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How should I setup Outlook?

Part V in the series How should I set up my computer? (parts I, II, III and IV). So far, I’ve connected my new computer safely to the internet, updated software, tweaked some of Windows XP’s controls and behaviors, and started installing software including Microsoft Office 2003.

I spend a significant chunk of my on-line life in Microsoft Outlook. Like much of my time, this article will focus on Outlook, and how I tweak it to my liking.

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The first time you start Microsoft Outlook, you’re forced to step through a wizard that is designed to help you set up your email accounts.

As you might imagine, I skip that, but we want to run it anyway. Work your way through the wizard, but don’t set up any email accounts just yet. Exit the wizard and exit Outlook.

Now that we’ve run Outlook, you’ll find that there’s a new entry in your control panel: Mail. That’s why we ran Outlook only to exit it immediately.


I make extensive use of Outlook Profiles. Profiles are nothing more that separate configurations of Outlook. I use one at home that includes all my email accounts (I have at least five), I use another when I’m traveling that only includes some of those accounts, and I use yet another when my wife and I are traveling together so that we can check her email as well.

In Control Panel, Mail, select Show Profiles. I don’t want a profile called “default”, so I copy the default profile to one with a name I choose and then delete the default profile. I also select “Prompt for a profile to be used” at this time, so I can choose which profile I want to use each time I start Outlook. I then click Properties to begin customizing the profile.

Default Data File

Setting up your own default data file and getting your email delivered to it instead of the one Outlook has already set up for you can be a bit of a challenge. I take these steps:

  • Click on Data Files
  • I add my data file, placing it in the location I want it.
  • Close the Data Files dialog.
  • Click on E-mail Accounts
  • Select View or change existing e-mail accounts
  • In Deliver new e-mail to the following location, select the other entry typically also called “Personal Folders”, and select Finish.
  • Now go back to Data Files
  • Select the old, original default data file and hit Remove to remove it, leaving only the one I selected.

Now we can finally fire up Outlook.

Why is it all about me?

This series of articles discusses in some detail how I set up my machine. That implies I’m setting things to maximize how I use my computer in my own ways.

That may not be right for you.

My intent is that you use these articles as a guide – a road map of sorts to show you the things that you might want to change, lead you into areas you didn’t realize could be customized, or show you how to customize things where it’s not at all obvious how. Your settings will almost certainly vary from mine. I’ve found that Email, for example, is a particularly personal experience.

E-mail Accounts

In Tools, E-mail Accounts…, View or change existing e-mail accounts, I add email accounts. One by one. All five of them. Besides the normal information (my display name, email name,
server names, account name and password), I also select More Settings… and change the name displayed to be my email name. Later when I’m presented with a list of accounts to select from, it’s obvious which one I mean. At this point I also set the security options required by my outgoing mail server. After all that, on the main account creation page, I also run a test just to make sure that the account is working properly.

Address Books

Setting up your contacts to be used as an address book for Outlook seems unnecessarily complex as well.

Viewing the Folder List, right click on Contacts and select properties. Click on the Outlook Address Book tab, and make sure that Show this folder as an e-mail Address Book is checked.

Now, back in the Tools menu, select E-mail Accounts…, View or change existing directories or address books. Double click on Outlook Address Book and delete the first one – I believe it’s a remnant from the default data file we removed earlier.

Customizing Menus & More

I’m not a big fan of personalized or auto-hide menus, so I right click the menu bar in some unused area and select Customize. In the Options tab I select Always show full menus.

Since I’ve configured for multiple accounts, in the Commands tab I drag a different Send/Receive item to the toolbar that includes a drop-down that allows me to select a specific account to act on. A also drag off the default Send/Receive button and add a “Move to Folder” icon.

I also like to customize the Navigation Pane. At the bottom right of the navigation pane is a Configure Buttons menu that also includes Navigation Pane Options. I deselect a few things, but leave the things I use enabled: Mail, Calendar, Contacts, and Notes and Folder List.

I also drag the divider at the bottom of the navigation pane down as far as it will go, leaving only a row of icons at the bottom. At this point I also spend a few minutes and remove everything from Favorite Folders and then drag over a few icons that really are my favorites.

Options – Lots of Options

At long last, we head off into the Tools, Options dialog.

On the Preferences tab, hit the Junk Email button. Now, I turn this option off completely, because I have some good spam filtering upstream – I see get only a small percentage of the SPAM that is headed my way. That having been said, I’ve found Outlook 2003’s junk mail filter to be excellent, and suggest at least the Low setting. If you select High, be sure to scan your junk mail folder periodically for false positives.

