Outlook rules are one of the oldest, most under-utilized productivity hacks in the business applications toolbox. They’re excellent for getting distractions out of your inbox.
Newsletters you only occasionally read? Make a rule to send them to their own folder!
System generated messages you never check? Mark them as read!
Let the computer do your work for you.
Today I want to share a set of rules I create when I start working with new customers to help me manage my inbox. But more generally, I just want to encourage you to use more Outlook rules.
Create Customer Category and Rules
When I start working with a new customer, I like to create an outlook category for that customer, and rules so that all customer-specific emails will be tagged with that category. This works for me because I frequently work across multiple customer projects at the same time, though rarely more than a handful.
Create New Outlook Category
Create Outlook Rules
OK, What’s the Big Deal?
Automatically categorizing email by customer visually organizes my inbox. I can quickly identify customer vs. internal emails, as well as recognize which customer they pertain to.
It also provides the same visual distinction when looking at meeting invites for the week.
How do you manage your email inbox? Do you use any practices or rules that are exceptionally effective? Let me know in the comments.
Essentially, plan out your important tasks and schedule them at the start of your day. Then, track what you actually do during the day. At mid-day, revise your schedule based on what you still need to accomplish, new tasks that have come up, and revised priorities.
Jesse explains this better than me, as well as how he manages it on a sheet here:
I liked this format, but the sheet wasn’t working for me, so I recreated the experience in Outlook.
I created three new calendars, naming them Planned, Actual, and Revised.
I grouped them together to make them easier to manage
I made a Day view in the calendar section aligning my Work calendar with my Planned, Actual, and Revised calendars.
I also pinned my tasks in the todo bar on the right.
I like this approach for a few reasons:
At the start of each day, I fill my planned calendar for the day – transferring my work meeting first, and then figuring where I will insert time for the work tasks that I need to accomplish.
Outlook’s “current time” bar sliding down the calendar is a great reminder for me to keep my Actual calendar updated during the workday.
Having multiple calendars allows me to block out my day, while still giving colleagues visibility to actual availability in my work calendar (which is shared with them).
I can view and add to these multiple calendars from the Outlook mobile app (which works great with Siri for appointment scheduling, btw)
Maintaining my actual calendar facilitates easy time entry at the end of the day.
Do you have any good time management strategies that work for you? Do you think this will be helpful to you? Let me now in the comments.
Also, if you prefer the paper version of this technique, Jesse’s printable version is available for download on Gumroad.
FastTabs are blocks in D365 forms that can be expanded or collapsed. Like a filing cabinet or library card catalog (remember card catalogs?), FastTabs allow lots of information to be compressed into a tiny space and opened for access when needed.
Below are some tips for navigating FastTabs in D365 Finance:
Personalization and Saved Views
If you routinely need access to certain field positioned lower on a form, the Move personalization feature can be used to move the more utilized field into a more prominent FastTab, or even to move an entire FastTab higher on the form.
Right-click and select personalize on a field and you can also select Show in Header, which will display that field attribute on the right side of the FastTab whether the FastTab is expanded or collapsed.
If you are looking for a field on a form, but unsure which FastTab it is filed under, Expand all can be your friend. Right-clicking on the fasttab header gives you the option to Expand all FastTabs on the form. Used in conjunction with Ctrl+F, this can be a powerful method to quickly find the field you are searching for.
Less Words, Moar Video
I made a quick video of this. Let me know if this is helpful, and whether you’d like me to make more videos like this.
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Word is my favorite PDF reader.
Standard Windows 10 ships with Microsoft Edge as the default PDF reader. It’s nice not having to purchase or download extra PDF reading software, but for me reading a PDF in a web browser does leave something to be desired. First, it’s difficult to markup or edit a PDF in a web browser. Second, I don’t like getting the PDF I’m reading mixed in with all my other open tabs. Third…actually I don’t really have a third – two strikes is enough.
Usually, I read PDFs because they are documents sent to me from a colleague or a customer. I want my open documents grouped with my other open documents (WORD documents), not my endless supply of browser windows.
Make Word Default PDF Reader!
This is actually pretty simple. If you right-click on a PDF, you can choose how to open the file. If word doesn’t appear as an option, you can select choose another app.
From the choose another app screen, if Word does not appear you can find it by clicking more apps. Once selected, you can mark Always use this app to open ..pdf files to set Word as the Default.
