642 – Finding work stuff

Data storage has become very cheap over the decades – a while ago, ComputerWorld wrote an article, saying that when it was founded 50 years previous, a 1MB hard disk would cost you $1M, and in 2017, that would work out at $0.02. 5 years later, $0.02 would get >1GB, more than 1,000 times as much.

clip_image002[4]This profusion has turned many of us into pilers – what’s the point of organizing data and deleting old stuff, be that files, emails, camera roll photos?

Outlook has a pretty good search function built in. OneDrive photos has some great organizing and filtering capabilities (like On This Day, or if you have GPS enabled on your camera/phone, you can easily group photos by the location taken from).

clip_image004[4]Still in OneDrive, there is also some AI-based tagging of your pics, which can sometimes be a bit hit & miss… but more often than not gets it about right.

While browsing “All Photos”, if you mouse-over to the right, you’ll get a scrollable timeline too (similar to the Windows Photos app), so you can quickly jump to a reference date.

Assuming you’re using Microsoft 365 / Office 365 at your workplace, there are other ways to find stuff that is more work-related, like documents, email and messages. One easily overlooked source is the “new tab” experience within the Edge browser.

clip_image006[4]The content on the default home page can be customized in a variety of ways, from choosing whether to show a background image or keep it clear; to displaying content from various “news” providers and clickbait advertisers that Microsoft News / MSN has elected to present to you, or hiding that altogether.

You can do some filtering of that content too, though for work purposes, many people may want to leave the page layout in “Focused”, which puts a link bar at the bottom and hides the content to be a scroll away.

Edge Profiling

If you have a “Work” profile (or you only have a single profile) and it is connected to your work account – ie your Microsoft 365/ Office 365 email address rather than your personal one – then you’ll see a “Microsoft 365” link within the list of content providers, which gives you a simple view of your most recent documents, SharePoint sites you visit and a whole lot more. To learn more about this Edge Enterprise tab, see here.


Also, you’ll see the search box containing your company name – it uses Bing to search for whatever you put in there (somewhat controversially, regardless of what your default search engine in the browser is…). Edge doesn’t give you the option – like IE used to – of starting a tab with a completely blank page, though there are hacks to make that work.

clip_image010[4]If you stick with the standard new tab, it will also give you the choice of restricting your search to “Work”, so looking at documents and the likes. You’ll see a list of content sources clip_image012[4]displayed on the left side as tabs, allowing you to filter what you’re looking for or where you want to search.

There’s a fairly new one that searches “Messages”. At least for now, that means Outlook and / or Teams messages, but it could be really useful when trying to remember if a conversation you had was in email or in a Teams chat.

A quick way to jump to this section is to go to aka.ms/messages

– regardless of which browser you’re using, as it uses the Bing.com/work back end.

640 – Smart Dates


For all the time that computers have been used, date handling has been a problem. Bad dates cause problems from sorting lists to processing payments, yet many systems force the user to figure out what it expects by way of date entry – from web sites which force 2-digits (a la 01/01/22 vs 1/1/22) to non-localised apps which assume a date format without allowing it to be changed?

If you ever say a date out loud like “this report is due by eight-one”, meaning 8/1 or 1st August, then 91% of the world’s population will need to interpret that differently to how they represent dates, since most will expect the format to be day-month-year, or arguably most sensibly, year-month-day.


Try saving things like expense reports or invoices using the file name starting yy-mm-dd or even yyyy-mm-dd and they’ll be much easier to handle (aside from just sorting by created date, of course).

When a user enters a date into a Windows app, the vast majority will respect the format set by the operating system, known as the User Locale.

clip_image006That doesn’t help too much if the author of a spreadsheet – for example – is in one locale and clip_image008other users are elsewhere; if the default date format is numeric, then the field remains in the format of the author, and that may cause befuddlement.

Switching display format to Long Date – or even setting a shorter custom format – could avoid confusion. Under the covers, Excel still stores the date in a universal format, but people might interpret it incorrectly when display in a different format.

clip_image010Other tools can handle dates in surprisingly smart ways – even since its first version in 1997, Outlook lets you enter text into date windows like a Due Date for reminders or tasks – any time you are presented a date field that lets you type as well as select a date from a calendar picker, you can put stuff in like tomorrow, 2 weeks, next Friday, third Tuesday in October etc. There are shorter versions – 2w, 3m 10d – or you can string things together, like Monday before Christmas.

clip_image012Microsoft To Do has also has some date smarts; if you type in a new task to track, it can read dates and times out of your task description and automatically set due dates and Reminders.

clip_image014It has other kinds of parsing – in 3 days etc – though not quite as comprehensive as Outlook’s. There are also a load of special dates recognised (at least in the US).

