What are Outlook Quick Parts
Microsoft defines Quick Parts as a gallery of “building blocks”. Building blocks are a new concept in Office 2007 that allows you to reuse document elements. This functionality replaces the Word AutoText feature from previous versions, but is more versatile.
In Outlook 2007, these Quick Parts elements can be either text snippets or images. The text can even include formatting. These building blocks are saved to the default email template file called NormalEmail.dotm.
One caveat is you need to have installed Outlook 2007 and Word 2007 to take advantage of this feature.
Uses for Quick Parts
For a moment, consider the email you send. How often do you include the same bits and pieces? In my case, I have several emails accounts that separate personal and professional correspondence. Some snippets I routinely use include:
- Web logo
- Chain letter / Urban legend advisory
- Link policy
- Review policy
Email items you routinely send might include:
- Return policy
- Cancellation policy
- Multiple signatures
- Answers to frequently asked questions
How to Create a Building Block in Outlook
The steps for creating a Quick Part building block are the same for Email, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks. Technically, it doesn’t matter where in Outlook you create the item. The saved block can be inserted into just about any Outlook item. Since you’re more apt to use email, I’ll use it for the instructions.
1. Open Outlook 2007.
2. From the File menu select New | Mail Message.
3. In the text area of the message, type the text you’d like to use as your boilerplate text.
4. Apply any formatting to your text.
5. Highlight the text passage.
6. Click the Insert tab on the ribbon
7. Click Quick Parts from the Text group.
8. Select Save Selection to Quick Part gallery…
9. Provide a name your Building Block in the Create New Building Block dialog.
Tip: Pay close attention to the Name: field. You want to choose a good descriptive name you can leverage.
10. Add other info such as a Category and a Description.
11. Click OK.
Reusing Quick Parts
There are two ways to insert these reusable elements in Outlook. The conventional way is to click Insert, Quick Parts and then click the desired building block from the preview list. Call me lazy, but that’s too much work for me. I prefer to use the method similar to how AutoText worked in Word.
If you name your building blocks efficiently, you can type the first few letters of the building block name and press F3. As example, I type “log” and press F3 and my logo appears. This works since I don’t have any other entries that start with “log”.
Another nice feature is you can use them in many areas of Outlook. You’re not restricted to using Quick Parts to just email. For example, I can use the same building block called “directions” in an email or an Outlook meeting request. The only place I’ve found where I can’t use them is Outlook Notes.
Since these building blocks are saved to your template, you could distribute them to others. I’ve not tried this, but Microsoft has more info on this subject on their site.
The Importance of Organization
If you plan to create many boilerplate entries in Quick Parts, I would create a paper hierarchy first. For example, if you do product support, think about ways you can structure and name the text snippets. Perhaps, you want to create categories for main areas.
Also, keep in mind how Outlook sorts the Quick Parts preview list. It first sorts by Category and then by Name. This structure makes it easier when viewing the snippet previews.
Another factor to consider is the building block name. If you have many text blocks try to use a naming convention that is easy for you to remember. For example, if many of the emails you get concern forms, try to create a structure around their names or number. As example,
- wrf = water rebate form
- pvf = planning variance form
- css= customer satisfaction survey
- f262 = account application form
Although using the word ‘form” at the beginning of the building block name might be a good convention, it does have a downfall. For example, if you used “form-water-rebate” and “form-planning-variance”, Outlook would want you to type at least “form-“ before a unique entry was found. Fortunately, you can rename building blocks by right-clicking a building block and choosing either Edit Properties… or Organize and Delete… from the menu.
Once you have your naming convention down, when you need to insert a specific form snippet, type the first part of the block name and press F3. Your boilerplate text can also include hyperlinks if you need to direct users to a website or network drive.
As much as I like Quick Parts, I thought editing a building block would be easier. Unless I’m mistaken, you make your changes and save this new entry with an existing name. I was hoping there was a way to edit the existing text through the Properties dialog or Building Block Organizer.
The other item I wish was easier is sharing Quick Parts among the different Office applications. For example, I wish I could save a quick Part called “disclaimer” and have it as a shared item available for use in Outlook, Excel or Power Point.
Even with these limitations, I am pleased with Outlook Quick Parts. It does allow you to reuse text snippets and images with ease. I think it will also make the Outlook purists happy to know I’m not abusing the signature feature anymore.
Online tutorial:Creating Quick Parts in Outlook (3 Minutes)
Related Microsoft Word Tutorial:
Last Updated (Friday, 18 June 2010 20:40)