As you can see below, setting Word as the default PDF reader creates a slightly different document icon to distinguish between .doc word documents and .pdf PDF documents, though both will be opened in the Word application.
Opening the PDF in Word has the same look and feel of opening a standard word document. As a user, you can make comments or edits like working with a Word document and then save those additions as a new document.
Apparently this functionality has been available since Word 2013. I’m just seven years late to the party. Better late than never, right?
Longtime readers of this blog know I’m a big fan of Workspaces. I’m such a fan, I gave an entire Workspace Presentation at last year’s User Group Summit.
Here is my pitch for Workspaces:
If bookmarking the D365 Default Dashboard, in order to perform an action you need to 1) Open your browser 2) Go to D365 Default Dashboard and then 3) Goto the D365 form where you will perform your action.
Bookmarking specific workspaces, utilizing the workspace’s tiles, listpages and links gets you straight to the action you want to perform. Your steps are now 1) Open your browser and 2) Go to the D365 form where you will perform your action.
Advancing this concept, Edge makes it easy to pin a workspace to your taskbar. If I click on the purple finance and operations logo on the far right of my taskbar, the vendor invoice entry workspace opens immediately.
The steps are now 1) Go to the D365 form where you want to perform your action and 2)…profit!
How to Pin Workspace to Taskbar
The Edge browser makes this easy. Go to your desired workspace and click the ellipsis on the top right of the Edge Browser. Select more tools, and then click pin to taskbar,
Pin Vendor invoice entry workspace to taskbar
If you add “&limitednav=true” to the end of your workspace URL, the menu item on the left disappears (zoom into the two Vendor invoice entry workspace screenshots above and look at the urls to see the difference). This gives you a few more pixels to work with (a small benefit), but also cuts down on distractions in the workspace (a larger benefit, possibly).
I like using this limited navigation with the pinned workspace because makes the D365 workspace feel more like a desktop application.
If you hold shift and click on the pinned shortcut in your taskbar, you can select properties to change the icon (the pinned website’s favicon is the shortcut’s default icon). This can be helpful if you want to pin multiple shortcuts to your taskbar and easily distinguish between them. The new icon image must be in .ico format – fortunately there are multiple sites that make it easy to convert standard jpg or png images to ico.
In this interview with Stripe CEO Patrick Collison, he notes that technology companies are more frequently utilities (how do I get this car to show up now?) or entertainment (how do I get this show now?), and less a bicycle for the mind as early tech-visionaries dreamed for the future of computers.
I’m starting a new project, which has required a lot of new learning. As a result, I’m reflecting on the tools I use to augment my learning.
I don’t have a photographic memory. To compensate, I use OneNote a lot. I have OneNotes for projects, I have personal OneNotes, I even have a big OneNote where I document new D365 functionality I’m learning. The process of notetaking helps me concentrate on the subject matter – as an added benefit it builds searchable knowledgebase. I like to think of well structured OneNotes as an investment in my future self.
I wrote about Microsoft Teams in April (see here and here), but the product has continued to approve this year. Teams are a great place to collaborate in groups, share files, and keep stakeholders up to date. Not to mention its power as a scheduling/meeting/video-conferencing platform.
Add OneNote to a Team
Following up on my love on OneNote, the only thing better than making OneNotes for yourself is making OneNotes as part of a group. In Teams, a OneNote can be added to a tab for easy group access. The OneNote can be edited within Teams, as well as opened for editing in the OneNote desktop app.
Click the plus sign to add a tab
Search for the OneNote application, then select the specific OneNote to be added
The OneNote can now be accessed through Teams
Clicking Open in Browser, the OneNote can also be opened in the desktop app.
I like having access to the OneNote through the desktop application because the features are a bit more robust and I can always bring up the OneNote application using the Win+Shift+N hotkey.
Sync Teams Files to Computer
As mentioned above, Teams are a great way to share files. As in many social situations, Teams can sometimes fall victim to oversharing. (I’m sorry, but I don’t want to discuss your foot fungus problems during the company holiday party, now suddenly I’m the bad person?). I’ve seen many Teams develop a file folder structure so complicated they require their own Indiana Jones map for navigation. However, no matter how large the file structure, usually the contents of only one or two folders are relevant to me.
Instead of digging through the folder structures every time I want to review those files, syncing the relevant folders or files to my computer is an easier solution.
