Update! See updated info at the bottom of this article.
Just curious. How many times a day do you open or maximize Outlook to read new
email? How many times do you minimize Outlook to open your Internet browser? Or
how many times do you access Windows Explorer to find a file? Did you know you
can do it all right from within Outlook?
I provide a lot of technical support and spend much of my day with my face
buried in Outlook, reading and answering tons of email. Because I concentrate
on technical support, I often times have to jump on the web to look up some
information, find a URL or do a little research to help someone out. I'm constantly
switching between Outlook an Internet Explorer. Well, actually I guess I should
say that I would be constantly jumping between these two applications
all day long, were it not for the fact that I know a trick that saves me time!
I have my most frequently used web sites linked so I can open them quickly
from within Outlook! A quick click and I can be on the web without having to
close or minimize my email application. Another click and I'm back viewing my
email. If I need to open a file on my hard drive, I can click the drive and
locate the file through Outlook, too. If you use Outlook, follow along with
me here and I'll show you how you can make your life a little easier when it
comes to ferreting around your computer.
Accessing Web Pages from Outlook
There are various ways to setup your views in Outlook. We'll be concentrating
on the Outlook Bar and the Folder View. For this article, I'm
using Outlook 2002 from Office XP, so the screen shots may look a little different
from your program. But you can also use Outlook 2000 to setup web page and drive
access. Double click the View menu to instantly expand the menu
so you can see all the options available on that menu. Notice the options for
the Outlook Bar and for the Folder List. Make sure they're both
turned on so you can follow along with this article.
If you're not familiar with these views, the Outlook Bar is a shortcut
bar where you can easily add/remove items to which you might want quick access.
The Folder List is a directory tree of all the actual Outlook folders
and subfolders you've created.
Generally, I don't leave the Folder List open. I have it open in the
image above, just to show you what it is and how to access it. We will need
it open to use it to create web pages that will be accessible through Outlook.
Normally, I just have my Outlook Bar visible along with my emails. If
I'm reading an email and need to zip over to MouseTrax or Microsoft to look
up a URL or some other information to pass along in an email reply, I don't
need to close or minimize my email, I simply click the appropriate web page
shortcut on my Outlook Bar and I'm at the web site I need.
Adding Your Own Web Links
Adding web pages to Outlook is easy! Make sure your Folder List is open
and create a new subdirectory. To add a subdirectory, right click on
Outlook Today (the topmost level in the directory structure) and click
New Folder. I suggest you name this new folder WebPages.
Now that you have a subdirectory to keep your web pages organized, scroll down
to the newly added WebPages subdirectory, right click it and select
New Folder again from the mini menu to add the actual folder that will
display our newly linked web page. I also suggest you name these new WebPages
subdirectories the same name as the web page you'll be creating. Say you want
to add a link to this magazine, TechTrax. Under WebPages, the
new folder will be called TechTrax. In the image below, you'll see that
I have my most frequently used sites listed. MouseTrax
is my main support web site. TechTrax
is this magazine. Then I have Microsoft
and the Word MVP sites
linked for quick access to these useful URLs. Finally, I have Google
listed, which is my favorite web search engine.
Now you need to set the default view for each of your newly created folders
to the appropriate web URL (web address). Right click one of the folders
where you want a web page to be displayed. Select Properties from the
mini menu that will appear. This will bring up the Properties dialog
box for this particular folder. Select the Home Page tab. Check the option
to Show home page by default for this folder. Now enter the URL
to the site you want to appear inside that folder. Then click OK and
You can now click on that folder and the TechTrax home page will appear in
your right window. But because I prefer to have the Folder List closed
and out of my way, I've also added shortcuts to these web folders on my Outlook
Bar. To add a folder to your shortcut bar, just right click on the
folder you want on the bar and this time choose Add to Outlook Bar from
the mini menu. The shortcut will appear at the bottom of the list. But you can
easily click to select it and drag that shortcut up along the list to
wherever you'd like it to appear.