Still on the Preferences tab, in Email Options:

  • I select “After moving or deleting an open item, ‘open the next item'”. I’ve never quite understood how the default of opening the previous is useful at all.
  • I select “Close original message on reply or forward”.
  • I uncheck remove extra line breaks in plain text messages. It can make some messages look more natural, but it can also seriously mess up formatting of others.
  • Under “When replying to a message” I select “Prefix each line of the original message”.
  • Under “When forwarding a message” I select “Include the original message text.”
  • Under “Prefix each line with:” I enter “> “.
  • I uncheck “Mark my comments with”

On the Mail Setup tab, hit the Send/Receive… button. I turn off “Schedule an automatic send/receive”. I prefer to not be interrupted by incoming email, but rather retrieve it on my terms and schedule.

On the Mail Format tab:

  • “Compose in this message format: Plain Text”. HTML email is nice and all, but rarely do I need it for my messages.
  • Turn OFF (OFF! OFF! OFF!) “Use Microsoft Office Word 2003”. I love Word as a word processor, but there’s simply no reason to use it for email. None. It just slows down the process, generates bloated HTML (if that’s your format), and is very much over-kill for writing email.
  • I create my Signatures – typically several, associated with each of my accounts.

On the Spelling tab I uncheck “Correct two initial caps, and uncheck capitalize the first letter of sentences. The later is because when editing plain text messages, the editor seems to think that each new line is a sentence.

On the Other tab, under Person Names I turn off the “Person Names Smart Tag”. Then I select the Advanced Options button, and set “Startup in this folder” to be “Inbox”, and turn of the always annoying “When selecting text automatically select entire word”.

A Few Last Tweaks

We’re almost done. A couple of additional tweaks that are in other areas of the program.

Create a message, and while that is up, click on the View menu, and select BCC field. Now that will display by default.

Lastly, as I view various folders, I turn the Preview Pane off, or set it to display below the message list rather than to the right.


That’s it.

Well, not really. I continue to customize Outlook with things like new folders, new rules and the like as my email needs change over time.

It’s long list, but as I said, given the amount of time I spend in Outlook, it makes a lot of sense to invest in making it as easy for me to work the way I want to.

Next in the series: a frenzy of application installation.

The Setting Up Series:

Do this

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58 comments on “How should I setup Outlook?”

  1. where do i get this info from while setting up email accounts
    my display name, email name, server names, account name and password
    especially the server name?

  2. Hello,

    How do I set up my Hotmail and Yahoo emails to come through to Outlook 2003. I know they have different POP and STMP servers addresses, which I am also having difficulty locating. Can you please provide step-bystep assistance if you can for one, or both of these email accounts. Many thanks!

  3. With Yahoo I’m fairly certain you cannot. They don’t provide a pop3 interface. (Though I believe Yahoo UK was or is doing something with their premium for-pay service).

    HotMail used to be accessible via Outlook and Outlook Express, but that’s no longer supported. And again, there is no POP3 or HotMail interface.

    Both are, effectively, web-only mail services.

  4. Hi Leo,

    Maybe you know the answer. One of my clients says she is using Microsoft Outlook 2003. I have an older version and the mail settings are different. I’m trying to find the area where it says Leave a copy on server. We couldn’t find it. Her webmail is retaining messages that she has already received in her Outlook and she doesn’t want it to.

  5. It’s in the same place for both: Tools -> Email Accounts -> View or Change -> select the account -> Change -> More Settings -> Advanced -> Leave a copy …

    Hotmail accounts accessed through Outlook, however, don’t have that option.

  6. Select “HTTP Server” instead of POP3 as the server type when you set up an email account normally.

    Be aware that Hotmail free accounts may no longer be accessible via Outlook.

  7. Outlook 2002 – When you click Tools | Options | Email Options | Mark
    My comments with – there is a name in that box and it is grayed out. Once you select the Mark My Comments With and delete the name, then uncheck the box, as soon as you log
    off and log back in the name reappears.

    Any ideas?

    S. Clark

  8. Hi there,

    I’m trying to follow your instructions but still I’m getting lost. I’ve just set up a new website and have an email address to match the domain. I want to set this email address up to come into my Microsoft Outlook package. I’m attempting to set up Outlook but cannot get past the Email Accounts page. I don’t know if I’m meant to choose Microsoft Exchange Server, Pop3, HTTP IMAP etc. Can you give me further advice?
    Many thanks

  9. i am runninf outlook 2003 and a exchange 2003 server I am using outlook but i want to be able to have my messages be able to be read in exchagn web mail and outlook is this posable.

  10. Leo
    I want to change the viewing order of my address books. Contacts is the first displayed and I want to change that to another address Book without having to click on it. It was easy under Win2K with Office 2000. I have a new computer with XP and after I installed Office 2K (with the same disc I used with Win2K)I no longer have the options choice under Tools. When I go to Tools/Address Book/Tools, the only choices I get are Accounts and Actions. No Options.