On the Files tab of the Team, click Open in SharePoint
From SharePoint, click Sync
Select the particular files or folders to sync
The synced files and folders can now be accessed through File Explorer
File explorer can be quickly accessed using WIN+E. Depending on OneDrive settings, synced files can be saved to the computer’s hard drive for offline access. Changes to synced files will save on the files accessible to the Team.
Other Bicycles for the Mind
Two other tech tools I’m interested in right now are Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain knowledge management system and the Roam Research notetaking tool. I’m pretty busy studying for my current project, but I’m looking forward to exploring both when I have some available time in the future.
Speaking of studying – shoutout to Quizlet. Learning new terms from a glossary: boring. Learning new terms from flashcards: fun. I’ve found Quizlet makes it easy to upload and review new terms/definitions, and the mobile app makes it convenient to practice on the go.
As regular readers will know, I’m a big fan of shortcuts. They are also useful in Microsoft Teams. Below is a helpful hotkey list put together by cheatkeys.com
When you click the ellipsis during a meeting, you may notice a new (preview) feature called “Turn on live captions”. Clicking this provides automated captions at the bottom of the screen. These captions are only available in English, and will only be privately visible to you (ie not visible to every one else in the meeting).
Teams Windows Application vs Web Application
If you are reading this, you probably have the Teams windows application (and you might even have the Teams ios or android application). But you can also access teams in any web browser by going to teams.microsoft.com.
One current advantage of using the web application is that you can have multiple instances of Teams open in multiple tabs (or on multiple monitors). Doing so allows you to use chat or access files while following a screen sharing meeting at the same time.
Harnessing the power of the Snap Camera, you can throw a little augmented reality into your Teams video calls. Full details on how to set it all up for Teams can be found here.
The Snap Camera comes from Snapchat, and basically adds an augmented reality filter to your computer’s camera then makes it appear to other applications that your camera plus the AR filter is a new camera that can be selected. To be honest, I found most of the filters to be rather juvenile.
Pizza in Microwave
This is actually a very useful filter, especially since my wife no longer lets me put my camera in the microwave following the incident.
Palm Tree Background
If I wanted a palm tree in my video background, I would just paint a palm tree on my back office wall.
Tie on Head
If I wanted to impress people with a tie on my head during video calls, I would just tie a tie on my head during my video calls.
Let me know when Snap Camera rolls out the Clean-Shaven-Face filter. Then we can start talking about Augmented Reality as a business essential.
We’ve previously covered Navigation search (Ctrl+/) as a way to quickly find and access different forms across D365. Action search is a way to quickly find and access different menu buttons within a single D365 form. This can be particularly helpful if the user is looking for a menu item button, but unsure which tab it is located on.
The Action Pane
Let’s start by quickly reviewing the elements of the action pane (the area at the top of a D365 form). The action pane contains menu buttons, organized into tabs, and groups.
Action search can be activated by clicking the magnifying glass next to the options tab, or pressing Alt+Q.
Action Search (in Action)
Typing in action search returns similarly named menu buttons. The returned results display the menu button name, as well as its associated tab and group. This works for menu buttons across all tabs on the form. If buttons are hidden through a personalization or saved view, they will also be hidden in the action search results.
Room for Search Optimization
Action search is handy functionality for users searching for a button, but unsure of it’s location in the action pane. However, the ordering of the search results can still be improved. In the screenshot below, you can see that the top action search result for “hour journal” does return the button for creating an hour journal (the hour button in the journal group), but instead the top results are taken by hour costprice and hour salesprice. I am hopeful that the action search and navigation search results will improve in future releases.
Want to share this action-packed post on social media? Go ahead, make my day.
This shortcut is admittedly more style than substance, but…
If you are using a PC with Windows 10, you can use Cortana’s speech recognition to dictate instead of type your D365 inputs. More information on how to set up speech recognition in Windows 10 is available here.
Win+H will activate the speech recognition bar visible at the top of the screen.
Saying “Stop dictation” will remove you from dictation mode.
Cortana Dictation Power User Tip
The Win+H shortcut can be used in conjunction with the Ctrl+/ Navigation Search shortcut to access any D365 form or workspace with minimal keyboard entry. It can also be used with the Ctrl+F Browser Search shortcut to quickly identify objects on a given page.