To get back to your email, just click the Inbox shortcut, which is a
default shortcut on the Outlook Bar. If you want to delete an item from
the bar, right click it and choose Remove from Outlook Bar.
Adding a Hard Drive Folder to Your Outlook Bar
If you want to add shortcut access to a drive or particular folder on your hard
drive, you need to right click within the space of the Outlook
Bar. A mini menu will appear. Choose Outlook Bar Shortcut... to open
the Add to Outlook Bar shortcut dialog box. Click in the Look in
drop down and select File System. Your computer's hard drive folder structure
will appear. Click on whichever folder you need, such as My Computer to
open your drives. If you want to link a full drive, select a drive letter itself.
If you prefer to link directly to a particular folder, ferret down to that folder
and select it. Click OK to back out of this dialog. A shortcut to that
folder will now appear at the bottom of the Outlook Bar list. Select
and drag it to wherever you want it on the list.
Now you can quickly jump to your computer hard drive right from within Outlook,
without having to open Windows Explorer. If you double click a file from
this view, it'll recognize the file association and will open within the program
in which it's associated. If you click, say, a Word doc, Word would open, outside
of Outlook, and then pull up that file.
If none of this sounds like something you want to tackle because you like the
opportunity to close down Outlook now and then to get away from email and get
on with other projects within other applications, know that you can just hit
the Windows + M key combo to quickly knock down all your open applications
to access your desktop. This move also works great for hiding what you're doing
when the boss walks up!
Big thanks to reader, Colin
Gardom from the UK. After reading and using the tips from this article,
Colin did a little experimenting. He discovered how to change the icons for
his added web page links in Outlook, so they actually look like web page icons.
This made it easier to find his web shortcuts versus all his standard folder
links. He wrote to me to pass along the info and I initially planned to add
that tip to this article.
But then, after more experimenting, Colin replied back with even an easier
way to add web pages to your Outlook bar. He apologized for the fact that his
latest tip would make much of the folder processing info in this article obsolete.
But that's fine with me! Anyway to do the job faster and easier is always good
news. So here's Colin's tip regarding how to more easily put web page links
on your Outlook bar.
In Outlook, you should see an address input box, just like on your browser.
See the image below and notice the label for Address and the input box
now showing the URL to www.mousetrax.com, my support web site.
If you don't see the Address input box, you can click View/Toolbars
and turn on the Web toolbar, which will also contain the Address input
box. See the image below to find the Web toolbar.
Note! Be sure you are connected to the web before you attempt to click
a web link!
Once you have entered a URL and hit enter to load that web page into your main
viewing area, move your mouse over to the Outlook bar on the left. Right click
on that area. Apologies to our blind users, as I can't find out how to do this
same move without a mouse. If anyone knows, please forward that info to email@example.com!
After you right click, you'll see a mini menu with an option for Outlook
Bar Shortcut to Web Page. See the image below for details.
Click the shortcut option and the URL for the currently displayed site will
be added to the bottom of your shortcut list in your Outlook bar.
And now to add one more tip of my own to this update. After I tried Colin's
suggestion (which worked great, thanks again, Colin), I realized, as usual,
I'm starting to accumulate too much junk in my Outlook bar. Even though I'm
using small icons, which can also be set via the right click mini menu, I needed
To solve this problem, I decided to create a new Outlook bar group just for
my web links.
As you can see on that same mini menu in the image above, there's an option
for Add New Group. I selected that and added a new group called Webs.
Now, as you can see in the image below, I can click on the Outlook Shortcuts
to get back to my standard email folders, but I can also quickly click on the
Webs group to see all my frequently used sites. With a quick link activation
here, I can get to the site without having to minimize Outlook, open Internet
Explorer and use a shortcut from there.
And since the majority of my day is spent switching between email and a browser
to look up information or URLs for users, this will save me a ton of clicks