Using Outlook Tasks + Categories Views

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In the last post on Microsoft Outlook Tasks, we talked about how you can use the Task function to track to-do list items. Once you create a Task from scratch or convert a received Message to a Task, though, you’ll need to be able to view your current Tasks to get a handle on your workload.

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

Introduction to Task Views

When you’re ready to view your Tasks, go to the Home tab on the Outlook Ribbon and click Tasks in the bar in the lower left-hand corner. What you’ll probably see by default is the basic Simple list:

True to its name, this is a very Simple List View, so it’s not as useful as it could be for organizing your cases. Fortunately, Views are customizable. Right click on the column header bar (as shown above) to get this menu:

… and pick Field Chooser as shown above. You’ll a list of fields available for your column headers (the default is “Frequently-used fields,” but you can use the drop-down menu to get all Task fields).

Find a column you want to insert and, using your mouse, drag it up and drop it in the column header bar:

Once you let go of the left mouse button, your view will include the new column(s):

If you want to sort a particular column (such as a date field), click the column header. The upward-facing arrow (seen above next to Due Date) indicates sorting from lowest-to-highest value (A-Z, etc.); click again to sort in reverse order (highest-to-lowest value, i.e., Z-A).

You can save this as a new View by clicking on the Change View button:

More advanced Task View strategies

Suppose, though, that simply sorting your Tasks by a single column doesn’t really get it for you. You need to see all your Tasks for a particular case grouped together, sorted by Start Date and, within Start Date, by Due Date, and filtering out any tasks that are already marked Complete.

Go back to the Change View button seen above, but this time click Manage Views:

You could start from scratch and build a new View, but why not simply copy one that’s pretty close to what you need and just tweak it a bit? Let’s make a copy of the Category View.

At this point, Microsoft Outlook will present you with an abundance of choices for changing this View.

We’re really interested only in the first three buttons above: Columns, Group By, and Sort.

You can add or remove columns as you wish by selecting column names on the right or left and clicking the Add or Remove button as appropriate.

Once you have your desired Columns selected, you do a hierarchical Group By (by Category, then within Category by Owner, etc.) four levels down. We’re just going to do a single-level grouping by Category for now.

Here’s where we’re going to deviate a little from the standard Category View. Using the drop-downs, we’re sorting by Start Date, then with that by Due Date, then within that by Priority (Low, Normal, High).

Once we click OK several times to return to our new Outlook Task View, it looks like this:

Much better!

It’s printable, too

Here’s a bonus: If you’re the type who likes to keep a paper copy in your briefcase or working file, your newly-customized View can be printed easily just by clicking the printer icon in the upper left-hand corner, or by going to the File tab and clicking Print.
(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bionicteaching/5972893184/)

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  • Holly Bryan

    WOW – thank you SO much for this article! I believe this is the single most-helpful post I have read anywhere in quite a while! Fabulous – this is something iI have been trying to figure out how to do for a while!

  • Roberta Avrutin

    am upgrading from Microsoft Office 2003 (Pro). What are pros and cons of Office 2007 vs. Office 2010? my computer is dual core processor dell vostro, about 3 years old. help? one colleague says learning curve from 2003 to 2010 is very steep. i am not a techie.
    thanks in advance for any advice.

    • Con: Why would you “upgrade” to a four-year-old version of Office?

      • rick

        It’s cheaper and more than adequate to do the job?

        • I think it totally makes sense to save $50 (just checked Amazon) by buying outdated software for the law practice that you hope will provide you with a living.

          You might want to look for some 10-year-old case law reports, while you are at it. They’ll be a huge bargain compared to paying for Westlaw or Fastcase!

  • I have Office 2007 and find it has been very buggy. I have to agree that you should go with 2010. That way you will have the most up-to-date software and you might avoid some of the bugs that 2007 has. Good luck!

  • Roberta Avrutin

    a little elucidation is in order. i chose to upgrate to 2007 rather than 2010 when i was adviced that the processor on my main computer is probably not powerful enough to handle Office 2010. my upgrade to 2007 was cheap compared to the cost of a new computer and the time lost to new setup. 2007 seems to be working fine, by the way.