Everybody’s done it: one wrong move with the mouse or keyboard, and suddenly something moves, resizes, or just plain disappears in your Microsoft Outlook window. If you don’t know what you did to make that happen, chances are you don’t know how to make it un-happen, either.

The good news is, you probably haven’t lost anything permanently. Just as quickly as you can change a View in Microsoft Outlook, you can change it back, without losing any data.

Here’s a list of the most common Outlook view screw-ups with their fixes.

Why is my email text so large/small?

One LawyeristLAB user ran across this problem one day after her kids had been playing with her laptop. Suddenly, the body text in all of her emails was so tiny it was nearly unreadable. Yet when she checked the font settings, they were normal.

It turned out, the little ones had stumbled upon a weird keyboard/mouse combination that zooms text up or down in size: holding down the CTRL key while using the scroll wheel on the mouse. They’d apparently had an email message open while playing with the mouse, so all the emails suddenly had their body text scrolled down to a miniscule size.

To reverse it, simply open a message, move the mouse cursor into the body area of the message, hold down the CTRL key, and scroll the mouse wheel up until the text looks normal again.

What happened to the date/time/sender/etc. in my Inbox view?

Chances are, you held down your left mouse button while trying to do something else and accidentally dragged off a column heading in your Inbox View. To restore the field you lost, right-click somewhere in the grey column headings and choose Field Chooser. The Frequently-Used Fields list will come up by default; if you don’t see the field you’re looking for, use the drop-down to get to All Mail Fields (or another list) and find it there.

Once you find it, click-and-drag it to the desired place in your column headings.

All my Mail Folders just disappeared!

This is an easy one, though no less infuriating. You’ve probably just accidentally clicked on the Navigation Pane arrow and hidden your folders. Just click on the arrow again (which will now be facing downward) to restore them to full view.

(The same thing is true, by the way, of the To-Do Bar which you may normally have sitting on the right. Just click the left-facing arrow to restore that to full view.)

Where did my big Mail/Calendar/Contacts/Tasks/etc. icons go?

Ordinarily, your Mail/Calendar/Contacts/Tasks folder sets are stacked up on the left side of your screen on the bottom of the Navigation Pane to give you one-click access to these features. But if one of those features suddenly disappears (or you want to add one later), just click on the down arrow in the lower right-hand corner of your Navigation Pane and choose Navigation Pane Options:

You can choose which icons are displayed there. If you drag the top border of that section of the Navigation Pane up or down, that will control how many of these icons are displayed large-format in the vertical stack versus how many become smaller icons in the last row.

What have you messed up?

Ever made a false move in Microsoft Outlook and had something disappear (and never got it back)? Let’s hear about it in the comments. I may be able to help you find it again!

(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mwichary/7190737616)

11 responses to “Microsoft Outlook Accidents (and How to Fix Them)”

  1. Ann says:

    I often flag my emails when I need to go back and address them, but sometimes I simply mark them as “unread”. The emails that are in bold (or “unread”) catch my eye more than the flags. Yesterday I was trying to sort the emails by those that I had not yet read. I saw the button “mark all as read” and hit it. Don’t ask me why. Unfortunately, when you hit that button, it’s done. You are not given a chance to cancel. From what I’ve read, you cannot undo that. I have learned my lesson and know how to avoid this in the future, but I think Microsoft should have a way to fix this. Thoughts from anyone?

    • Sam Glover says:

      First, I’m inferring you never empty your inbox. Keep your inbox as empty as possible. Create an Archive folder and put everything into it that you don’t have to act on. Now, unread or not, everything in your inbox is an email you have to do something with.

      I also find it helpful to have a Waiting folder/label for emails I’m waiting on a response to, and a Later folder/label for things I need to do in the future.

      It’s easy to miss things if your to-do method is just marking things read/unread, especially since, by default, Outlook marks messages read when you click on them. Either use flags, or keep your inbox clear of non-actionable clutter.

    • I’m with Sam on this one — when my inbox gets too full, I get nervous. Something is going to get overlooked.

      I know you said the flags don’t catch your eye, but there is a way to change the font settings for the entire “row” so that overdue emails are in red. Another technique (my personal favorite) is to drag the email down to the Tasks folder and make a Task out of it for follow-up (you can even put “Waiting on Someone Else” as a status; you’re then free to file the email away. There’s also a way to keep Outlook from marking an item as “read” when you’ve only displayed it in the Reading Pane – won’t solve the “Mark All As Read” problem, but can leave things as unread for your purposes.

      If you want details on any of these, let me know (and tell me what version of Outlook you’re using).

    • Sam Glover says:

      Also, you can just display the flagged messages. That way, you aren’t scrolling through your inbox, looking for flags or boldface subject lines. You can even save a smart folder for flagged messages no matter what folder they are in. Or something like that. I don’t really use Outlook anymore, so I can’t remember what’s what.

  2. Sanjay Singh says:

    You can display just the flagged folders useing Search Folders in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010. These are basically predefined Searches which appear as folders inside Outlook.


  3. Kevin A says:

    How about when I try to look at messages in my inbox (yes there are a lot of them) & when I scroll down they all ‘disappear’ – only to return when I restart Outlook (2010). Thanks –

  4. Trina M says:

    You can take out the “Mark all as Unread” option by editing your toolbar. I have just made the mistake of marking everything read. Won’t happen again!

  5. steve says:

    Hi I had to recover Windows 7 as my PC stopped working and after that I had to re install a backup I did. The Outlook.pst folder had to be imported separately but as I did it the folder started to import then hung up so I cancelled it and restarted the computer. Now Outlook starts up but I am unable to get the cursor to enter the Outlook Window?? Can u help. PS I have re installed Office again but still the same

  6. Kolie says:

    Made my icons bigger (I have no idea how!!) but no other changes were made to my screen resolution/text size in windows.. help?!

  7. katie says:

    As soon as I scroll over a name in my inbox, it disappears until I scroll on to someone else. It’s driving me nuts! Any way to turn it off?

  8. Kristin Gerrard says:

    Help! I accidentally shrunk my outlook page to almost unreadable, but I fixed it with the ctrl plus and minus, however, my folder names – inbox, deleted etc. are still small. when i use ctrl plus it affects the whole page and they’re still not readable. How do I fix just the folder name size?

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