By David Gracey
My mother-in-law, Cynthia, has been suspiciously quiet recently with her computer support needs. I was concerned that she might have failed to charge her laptop battery and just wasn’t using her computer at all. Silly me. A few days later, she dropped by the house and before she even had a chance to say ‘hello,’ she immediately launched into her latest computer saga. “David, I’m so glad you’re here. I’m having the worst time with my computer. This dot appeared and all my email went ‘poof.’ It just disappeared into the dot.”
Now I was just dying to find out what happened. Like many people, including some in my own office and home, Cynthia is an impatient mouse-clicker. By that, I mean after clicking her mouse button she doesn’t wait for the requisite milliseconds to pass in order to assume nothing has happened and so she clicks again. Of course, this only makes matters worse and then “the screen just all of a sudden starts jumping around.” (Speaking of ‘jumping’ see related Cynthia’s Corner – “My Mouse is Jumping” article.)
Cynthia didn’t have her laptop with her (why would one carry a laptop around, after all) so I was only able to ask her questions about the situation. I suspect what happened was that Cynthia had clicked on the category arrow which collapsed all emails in that band. They “disappear.”
This situation got me thinking that everyone uses Outlook. Here are a couple of tips I find most helpful in the Outlook world:
Multiple Windows: Outlook has lots of folders and features. I’m routinely in-and-out of a couple of Outlook views. Inbox is the main window but my calendar is a close second. I also like to keep my Contacts open and a Public Folder (this feature is only available to Outlook users on a corporate network). Having multiple windows open simultaneously allows me to ALT-tab between them or hover over the Outlook icon in the toolbar which then reveals the various open windows. This is much better than clicking on the Outlook folder you want to see only to then click on another window. To open multiple windows, right-click the folder you wish to view, then select OPEN IN NEW WINDOW. You can then resize the new window to fit your screen better.
Organize your Inbox: Most people complain about the excessive number of emails they receive each day. I get about 100 per day, which is fairly typical in the business world. My #1 rule is to delete the email unless it requires follow up by me or it’s really important. (For what it’s worth, I have 46 emails in my Inbox right now). For those emails you just need to keep, create folders based on topic, client, or other system that your world revolves around.
Unsubscribe: Most “unwanted” email that people get really isn’t spam. It is generated from companies with whom you have done business in the past. Once they get your email address, they start sending you newsletters (the horror!) and ads that describe their specials of the week. Years ago, IT nerds like me recommended NOT to unsubscribe because it told the spammers that your mailbox was being monitored by a human being. That’s not true to the same extent it used to be. Spam filters block 99% of the true spam that we get. Feel free to unsubscribe to those emails that are sent to you. Usually there is an “unsubscribe” option at the bottom of the email.
Leave It On: Years ago, advice to computer owners was to shut it down when not in use in order to save the parts. That advice has been updated as newer parts have been developed. It is not perfectly safe to leave your computer on all the time. Just lock the screen (press Windows key plus L to lock quickly) and walk away. You should check your power management to ensure the screen goes dark. But leaving your screen on will allow you to quickly get up and running again. You can also leave applications, such as Outlook, running. If you use the multi-window trick above, you’ll really appreciate this. I reboot my computer once a week just to keep the performance up.