So far, this functionality is available on Windows and iOS apps and for the most part it’s really neat. If it detects a date you don’t like – you’re suggesting something may happen, rather than it is happening on 1st May, for example – then just hit backspace to clear that association.

#639 – Macros, Ghosts and GALs

VB and MacrosSince the early days, Microsoft always kept an eye on what its competitors were doing. It was once de rigeur to produce “battlecards” which would show feature-by-feature how one product is better than its competitor, thus assuring the customer they should buy this one. Thankfully, times have mostly moved on to just building as good a product as possible and then let customers and the markets decide – sometimes, they get improved and honed over time to be the best out there, and sometimes they get dispatched to the boneyard as times move on.

Exchange Server boxIn the late 1990s, Office and Exchange (and later, SharePoint) Server were seen as Microsoft’s entrants into the burgeoning “Groupware” market, which became subsumed into “Knowledge Management” c2000. Key competitors to Exchange & Outlook were Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise, both of which came from being collab tools and gained email functions. Notes was arguably much more mature and feature rich even if the UI was sometimes clunky, GroupWise was much leaner but found a niche in several industries. Amazingly, GroupWise is still a thing and Notes evolved first into IBM Notes/Domino and was eventually sold off to now be HCL Notes and HCL Domino.

One of the early moves Microsoft made to elevate Office apps to more than just writing documents, was to try to make the docs more capable through adding Macros, and later, Visual Basic for Applications. This allowed a moderately skilful user to dabble in programming to make smarter applications centered around documents; what seemed like a good idea at the time unwittingly unleashed a wave of malware, where bad actors wrote macros to do undesirable things. Following the “Melissa” worm in 1999, Office stopped Macros running without asking the user for permission. Using Macros for anything more than tinkering never really took off.

Blocked Macro warning

Macros disabled entirely

Microsoft announced in February 2022 that all Office Macros in content received online would be disabled completely; this was temporarily rolled back in some test builds for some changes to be made in how it works, but for many, the warning will still be there if you open a Macro-enabled file that you’ve downloaded or been sent.

Unblocking MacroThere are still some very useful Office macros out there, and if you do need to run one that you know is from a trustworthy source, there is a workaround – save the file to your PC locally, then right-click on it to look at the file’s properties, tick the “Unblock” option and apply that. You’ll now be able to choose to run the macro unencumbered.

One such handy macro was discussed back in December 2021 in ToW 611, and is used to find Ghost meetings – ie ones you have arranged but everyone has declined (or at least not accepted). The macro spins through all future meetings in your calendar and lists the ones you’ve organised but where you’re likely to be the only attendee who shows up. Particularly useful at this time of year if lots of people are about to take time off over the summer, and may have declined a few recurring meetings but you – as organiser – still have them in your calendar.

Ghost Meetings

For the latest version of the macro, download the ZIP file to your machine and expand it (or just copy the XLSM file that’s within and put it somewhere else), do the property Unblock thing as above, open in Excel, click the button to allow content, then the Scan Calendar button and you’re all set. You still need to go into Outlook and look at the appropriate date then decide if you want to cancel those meetings or not.

Another more powerful macro – though a little more esoteric – is one which does bulk resolution against the Global Address List, so if you give it a list of display names and/or alias names, it will show the full name, title, department, office, email, and alias name of that person. Handy if you want to get the full details of everyone who is going to attend a meeting, but if you just have a longish list of names then you could just paste them in and see how it goes. This was covered back in ToW 575. One usage scenario recently was to estimate the number of people who were attending a group meeting, but were based at other offices and would therefore need accommodation.

Here’s an example output of over 500 names who were invited to a large meeting; by just providing their display names in column A, it took the sheet about 30 seconds to complete, with 10 identified as distribution lists and 50 unknowns who couldn’t be resolved, either due to no longer being in the GAL or because there were more than one possible name listed.

GAL resolving

If you can manually find the unknown person/people in the GAL, then get their alias name and paste that into column 1 instead of the ambiguous display name, then try to run it again.

635 – Outlook Wunderbar and Full Screen

Outlook iconMany Office users rely so much on Outlook, it’s their most-used application by far. Over the years, numerous other apps – such as Yammer, Slack or Teams – have presented other ways to collaborate and communicate yet with billions of messages being sent every day, email just doesn’t seem to slow down.

