This is the second of two articles about customizing the Outlook toolbar. Some of the approaches I mention apply to all Microsoft Office programs; others are handy tricks specific to Outlook.
One useful technique is to create custom toolbars that you don't need to keep visible all the time. For example, I enjoy fiddling with Outlook views, but I find it tedious to go through the View, Current View, Customize Current View routine to finally get to the Filter dialog box. So, I've created a new toolbar that has all my favorite View commands, but I leave it out of sight most of the time.
To create a new toolbar, right-click anywhere on the toolbars, then choose Customize. On the Toolbars tab of the Customize dialog box, click New and give the toolbar a name. Then, you can switch to the Command tab and drag commands to the new toolbar. My Views toolbar contains the commands for Filter, Show Fields, Sort, Group By, Automatic Formatting, Other Settings, and Define Views. To turn on the toolbar when I want to work on views, I right-click the toolbars, then select Views from the list of toolbars.
In last week's UPDATE, you learned how to make hyperlinks on an Outlook toolbar. This technique opens up new possibilities for customization. One very practical application is to create a menu that lists the people to whom you send messages the most.
To create a new drop-down menu on a toolbar, open the Customize dialog box. On the Commands tab, find New Menu at the bottom of the Categories list and drag it to your toolbar. Right-click the New Menu button and give it a new name, such as Friends.
To populate the menu, drag any command from the Commands tab onto the blank list area that drops down when the mouse passes over the new menu. Use the New Mail command to get an appropriate email message icon. Right-click the new command button, and change the Name to the name of a person you want to add to your Friends list. Choose Assign Hyperlink, Open; then choose E-mail Address. Enter the person's address; Outlook will automatically add "mailto:" to the beginning of the address to turn it into a hyperlink.
You can repeat the process to add more buttons to launch messages to other people. When you've finished, close the Customize dialog box. Click any button on your new drop-down menu to create a test message.
Adaptive menus are a new Office 2000 feature that takes some getting used to. The commands visible on the toolbars and menus change as you use them. This feature is supposed to make it easier to find the commands you use the most. But some people find adaptive menus just plain annoying. If you're one of these people, you can turn off adaptive menus in any Office 2000 or Windows XP program's Customize dialog box. Go to the Options tab and select the "Always show full menus" box.
Here's one more little toolbar trick: You don't need to open the Customize dialog box to rearrange a toolbar's buttons. To move a button or remove it from the toolbar completely, hold down the Alt key and drag the button to where you want it. To start a new toolbar button group, hold down Alt and drag the button that you want to be the leftmost member of the group just a little bit to the right of its current position.