per day you check your email? For many of us, it’s far too often… and if every single time you have to click on a little icon in the tray, or find the Outlook button in the taskbar, it can get a little annoying. Instead of that, what I do is assign a hotkey to switch to my already open Outlook window.

This is especially helpful for those of us that have at least 37 windows open at any given point… alt-tab is just inefficient at that point.

Creating the Shortcut for the Hotkey

In order to assign the hotkey, you’ll need to first create a new shortcut in the start menu (or desktop), because the one in the Start menu doesn’t have the right options and the one in the quick launch won’t let you assign a hotkey.

To add one into the start menu, right-click on the Start button and then select “Open” from the menu:


Browse down into the Programs folder (or further if you’d like), and then create a new shortcut to Outlook here (the easiest way is to just right-click drag the one from the quick launch)


Now open up the properties, and make sure that the end of the Target line has the /recycle option (it should if you copied the one from the Quick Launch bar). This is the magic switch that will re-open your Outlook window, rather than opening a new instance of Outlook.


Go ahead and assign your hotkey here in the Shortcut key box. As soon as you click the OK button the hotkey should be active. Note: You could have created this shortcut on the Desktop if you had wanted to.

Make Outlook Hide When Minimized

You can easily make Outlook 2007 minimize to the system tray by right-clicking the tray icon and choosing “Hide When Minimized”. I’m not sure if this option exists in prior versions or not.


I find that once you get used to using a keyboard shortcut to switch to Outlook, you won’t want to live without it.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/9/08

Comments (21)

  1. Andy

    Yes, very cool tip that I will be using every day. Thankis!

  2. Allen

    I’m using Outlook 2003 and the hide when minimize option exists there. Thanks for the tip.

  3. Kai

    Write a new mail ..\Microsoft Office\OFFICE12\OUTLOOK.EXE /c ipm.note

  4. Frank

    I must know where you got that Mario wallpaper! I must make it mine!

  5. Frank
  6. Alex

    Hi, Is there a way to switch to outlook once it is hidden/minimized?

  7. Joe Vautour

    Can this be done with Thunderbird instead of Outlook?

  8. zifnab06

    The hide when minimized thing works back to office 97 i think.

  9. Roger

    This was good information, especially /recycle. It inspired me to do this autohotkey script:

    #o:: ;Runs or hides Outlook
    ifWinActive, ahk_class rctrl_renwnd32
    run, C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE /recycle

  10. The Geek



  11. steve

    Trying to troubleshoot…I have assigned the hotkey for outlook, and it worked for awhile but not it is not working? i went back into the properties and the hotkey assignment is still there, but outlook is not restoring when i use it now. Anyone able to help? I thought it was a great function until it stopped working.

  12. ZetaPirate

    The same thing happened to ALL of my hotkeyed shortcuts

  13. Mr. Mojo Risin

    I have two hidden desktop shortcuts with shortcut keys assigned. The shortcut key assignments always stop working restarting the computer. The shortcuts are still there on the desktop but the key assignments stop working. I have to go through the entire process every time to get them working again. Any ideas on that? New HP laptop with Vista Home Premium.

  14. Dom Hennig

    Do any of you know how to make a key always type something for me? I’m working on designing a website. For Instance, I always need to copy this one line in a page:

    The red fox is hot.

    But, at the same time I always need to copy a line:

    The red fox is brown.

    so, Cntrl+V does one of them, and I was wondering if I could have another key do another?


  15. Sangeeth

    Very useful information. I already applied it in my office PC. Thanks a lot.

  16. Julius Moody

    My .pst files on my outlook folders bar in missing. I know that the files are still in my computer. They are at Personal folders(1).pst C:\documents and settings\Julius\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook348,624 KB Office Data File date modified 5/12/2009.

    thanks, Julius Moody

  17. Tom

    In XP Pro, with Outlook 11, if you have it set to “Hide when Minimized,” the hotkey will not work to restore the window. If you don’t select this option and just let Outlook minimize to the taskbar as usual, then the hotkey will work to restore the window – or you can close Outlook and the hotkey will open it.

  18. sidney

    trying to find way of opening MSFT outlook used the keyboard. followed the above directions, & others; BUT when i “ctrl + alt + o” nothing happens??? only when i use the mouse, will outlook open. “googled” to see if other solutions, but -0- –> can anyone help?

  19. David

    I play a game on facebook called World’s End. It is a war game that allows you to place bounties on other players and to kill them to collect. What I need is a way to first refresh the webpage at about a 2 or 3 second rate and second to multi click without having to hold down the shift key. trying to hold the shift key with my little finger while I steady the mouse and click with the other is awkward. Any way to reasign the shift key to the right mouse button possibly? Thanks for your time

  20. Amanda

    Hey, thank you for this article! I actually used it for the opposite purpose–someone had inadvertently set a shortcut key and their PC was launching Outlook every time they typed a 2 from the keypad! Most annoying! I’d forgotten how to check for and remove this, so I appreciate the reminder. I was able to remove the shortcut key so she can now type numbers again. Two thumbs up for the article, thanks again!

  21. mezzo

    If its icon changed when new mail is received, like Eudora’s does, then we wouldn’t all have to jump through hoops like this just to see if we have mail.

    I’m in a corporate environment, and have just been forced to migrate to Outlook. I despise it. For 15 years I’ve been able to tell I had new mail because Eudora’s icon appeared different (an arrow was added) as I alt+tabbed through my apps while I worked. I never had to go looking for it or even think about it. Now I have to actively seek out my mail client just to see if mail has arrived since the last time I looked.

    Excuse me, but wtf.

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