Outlook 2003 WunderbarThe bones of the current Windows release of Outlook date back to Outlook 97, with some dialogs and settings having changed little since even if the main UI has been refreshed over the years. One recent change was the further evolution of Outlook 2003’s “Wunderbar”, the menu on the bottom left of the main Outlook window that switched views between mail, calendar, tasks etc (yes, it really was called that internally – look in the Registry).

Outlook 2016 navigation barBy Outlook 2016, the navigation bar had collapsed into a series of icons along the bottom, which did the same thing but took up less screen real estate. It’s long been possible to use keyboard shortcuts to jump between the options on the navigation bar – CTRL+1 will go to the 1st one (usually Mail), CTRL+2 to the second and so on. You can reorder the options on the bar if you like, so CTRL+1 could be Calendar if that’s what’s most important to you.

configuring the Outlook 2021 navigation barOutlook 2021 changes things again – the navigation bar has moved to the side, in a UI design shared with both Outlook.com and the Microsoft 365 Outlook Web App.

Other apps can be pinned to the new bar, too – including things like the Org Explorer, which presents a much more graphical way of looking at the org chart than the old Address Book in Outlook.

Adjusting the ribbonMoving these icons to the side of the screen might help organize screen real estate; another option would be to collapse the Ribbon, so you only see the many icons and options along the top of Outlook, when you need to use them.

You could try Simplified Ribbon to reduce the size and hide some of the more esoteric functions.

Show tabs only reverts to a simple menu bar, and when you click on one of the options, the ribbon for that tab is displayed. You can toggle easily between Tabs Only and the full ribbon by pressing CTRL+F1. There are loads of other shortcuts for Outlook though some are a little obscure.

Full-screen modeTo truly maximize your screen area, try going into Full-screen mode;  that removes the menu and ribbon at the top of the screen entirely, including the search box.

If you need to search your mailbox while in full-screen, press ALT to temporarily display the ribbon, and look for the highlighted keys that can jump to specific tab or function.

Press ALT to see shortcut keysPress Q, then type your search, hit enter and you’ll return to your results in full screen again.

631 – Why does nobody share calendars?

A paper calendarBack in the late 1980s/early 90s, IBM had an internal email system called NOSS – an implementation of PROFS, a text-only mainframe-based system delivered via a terminal.

Even in 1990, NOSS allowed any user to browse a hierarchical directory (showing contact info, job titles, manager/reporting relationships etc), email or instant message anyone, and look at their calendar to see what they block of text about IBM's NOSSwere doing. It was 10 years before you could do all those things using Microsoft Windows and Office. In recent years, Big Blue’s email environment has seemingly been less happy.

When Microsoft Exchange first came out, email was handled with the Exchange client and calendaring was from Schedule+, which had been updated to support Exchange (and lives on in some backward Microsoft lingo, where people who start every sentence with “So,” ask you to send them an S+, meaning, invite them to a meeting). Outlook came along in 1996 and became the preferred and unified way to do email, calendars, address books etc.

Schedule view of free/busySome organisations had a default policy when new mailboxes were created that their calendar was shared Read-only, so anyone in the company could see it. You could open someone’s calendar fully in Outlook or by viewing the scheduling tab in a meeting, where you will typically see if a list of people are available or not. Others might have it that only free/busy info is visible by default, and that is pretty sub-optimal.

With M365 in general, newly-created mailboxes have no calendar sharing set up, and the action is on the user to choose how to let co-workers see their info.

Be a nice person, and check to make sure your colleagues can view your calendar.

Ideally, share so that others will see the title and location of any appointment; useful when someone is trying to arrange a meeting, as within the schedule view they can figure out if you are likely to be able to make the proposed meeting time – if your diary is full of blocks marked busy or tentative, they’ll have no idea if you really are in a meeting or have just marked time to do something that you might be happy to move. Or had a colleague’s FYI notice of being on holiday obliterate the view of your calendar.

In the early days of Exchange/Outlook, if you had read access to someone’s calendar, you could open up appointments, see who else was attending a meeting, download any attachments and so on, unless the appointment was marked “Private” – though it’s somewhat possible to open Private appointments programmatically if you know what you are doing.

OWA sharing persmissionsNowadays, calendar sharing is more granular – in Outlook Web App, go into Calendar and you’ll see the Sharing and permissions option, which will let you choose specific people and give them ability to see various details, or you can change the default for the whole organisation.

