MS Outlook - Digging deep into the Outlook 2007 Interface

Posted by: Minal Agarwal , on 12/20/2008, in Category Outlook 2007
Views: 80831
Abstract: This article will familiarize you with the User Interface of Outlook 2007.
MS Outlook - Digging deep into the Outlook 2007 Interface
Microsoft Outlook 2007 displays e-mails in the Mail module. Every time you create or reply to any e-mail a message form opens in a Message Window. Similarly if you double click a mail you have received, then it too opens in its own window which is also a message window. This message window looks much different from the Outlook program window. It has its own set of commands and tools. These tools and commands help in managing the e-mails like saving, printing, sharing a message and so on. They are available from the Office menu. To start exploring this new interface, click on New from the standard toolbar, to open the new message window.
Context sensitive ribbon
One of the additions to the interface of Office 2007 is the context sensitive ribbon. So Outlook 2007 too has this new interface feature. This ribbon is available whenever you are creating or altering an object. To take a look at the ribbon, let us create a new mail message.
MS Outlook Ribbon

In the above image the ribbon is highlighted. Ribbon in other words is a context sensitive toolbar. Now what do you mean by context sensitive? Context sensitive means the ability to change depending upon the actions you perform. This ribbon is designed in such a way that similar types of commands are grouped together. And these groups are then classified under various tabs. For example the Message tab in the ribbon consists of all the commands that are required to compose a new message. Insert tab consists of all the commands and elements that could be inserted in a message. So if you want to attach a file and are unable to locate the option on the Message tab, click on the Insert tab since an attachment is to be inserted in a mail, it is grouped under the Insert tab. You will find the option as Attach File.

MS Outlook 2007 Insert tab






So if you are unable to find the command you used before in the default selected tab, try to categorise the action and it would be easy for you to locate the command.
Each tab on the ribbon is further broken down into groups of related controls. So, all the text formatting commands are grouped as Basic Text in the Message tab on the ribbon. The most commonly used commands and actions are displayed are large icons or buttons, and the least common ones are available as expandable options. If any command has a down arrow besides it, then it portrays that there are some more associated commands that can be accessed by clicking on these arrows.

MS Outlook 2007 Follow Up flags

If you want to use more in-depth controls then most of the groups have a down arrow in the bottom right hand corner next to the group title, which have a plethora of related commands within it.

The bottom right hand corners, in many groups have a small button to bring up the options available in the group. So for instance if you click on the button on Basic Text group, you get the Font Dialog box.





MS Outlook 2007 Basic Text group

MS Outlook 2007 Font Dialog box
So if you want detailed options click on the little button on the bottom right corner of each group.
The message window consists of following four tabs:
1.    Message
2.    Insert
3.    Options
4.    Format Text
NOTE: The number and type of tabs in the ribbon depend upon what programs have been installed on your computer and what program you are using.
 When you open an e-mail that you have received, it too opens in its own window. But there is a difference in this window since it displays only one tab on the ribbon that is the Message tab. Also the buttons and menus on this message tab are different than the message tab you have seen above. This is because the context sensitive ribbon alters the tab with the controls and commands that are suitable for that particular function. In other words, while composing a new mail, tools like formatting tools, clipboard, address book, importance of the mail, etc are necessary. Whereas the controls like reply options, delete, move to folder, block sender, etc; are required while reading an existing e-mail. The Message tab of an existing e-mail looks as follows:
MS Outlook 2007 Message tab of recieved mail
Office button
Another new feature incorporated in the Office suite and eventually in Outlook 2007 is the Office button. Office button is similar to the File menu that was available in the previous version.
MS Outlook 2007 Office button 
As you can see in the image above, the options like Save, Move, Properties, Print and so on that were accessible from the File menu are now available from the Office button. Editor Options button in the Office menu opens the Editor Options dialog box that allows you to set various settings for display, proofing and customize the quick access toolbar.
NOTE: Even though you are working in the message window, Office button lets you create other Outlook items like Appointment, Meeting request and so on from the list.
Quick Access Toolbar
To the right of the Office button is the Quick Access Toolbar. Quick Access Toolbar consists of shortcuts to the commonly used commands; such as Save, Undo, Redo, Previous Item and Next Item. These options are available on the Quick Access Toolbar by default. But you can also customize this toolbar according to your requirements. To customize the quick access toolbar click on the arrow next to the toolbar and choose the commands you want to add to the toolbar from the list displayed.
MS Outlook 2007 Quick Access Toolbar

Alternatively you can right click on the quick access toolbar and choose Customize Quick Access Toolbar.

MS Outlook 2007 Customize Quick Access Toolbar

This would open the Customize section of the Editor Options dialog box.
MS Outlook 2007 Editor Options
From here you can choose the type of commands from the drop down – Choose commands from. Then from the list select the particular command and click on Add>>. This command will then be added to the list on the right hand side that displays the commands added on the Quick Access Toolbar. You can also remove the unwanted commands from the toolbar by clicking on Remove>>. You also have options to Reset or Modify the list. The up and down arrows on the extreme right let you customize the order of display of commands on the toolbar.
Show Quick Access Toolbar below the Ribbon checkbox allows you to reframe the position of the toolbar below the ribbon, where default position of the Quick Access Toolbar is always on the top of the ribbon, next to the Office button.
To remove a command from the Quick Access Toolbar, you can right click on the command and choose Remove from Quick Access Toolbar.
You can also minimize the ribbon, right click either on the Quick Access Toolbar or on the ribbon and choose Minimize the Ribbon. This would minimize the ribbon to show only the tabs as shown below:
MS Outlook 2007 minimized ribbon


In this article I have taken you around the new dynamic interface of Outlook 2007 which you will use often while working with Outlook. I hope this article was informative for you.


This article has been editorially reviewed by Suprotim Agarwal.

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Minal Agarwal, Expression Web MVP, MCDST, works as a freelance web designer (SaffronStroke) working on Expression Web, Photoshop and other Graphical tools. As a hobby, she also runs a famous Food site called Follow her on twitter @ saffronstroke

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Feedback - Leave us some adulation, criticism and everything in between!
Comment posted by kb on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 6:42 PM
Text message window appears to have no delete command. Seems the only option is to delete text with the keyboard. Is this true?
Comment posted by kb on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 6:43 PM
Text message window appears to have no delete command. Seems the only option is to delete text with the keyboard. Is this true?
Comment posted by Brian Turner on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 5:17 PM
Been frustrated with Outlook since swithing from Goldmine CRM which had become an overdeveloped SQL intensive skill demanding nightmare. This series was a real eye opener and in 10 mins I learned more than I have done in the last 6 months. However one point not covered was linking tasks to contacts. And another is the ability to set a follow up date at the same as you send an email. Deepest appreciation though!