How to make a smooth transition to Outlook 2011

If you've already upgraded to Microsoft Office 2011 from an earlier edition, or are considering doing so, you probably know that email, calendars and contacts are now handled by a new application called Outlook rather than Entourage.

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If you've already upgraded to Microsoft Office 2011 from an earlier edition, or are considering doing so, you probably know that email, calendars and contacts are now handled by a new application called Outlook rather than Entourage. Switching to Outlook need not be traumatic, but it's different enough that you may be disoriented at first, or have trouble figuring out how to do a few basic tasks. These tips will get you started.

Getting oriented

The first thing to keep in mind is that Outlook 2011 is an entirely new application that happens to share many of Entourage's features, but was created from scratch. Although Outlook for Mac isn't based on Entourage, neither is it a port of Outlook 2010 for Windows. In fact, it looks and feels like a blend of Entourage, Outlook 2010 and Apple Mail, with some of the best features of each.

Apart from some minor terminology differences (for example, what Entourage called "Address Book" is now "Contacts" and "Mail Views" are now "Smart Folders"), you should be aware of several features that may take a bit of getting used to:

Navigation controls

To switch between views in Outlook (such as Mail, Contacts and Calendars), you click the buttons at the bottom of the navigation pane (rather than in the toolbar as in Entourage). If those buttons take up too much space, drag the divider bar above them down to collapse them into small icons at the bottom of the window. You can also navigate using the commands on the View -> Go To submenu, or their associated keyboard shortcuts.

The Ribbon

As in all Office 2011 applications, Outlook uses a strip of each window just below the sparsely populated toolbar to display controls relevant to whatever you're working with at the moment. You can hide or show the Ribbon by choosing View -> Ribbon (Command-Option-R) or clicking the small arrow in the Ribbon's upper right corner. If you choose to hide the ribbon, you can use regular menu commands to accomplish most of the same tasks.

Unified inbox

Outlook lets you configure as many email accounts as you need and by default, it groups all the accounts' Inboxes under a single heading in the navigation pane, just as Apple Mail does. Select Inbox to display incoming messages from all your accounts in one list, or click the triangle next to Inbox to display each account's Inbox individually (Outlook also consolidates Drafts, Sent Items, Deleted Items and Junk email folders). If you prefer to keep your accounts entirely separate, you can disable this feature: choose Outlook -> Preferences, click General and deselect the Group Similar Folders, Such As Inboxes, From Different Accounts checkbox.

Email conversations

By default, Outlook displays all the messages from a particular conversation (which it defines as those with a shared subject, not counting extras like "Re:") together in your message list. This includes messages you've sent and messages that are filed in other folders, so that you can always follow the entire thread of a conversation in one place. Click the triangle next to the topmost message in the list to expand or contract the list of messages in the conversation. To disable this feature, choose View -> Arrange By -> and pick another option in the menu.

Keyboard shortcuts

Your fingers may have to learn some new habits. A number of common keyboard shortcuts changed between Entourage 2008 and Outlook 2011, and some even took on the opposite meaning!

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