OWA sharing persmissions detailIn full-fat desktop Outlook, click on the Share Calendar option on the ribbon, and you’ll get a 1990s-style dialog box Sharing permissions in Outlookallowing you to set the default permissions or to invite particular team-mates to have higher level access should you want them to know where you are and with whom.

If you choose titles & locations, viewers can’t open your appointments to peer inside, so can’t see who else is attending or what the body of the meeting says, but they can at least see if you’re likely to need travel time between meetings. See here for more info on calendar sharing & delegate access.

621 – Working Time Directive

Analog watch with GMT handTime Zones have featured lots on ToW; in an epoch when everyone was holed up WFH, the relative time people were at became especially important when trying to meet with them. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable that meeting times are unpalatable to some attendees if they’re in a far-flung time zone, but it’s worth reminding yourself how distant they are when trying to find the best time slot to speak with them.

There are whole genres of mechanical watches which can display multiple time zones (check out GMT or World Time if horology is your thing), or you could rely on phone or computer-based aides-memoire, such as displaying multiple time zones alongside your calendar in Outlook, using the Windows Clock app with its world clock view, or even showing several clocks on the Windows task bar.

Teams contact card showing time zone infoA new addition to the arsenal of time zone tooling is a neat feature that’s appeared in the contact card in Teams and Outlook, showing you what the time is for the person you’re looking at. The time displayed is set by the device they’re using, so if on Windows, that’s the Time Zone setting.

Outlook Time Zone optionsWhen travelling, rather than just manually winding the clock back or forward, it makes sense to set the correct time zone on your machine – either by allowing Windows to change it automatically or by specifically choosing it from the list.

If you have multiple time zones displayed in Outlook, you can switch between them from the settings page – just right-click on the timeline to the side of the calendar and choose Change Time Zone, or go to File | Options | Calendar and look for the settings in there.

When you swap them around inside Outlook, it will change the time zone on your PC.

In some parts of the world, there’s pressure to prevent “work” from creeping into personal time, meaning emails and other messages should be held back and not Viva Insights delay deliverysent during what’s supposedly down-time. Ireland has published a “right to disconnect” code of practice, and Portugal even made it illegal for an employer to contact their workers outside of working hours.

If you’re using the right kind of Microsoft 365 subscription, Outlook can offer to delay emails you’re sending to people who are in different time zones – part of the Viva Insights package.

Choosing this action has a similar effect to the Delay Delivery Outlook's delay delivery optionoption which is visible on the Outlook toolbar, except that it won’t need Outlook to be running; the regular Delay feature leaves a message in your Outbox folder, and that normally means the Outlook client needs to be running at the time you want it to be sent.

The Viva-powered delay option holds the message on the server until the allotted hour, and then delivers it to the recipients – handy if the sender is already outside their working hours by that point

612 – New Year, New You (someday/maybe)

clip_image002The years go by so fast, let’s hope the next beats the last”– a sentiment that rings so true over the last couple of new year celebrations. Whether setting resolutions to do new things, read more, lose weight, be a better human etc, we all tend to reflect, even if just trying to do the same things as before but a bit better. Steve Clayton’s Friday Thing for the end of December had some great tips on things to do and try in the coming year.

If we can’t reduce volume of professional communications (be that emails, Teams messages, whatever – just look at Steve cleaning his mailbox and removing >100,000 Sent Items from a single year), then maybe we could do a better job of managing the stuff that we have to deal with. Much ink has been spilled on how to be more effective and how to get things done, but one useful time/focus management principle to revisit is sometimes known as Eisenhower’s Matrix, of which a variety of depictions exist:


The premise is that any task has separate degrees of importance and urgency; we tend to prioritize urgent and overdue things versus things that are actually important. Discipline in task management can give us the clarity to not worry about seemingly urgent yet non-important tasks, and to stay focussed on things which are important, regardless of their urgency.

Carve out 75 minutes if you can – because this stuff is important – to watch Randy Pausch’s lecture on Time Management, with the context that when it was recorded, he knew he only had weeks left to live: talk about prioritizing important vs urgent.