  11. I just set up Outlook 2003 with two e-mail accounts. Under the Mail section, I can only see one of them, although they’re both available under Send/Receive. How can I see both of them in the Mail section with their separate respective Inboxes, and other folders? I’ve read the above, and it’s possible I missed it, but I don’t think so.

  12. All email accounts get delivered into the single inbox. If you want to make different inboxes you’ll need to create the folders and then use “Rules” to move the mail as it arrives.

  13. Hi Leo, thanks for a great site, I followed your guide, but still can’t get it right :( I want too move my agentmikie mail to a specified folder, but it still only recieves it in the standard outlook incoming folder.. Please, tell me a step by step guide. Like the one you told Chris Davis. Thanks again for a great website :)


  14. Great site. I’ve just recently changed from Outlook Express to Outlook and now I’m finding that my e-mails look fine during compostion and in my Sent file but are received by others with larger than intended spaces between paragraphs. Any idea on how to fix this? Please let me know.

  15. Depends on the format you’re using, and which editor your using. I’d recommend plain text, and turning off using Word as your email editor.

  16. I’ve got Office 2003 installed, but can’t use my Outlook addresses for envelopes in Word. I use Eudora for e-mail, so Word tells me I need to set Outlook as my mail client before I can address stuff from Outlook. “Mail” in CP seems to be all ok, the profile is correct, and the Outlook address book (using MAPI) is listed in the Wizard.

    I’ve hunted around, but have found no solution. Any ideas?

  17. Leo,

    Great site.

    I have set up multiple accounts and have deleted them, then wanted to add them back and name them as before but am told that the name alreday exists. so account name:example means i now have to account name:example1. Are these account names written in the registry or in a hidden file that can be deleted or edited so that I can get the names of the accounts back?

    I need this because I often travel with a notebook and have replica configurartions and overwrite .pst files, so w/out this prefect account naming, all the rules get angry…


  18. What version of outlook? I’ve done exactly as you describe in the past, and have not had the name issue. If you go into advanced settings, can you manually change the name to what you want?

  19. I’ve disabled ‘automatically select entire word’ but when reading html messages I cannot seem to get around it. Do you know where I can find the setting to disable this irritating ‘feature’?

  20. If you’ve used the default install, you may need to disable it in both Microsoft Word, AND Outlook. Alternately stop using Word as your email editor, and control it entirely within Outlook.

  21. I use Outlook only for “Contacts” together with Motorola Mobile Tools to manage phone numbers in my cell phones. How can I configure Outlook to open on the “Contacts” listing. It currently opens to a blank page titled “Personal Folders.”

  22. I recently upgraded my MS Office from XP to 2003 on two machines, a desktop and a laptop. On the desktop, I had left a previous, working installation of Office/Outlook and simply did the upgrade. Other than wrestling with some visual changes in the program that I didn’t care for and had some trouble getting rid of, the desktop installation was easy.

    The notebook, however, was a clean install due to a disk crash that instigated the whole change-over in the first place. I, absolutely, can not get Outlook 2003 to find my email/calendar/contacts file (which is in my My Documents/Exchange folder) no matter how I finagle the Email Accounts “New Outlook Data File” directions. I, also, can’t figure out where Outlook 2003 has hidden the PST file that it is using. Any assistance would be desperately appreciated.

  23. Leo,

    I have a nt domain and XP pc’s all default installed plus outlook 97,

    well if i configure a account with roaming profile the user cannot configure. the same user without roaming profile it can configure outlook ??
    do you know this problem

  24. I have Outlook setup with a single profile tied to a corporate Exchange accout. I would like to setup an additional email account (personal) and have those messages go into my local PST file. All my attempts so far have failed with all mail going into the Exchange MailBox.

    Thanks for you help

  25. PLEASE HELP ! ! !

    i need to know how to make outlook (2003 says the about box) display the EMAIL ADDRESS and not the contact name as it currently does, in the “FROM:” field of the inbox.

    sometimes i receive emails from people that are not in my contact list (of course, everybody does), if those senders happen to NOT have a “friendly name” setup in their client then i receive and EMPTY from field.

    also if i have 2 Jhonny P. in my contac list, i want to know which one sent me the email, but the email appears nowhere in the from field andd i have to be checking the mail headers when this happens, highly annoying.

  26. Good stuff,Leo. Followed your instructions trying to make my Contacts Folder my Address Book (so it automatically fills in the email when I type the name. When looking in Tools/View or Change Adress Book, both Personal Folder and Outlook Contacts folder are there. But when I try to get an address (Tools/Address Book) — Nuttin’. . . . What’s up?

