Keep Outlook Open, but Keep it Quiet

The stories you hear about working at Microsoft and how we send and receive lots of email is true. It is more true than you could imagine. I’ve been an addicted avid user of Outlook since I’ve had a job but there are some features I’ve not explored with any depth. Even with software, I sometimes strive to live a more Buddhist lifestyle and deny myself the investigation for features that I fear I will not find. That whole expecting it to be there and being disappointed when it isn’t thing is too depressing for me to go through, so I choose to minimize my expectations and not go hunting for features my life would benefit from having. No, really. I’m just lazy. No but seriously, I have this obsessive rule about not seeing a scrollbar in my Inbox.Each day when the little scrollbar icon appears, shortening the width of my Inbox by 20 (or so) pixels, I cringe. I hate having more-than-a-scroll emails in my Inbox.

The feature I’ve wanted (ever since I got the feature of not having to refresh my inbox) is to tell my inbox to stop auto-refreshing. I’d never gone hunting for it. Tonight, I did, and I found it in 5 minutes. I like this feature so much I’m going to show it off. You’ve probably seen this already, but get this – you can leave Outlook open and prevent it from checking your mail.That way, you can clean out your Inbox while simultaneously preventing it from refilling itself as you try to clean it out.

Here’s the trick. On your Outlook ribbon in any of the modes – email, calendar, tasks, whatever – click the Send/Receive ribbon. Then, toggle the Work Offline feature. I’ve highlighted my favorite part of the feature – the “if you do not want to receive new mail” message.

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As soon as you do this, Outlook will stop checking your email for you. The status bar reflects my newfound joy, knowing I can keep my old friend open but quiet as I prune away towards inbox-zero Nirvana. In the status bar, I can see that I’m working offline. That way, once I get jittery in 15 minutes after not having received any new email, I can just look down and see why no one’s emailing me. I’ve temporarily put the incoming world on hold.

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Whenever I’m ready to stop being anti-social, I can go back to the Send/Receive tab and see that I’m hiding via the greyed-out Work Offline toggle button.

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Once I click that, Outlook connects and starts updating my folders…

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After a few seconds everything is updated and I’m back online, with new fresh email to read…

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You probably already knew about this feature, but I’m so excited I had to share it. Thanks, Outlook team, for being awesome.