How you put time and focus management into practice will differ depending on your own style and what tools you want to use. For the Windows / Microsoft 365 user, there are a few quick wins to consider:

  • clip_image005If you use flags in Outlook to mark messages needing your attention, think about setting a “Follow Up” search folder as the top of your list of Favorites. You can even make the Follow Up folder the default one so Outlook always opens that instead of your Inbox. You could try setting up a scheduled task to open your Follow Up folder every day (since most of us don’t restart our PCs very often, Outlook will typically stay running; this way will make sure you’ve got Follow Up open first thing every day)

  • Take better notes – remember that you can quickly create a OneNote notes page from an Outlook appointment; we’ll see some improvements coming to the original OneNote client in 2022, so if you’ve switched to using the Metro Modern Store app “OneNote for Windows 10”, then it’s worth revisiting the original. Do check out the fantastic OneCalendar addin to desktop OneNote, which helps you look back on notes you took.
  • Remember that Outlook Tasks and Microsoft To Do integrate with each other; see the Ignite session for how to use them more effectively. You can also highlight action items (from your meeting notes?) in OneNote, and quickly create Outlook tasks. While Tasks and To Do items don’t quite have full interop, there are 3rd party solutions out there and there are lots of templates in PowerAutomate which can do groovy things with Tasks, notifications and so on.
  • The Windows 11 Clock app has a nice new “Focus sessions” time management feature, to help you concentrate on important tasks, and it now supports signing in with Microsoft 365 credentials so you can see your corporate Tasks / To Do items in the list.


    clip_image009To help maintain focus, you can quickly set your Teams status to Do Not Disturb by hovering over the application icon on your Taskbar and clicking the appropriate status.

    If you’re easily distracted, you could also switch Outlook to Offline mode so you don’t get any new email whilst you focus – a good alternative to closing Outlook down altogether, since you may need it for whatever work you’re doing.

    clip_image013Go into Outlook, under the Send / Receive menu, click the Offline button on the taskbar and you won’t get any more email until you click the Offline button again to reverse the process and re-emerge later.

611 – Finding Ghost meetings

clip_image002ToW has talked before about appointments and meetings in Outlook – in summary, an appointment is something you put in your diary, a meeting is one to which you invite others (or have been invited to by someone else).

Thinking of meetings you have organised, you can do a few things to make them stand out, like configuring your calendar view to show your own meetings in a different colour.

Go to clip_image004View | View Settings…clip_image006

… click Conditional Formatting, add a new rule and click Condition… to set it up.

Go to the Advanced tab, click on Field and choose All Appointment Fields, then Meeting Status, then set equals Meeting organizer as the condition, set your colour, font etc choice and save it all out.

clip_image008You can see at a glance which ones you need to drive and which ones you can coast along with, muted and your camera off because, “oh, the WiFi’s playing up”.

Ghost meetings – you’re organiser, nobody else shows up

How many times have you joined an online meeting that you organised, waited a few minutes and then realised that the other party/parties have actually declined but you didn’t notice? Sure, you can see in the tracking tab of a meeting, but might not check until you’ve already started the meeting and wonder why you’re on your Jack Jones.

At this time of year, it’s quite likely you’ll have regular meetings with colleagues, customers or partners, and that instance has been declined by all of the invited attendees: the only real solution is to look ahead at your calendar, check the tracking responses and delete meetings which nobody else will attend. What a palaver.

Never fear, dear reader. Here’s an Excel spreadsheet with a macro which will list all the future meetings where you are the organiser and all of the attendees have either not responded or have declined, so you can easily decide which ones to go and remove.

Download the ZIP file from the link above, save/open it on your PC and you’ll see there’s a single XLSM file within. Open that in Excel, allow changes and enable Macros so it will run, then click the Scan Calendar button to show you a list of meetings that you might be able to delete since everyone else has already bailed out. It will take a couple of minutes to run but will eventually show you a list sorted with the earliest at the top.


Have a great holiday season, everyone. See you in the New Year!

Virtually, obvs.

605 – Snooze la differénce

clip_image002Microsoft has always been good at having several ways of doing the same thing. Internal competition was encouraged with the idea that if several teams built solutions for the same problem, it would spur them all on and the best would win out. The Best Laid Plans don’t always work, and sometimes politics and machination gets in the way.

One modern incarnation of the multiple-ways principle is electronic mail; despite many attempts to replace email with other means of messaging, persistent chat etc, it’s still a huge deal (especially in business) and it’s still growing.

In the days when companies ran their own IT on-premises, there was Exchange, and the companion mail client Outlook arrived shortly after. Web-based consumer services like Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail changed the expectations of many users. Home and work email services have been getting closer in form and function since.