  27. I use Mozilla as my email client, but my windows pocket pc requires outlook for syncing. How can I use Outlook, then leave the mail on the server, so that it is not downloaded? I prefer to read it, maybe answer it, but leave it on the server until I choose to go to Mozilla and deal with it.

  28. Leo, I believe your first comment is wrong because yahoo does have a pop3 and smtp server to connect through outlook if you search yahoo pop3 smtp on google you will find them.

  29. How do you turn off the Favorite folders?

    how do you turn off the Icon bar at the bottom and replace is with the older Outlook view?

  30. I don’t believe you can turn off that icon bar at the bottom – though you can resize it down to make is smaller than the default. Viewing “folder list” (one of those icons) is the closest to the old style, and has no favorite folder at the top.

  31. how should i setup outlook in roaming profiles. when using roaming profile .pst file missing message showing. what should i do?

  32. How can I set up Outlook 2003 to prompt for an email account to use for sending email as opposed to having a default email account? I have 4 accounts and I keep forgetting to send mail with the proper account.

  33. As best as I can tell you cannot. I’m like you, I have several accounts, and like it or not, one of them is default.

  34. I have three different outlook profiles but would only like to have one. How can I merge the information on all three of these to just one profile, and then how do I remove the remaining two that i do not want to have

  35. How do I stop the “Personalized Settings” pane from popping up (in the top left hand corner of Windows) whenever I log in as a User?

  36. Recently changed from Outlook 2000 to Outlook 2003 and I have 2 questions-
    1. I don’t have MS word 2003 – can I use MS word 2000 as my email editor and how to set up?
    2. I have 3 email accounts and have used the Wizard rules to try and direct mail to corresponding accounts, however most seem to go to my main email account. Are there tricks to set up distribution thru the ‘rules’?
    Thanks, Buddy

  37. I recently moved to a new computer using the MS Files and Settings Transfer Wizard. The problem I’m having in Outlook is that is doesn’t “see” my contacts in the “to, cc, bcc” fields. The contacts are there when I veiw the contacts folder but the “show names from the:” (in the “To, etc) menu is empty. I have nothing to choose from. How do I get my contacts to show up in that menu?

    Hash: SHA1

    By using them. Outlook builds the auto-complete list over time based on
    email addresses you’ve entered. It’s actually unrelated to Contacts. It
    not obvious at all, and as you’ve experienced, somewhat frustrating.

    Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (MingW32)


  39. I am trying to copy my Outlook data, personal folders to a new laptop. I can’t find my Outlook application. I can’t find Local Settings. I can’t find Applications. I am using XP Home and can’t seem to make much sense of those directions I find on the internet.



  40. Task ‘ – Sending’ reported error (0x800CCC0D) : ‘Unable to find the e-mail server. Please verify the server information in your account properties.’

    i tried setting up outlook 2003 to use as my mailing account and the above message apears when sending a message.

    what is my next step

  41. I HAVE NOTEBOOK MODEL : Dell M1210 and Vista window home primumn
    but can send mail and recently i couldn’t download my mail.please help me to solve this problem.

  42. I set up travel itineries/meetings etc for our company executives – Once I input the details in the calendar, how can I send it as one batch file to those concerned for just that trip schedule, rather than many single emailed entries – We do not wish to syncronise calendars. Thx

  43. Have recently changed from Outlook Express to Outlook. Can I customise the view so that I automatically get my list of contacts appearing below my folder list on the left-hand-side? (Like I used to with Outlook Express). Thanks.

  44. I have 2 email accounts. One account I want to download messages off my server (standard setup), the other I only want to see which messages are on my Exchange server.
    Can this be done??

  45. Hey im trying to use outlook to sync my phones entries to my computer and this is done successfully. Now the problem is in the contacts tab of outlook all the phone tabs are by default set to United states. Meaning if i just simply add my number without the country code, outlook adds a (s) for eg “(s) 789-1234” in front of the number. Some phones like the samsung omnia i am using now does not recognise these numbers. so how do i get rid of this. without changing the whole phone book piece by piece?
    Please help.

  46. Hello Leo:
    I work in a small law office and we use MS exchange server 5.5 . Each one of use has a Exchange account and a internet email account configured in their respective Outlook. I tell everyone to make sure to use the pop3 account when sending email through internet, and the exchange account when the mailing is inside the office. Can I solve this by putting the internet email address in the SMTP field on each recipient’s account in Exchange Server, and then putting the pop3 account as default on their machines’ Outlook?

  47. I just want to know how to set my time in my Microsoft Outlook so my emails come & go with the correct time. My computer time at bottom right corner is correct, but my email time is messed up – help?

    I’d triple check that the timezone is set correctly – that can mess up time on email while your computer clock appears correct.



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