Welcome to Microsoft Outlook

Last reviewed on April 14, 2014

If you’re just getting started with Microsoft Outlook, this page is for you. We’ve gathered tips and links to some of the questions that newcomers ask most often. If you don’t find your question here, try using the Search box to the left or visit one of the great discussion forums for Outlook.

Other resources for newcomers:

Managing Data | Mail | Collaboration | Other | More Information

Managing Data

How do I …

… synchronize Outlook data between my desktop and laptop?

There’s nothing built into Outlook to handle this (other than copying .pst files back and forth), but there are web-based sync tools and other utilities that might help. One advantage of a web-based tool is that you also get your Outlook data available in any browser. See Synchronizing Microsoft Outlook on two machines.

… back up my contacts and other data?

Outlook data is either in a Personal Folder .pst file or an Exchange Server mailbox. The system administrator is responsible for backing up the data in an Exchange mailbox. You could also use File | Import and Export to make a copy of your Contacts folder as a .pst file for a backup.

If you have data in a Personal Folders .pst file, then you’ll want to shut down Outlook and back up that file periodically. See Outlook & Exchange/Windows Messaging Backup and Dual-Boot for information on how to find the file on your system and what other files you’ll want to back up (e.g. those containing various Outlook configuration settings).

… recover data from a damaged Personal Folders .pst file?

You need to run the Scanpst.exe utility, possibly alternating with Scandisk.exe to fix disk problems. See To repair a damaged Personal Folders PST file


How do I …

… send one message to lots of people but hide their names?

After you open the message, choose View | Bcc Field, then put the names/addresses in the Bcc box. (Bcc stands for blind carbon copy.) Put your own address in the To box, since many mail programs will throw away a message without a valid To address as junk mail.

If you want to compose one message, but have it delivered to each person individually with their address in the To box, see Mass Mail Tools.

… use my Hotmail account in Outlook?

As of September 2009 you can use POP3 or the Outlook Hotmail Connector (Outlook 2003/2007/2010 only). See this article for POP3 settings and links to the current Outlook Hotmail Connector.

… automatically reply to messages when I’m on vacation?

If Microsoft Exchange is your mail server, you use Out of Office Assistant, and the server sends the reply. Otherwise, you use Rules Wizard and leave Outlook running while you’re gone, so that it can send the reply. See To make automatic reply rules in Microsoft Outlook.


How do I …

… share my contacts and calendar with other people?

For complete sharing, you need Microsoft Exchange Server. Without Exchange Server, you can share free/busy calendar information over the Internet in Outlook 98 or later versions or transfer data with the Net Folders feature in Outlook 98 and Outlook 2000. (Net Folders is not available in Outlook 97 or Outlook 2002). Other methods include web-based tools and third-party servers. See Sharing Microsoft Outlook Calendar and Contacts.


Can Outlook …

… read Internet newsgroups?

No. Outlook cannot connect to Internet newsgroup (Usenet) servers. The View | Go To | News command in Outlook 2003 and older launches Outlook Express, which is a separate program, sharing only the name and a handful of Internet-related components. (If you work in an Exchange Server environment, it is possible that the administrator has set up some public folders to hold Internet newsgroups.)

Why can’t Outlook …

… operate exactly like ACT!, Organizer, Maximizer or some other PIM I’ve used?

Software programs are never one-to-one identical in features. Even individuals with the same PIM will use it in many different ways. In most cases, there is a way to get Outlook to do what you want it to do. If you don’t find a clue searching this site, post a message in one of the discussion forums for Outlook, and be very specific about what version of Outlook you are using and what you want to accomplish. Just asking “how do I make Outlook work like ACT!” won’t get you any good answers.

Also, there are many full-blown contact management programs based on Outlook, usually in conjunction with Exchange Server. See Contact Management Tools.

… do whatever it is I think that Outlook should be able to do?

Any software program has limitations. At some point, the developers have to say “enough!” so they can actually ship it out the door. With years of experience using Outlook, we’ve found the workarounds for the most common scenarios and invite you to search our site. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, post a message in one of the discussion forums for Outlook, and be very specific about what version of Outlook you are using and what you want to accomplish. If you still can’t find a solution, you can send a suggestion to Microsoft for what you want to see in the next version.

More Information

General information:

Dealing with email overload:

Also see these excerpts on Communicating with E-mail from Quick Course in Outlook 2000 from Microsoft Press. While these articles are written specifically for Outlook 2000, they many contain useful information for users of newer versions of Outlook. However, menus, commands, and screenshots have changed. Obviously, new features are not covered in these articles.

Written by

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

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