Microsoft’s current email clients are quite diverged: you can use the full-fat Outlook application to connect to your business email as well as your private Hotmail MSN Live Outlook.com / Gmail etc account. Then there’s the Windows Mail app, which is linked to the Outlook mobile apps so much so, that you can launch the Mail app by pressing WindowsKey+R then entering outlookmail: to start it (see more here). clip_image004

The Mail app is pretty good – it can connect to a variety of sources including Office 365, so while it might not be an ideal primary business email application, it can be a good way of connecting to multiple personal email services.

clip_image006One feature which appeared in different ways across multiple services and apps is the idea of Snoozing your email; initially pioneered by Gmail,  others followed suit. It’s a different concept to flags and reminders, rather if you select an email and say snooze until 10am tomorrow, it will literally disappear from your inbox and it would reappear at the top of the pile the following morning.

Well, that’s how it works on some combinations. In the browser versions of both Hotmail / Outlook.com and clip_image008Exchange/Office365, it works as you’d expect – you Snooze an  email and it is actually moved clip_image010into the Scheduled email folder (and you’ll see when it is later due to reappear in Inbox if you look in there). At the elected time, it shows up again on at the top of the mailbox. Let’s compare to some other Microsoft clients & services…

Outlook client and Office 365 – there is no snooze feature. Sorry. Just be more organised. If you snooze an email from another client, it will disappear from Inbox, but when it reappears, it’ll be in the same place as it was before – eg. if you Snooze a 9am email from the web app until 1pm, it will move into the Scheduled folder – but when it moves back into the Inbox, the Outlook and Windows Mail clients will show it down at 9am again so you might as well flag it and be done.

clip_image012Windows Mail client with Outlook.com or Office 365 Zip. Too bad.

Mobile Outlook and Web clients on Outlook.com or Office 365– Mail disappears and shows up again at the allotted time, right at the top of the mailbox. In the web clients, you’ll see the time stamp of the message as if it has literally just arrived; in the mobile version, though the message is ordered correctly (eg a 9am snooze to reappear at 1pm will show up between 12:30 and 1:15 mails), the displayed time is correct but a little clock icon is shown alongside. Clever.

At some point, there is a plan to deliver a single, unified, email client. An Ignite 2020 session talked about the roadmap and further commentary speculated that the One Outlook client may be coming, but isn’t going to be with us for some time yet.

clip_image014In the meantime, maybe now’s the time to try the switch full time to Outlook Web App? You can even install it like a regular app, pin it to Start and so on.

599 – Time for a short survey?

clip_image002There was a time when visiting a website gave you a 1/10 chance of being offered a user survey, asking why you’re visiting today and how you feel about the company. Presumably, response rates were low enough that such surveys are largely replaced with annoying cookies and tracker software so the company can see what you’re doing without needing to ask you why.

clip_image004Surveys in email can be a lot more useful, though, when trying to garner feedback about a particular topic. Outlook has had Voting Buttons since it first appeared in Office 97. They provide a simple way of asking a single question and getting recipients of the email to respond so that the sender can see what the votes cast are. You can take the defaults or add clip_image006your own custom options, separated by semicolons.

Recipients get prompted in Outlook and can vote with a single click, rather than having to type a response, and the sender can see a Tracking clip_image008tab on the message in their Sent Items folder to get the results.

One downside of voting buttons, though, is that they only work in Outlook – there’s no Web App or mobile support, so it does restrict the usability somewhat. Great news, though – a more modern approach is available; not only does it work using the Outlook mobile apps and the browser but it’s a bit more in-your-face for most Outlook users too, with a simple and quick way of responding.

clip_image010clip_image012The Poll feature in Outlook appeared in March 2020 but may have been easy to miss, given all the other stuff that was happening then. It’s accessible from the Insert menu on a new message, or if you look at the bottom of the Use Voting Buttons drop-down menu, it’s been added there too.

Clicking on the icon gives you a single question with two or more options; it’s powered by Microsoft Forms, but there’s no fancy branching or data validation – it’s a straight “choose one of these short text responses” feature and all the better for it.

clip_image014If using Outlook (desktop or mobile) or OWA, when a recipient in your organization receives an email with a Poll included, it’s shown right at the top and is super simple to reply to. If the recipient is using a mail client that doesn’t understand the Poll, there’s also a link to the web-based version too.

Since it’s delivered as part of a Microsoft 365 / Office 365 subscription, it’s a little less slick when dealing with users outside of the organization / tenant (the inline previews don’t show up, so outsiders will need to click the link and use the web UI, and will need to type their email address into the response too), so think of it as a friendly and visible way of collecting simple internal votes.