Wednesday, May 1, 2002

Remind me later


By Diane Poremsky

Odds are, you receive a lot of email; some of it might even be important, but you don't have time to deal with all of it "right now."

You're probably already using the Rules Wizard to move mail to other folders, sorting the less important messages from the ones that need immediate attention. Then, if you're like me, you promptly forget about those other messages. Fortunately, reminders help me keep on top of my unanswered mail.

There are two ways to use reminders, by either dragging the message to the tasks folder to create as task or flagging the message and setting a reminder on the flag.

When you drag a message to a task, the message is copied to the body of the task by default, and the original message remains in the mail folder. If you use the right mouse button to drag, there are additional options for creating tasks from messages, including creating a shortcut to the message or adding the message to the task as an attachment. Creating tasks is the only way Outlook can set reminders for messages not in the default folders, since Outlook only watches the inbox, tasks, calendar, and contacts folders for reminders.

There are several ways to flag messages, by right clicking on the message, by using the flag toolbar button, using the Actions | Follow up menu or use the Control+Shift+G keys. Tab through the fields in the Flag for Follow up dialog, selecting or typing a flag to message, setting a reminder date and time if desired. If you don't select a time, the flag defaults to midnight in Outlook 2002.

You can use the Rules Wizard to set flags, based on rules such as subject, sender, or contents so that important messages always have flags and reminders. You can also send flags -- such as adding a flag to remind the recipient to call you. This actually flags a message in the recipient's email box, which might be considered obnoxious by some people. Not all email programs support flags though, so it's best to send flags only to other Outlook users.

Outlook gives you a choice of flag types to choose from, mostly to remind you why you flagged the message to begin with. You can change the flag text to anything you want like "Check with John before replying", but you can't customize the flag to text in the dropdown fields, so you're stuck typing in special messages each time or using one of the defaults.

Typically, flags are used on email and contacts, but if you want to flag other Outlook items, you can add the Flag Status field to the view and mark items with flags. Not only does this make it easier to find a certain item, you can sort and filter based on the flag field.

Remember when I mentioned reminders only work from the default folders? While that's the way Outlook does it, an enterprising Outlook developer created an add-in called Extended Reminders that fixes this oversight. Extended Reminders works on all mail, contact, calendar and task folders except for the Outbox and fires the reminders in the selected folders at their appointed time. You can find Extended Reminders at

The only drawback to Extended Reminders is that it works only with folders in your default mail store. Ken Slovak has another product in development called Reminder Manager that will work on multiple message stores and public folders. Look for Reminder Manager at the website in the future.