For a moment think of the emails you’ve replied to this week. I’m guessing some of them were repetitive with people asking the same questions. I dislike having to type the same thing countless times. Instead, I prefer to use Quick Parts. Outlook added this functionality back in 2007 or so and it’s still going strong. This feature allows you to quickly reuse content just about anywhere in Microsoft Outlook except Notes.
What are Outlook Quick Parts
Microsoft defines Quick Parts as a gallery of “building blocks” that are saved in your NormalEmail.dotm template file. These Quick Parts elements can include most f content types you can place in an email.
About the only thing, you can’t add as a Quick Part or AutoText building block is a file attachment. The file attachment link resides outside of the editor so is not picked up when you highlight contents to create the block.
And while they share some attributes with Microsoft’s Word Quick Parts, only the infrastructure is shared. Sadly, you can’t use a Quick Part that you created in Microsoft Word and use it in Microsoft Outlook and vice versa. If you’re looking for a global solution then you might consider ActiveWords.
Related to Quick Parts is a similar building block called AutoText. This option is also available from the Quick Parts drop-down menu. Despite the name emphasis on “text”, you can also add images, hyperlinks, etc. It is not restricted to just text. The only difference I see is the default gallery where they are saved.
Quick Parts Uses
Let’s go back to my opening question and consider the email you reply to or send. Maybe even your calendar items. How often do you include the same information? In my case, I have several email accounts that separate personal and professional correspondence. Some reusable snippets I might use include:
- Guest post requests
- Advertising requests
- Review policy
If you work for a retailer, email items you routinely send might include:
- Return policy
- Cancellation policy
- Answers to frequently asked questions
- Sale or promotions
As you can see, there are many uses and it depends on your job role and circumstances.
How to Add Quick Parts in Outlook
Applies To: Microsoft Outlook 365
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 Microsoft Outlook you create the item. The saved Quick Part can be inserted into just about any Outlook item that has an Insert menu. Since you’re more apt to use email, I’ll use it for the instructions.
- Open Microsft Outlook (not outlook.com)
- From the Home menu, click New Email.
- In the text area of the message, type your boilerplate content.
- Apply any formatting to your text.
- With your mouse, highlight the information you want in the Quick Part.
- Click the Insert menu.
- Click Quick Parts from the Text group.
- Select Save Selection to Quick Part gallery…
- In the Create New Building Block dialog provide a Name.
- Add other info such as a Category and a Description.
- Click OK.
Tip: Pay attention to the Name: field. You want to choose a good descriptive name you can easily trigger.
Your Quick Part has now been added to the Building Blocks Organizer.
Inserting Quick Parts
There are two ways to insert these reusable elements in Outlook. One 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. I prefer to use a method similar to how AutoText worked in Word.
If you name your building blocks efficiently, you can type the first four letters of the building block name. For example, I type “invi” and press Enter and my parking map appears. This works since I don’t have any other entries that start with “invi”. This procedure saves you from using the Quick Part menu and selecting from the gallery.
Another nice feature is you can use Quick Parts in many areas of Outlook. You’re not restricted to using email. For example, I can use the same building block called “parking” in an Outlook meeting request or Task. The only place I’ve found where I can’t use them is Outlook Notes.
The Importance of Organization
If you plan to create many boilerplate entries in Quick Parts, I would create a hierarchy first. For example, if you do product support, think about ways you can structure and name the Quick Parts. Perhaps, you want to create categories for main areas. Alternatively, if you do support for many people, maybe you want each person to have their own category.
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 snippet, type the first part of the block name and Outlook should show a hint as a tooltip. Your boilerplate text can also include hyperlinks if you need to direct users to a website or network drive.
Modifying & Deleting Quick Parts
It’s a good thing Quick Parts are easy to make because there is no edit option. You might think that when you are in the Building Block Organizer, you could edit the right-hand pane which shows your contents. You can’t.
Essentially, you need to trigger the Quick Part or AutoText and make changes from the inserted version. You can then save the edited item with the same name. That will overwrite the original entry.
Over time, you may want to clean up and delete entries.
- Click New Email.
- Click into the body of the email below the Subject line.
- From the Insert menu, click Quick Parts.
- Right-click on any existing entry.
- Select Organize and Delete… from the menu.
- From the Building Blocks Organizer, highlight the block to delete.
- Click Delete.
Add to Quick Access Toolbar
Once you start using Quick Parts and AutoText, you’ll probably want to add the function to your Quick Access toolbar. For example, my Quick Access toolbar resides just below the ribbon. When I want to view my entries or insert one, I can click the toolbar button instead of traversing through the menus. This saves me several keystrokes.
- Click New Email.
- Click into the body of the email below the Subject line.
- From the Insert menu, right-click Quick Parts.
- Click Add to Quick Access Toolbar.
You can do a similar process with AutoText.
I wish it was easier to share 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 PowerPoint.
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.