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Bring Order to Chaos

Friday, September 29th, 2006 by | Filed Under: MS Office Help, MS Outlook

Bring Order to Chaos

So, you’ve got a ton of e-mail messages in MS Outlook. Maybe in your Inbox or possibly in some other folder you use to save your important messages.

Either way, it’s getting pretty crowded and chaotic in there.

You’ve got “this” here, “that” there and it’s getting pretty difficult to keep it all straight.

You could use a sorting method, but wouldn’t you like something that does a little more?

Maybe a way that would allow you to divide messages into subgroups and then use the sort method to organize within each group?

You know, maybe you could group them by sender and then sort the groups by date?

Or put them into subgroups by subject, then have them sorted by sender or… Well, just about any combination you may require will work.

Ready to learn how?

Yeah, I thought so.

What you’re looking for is Outlook’s Group By Box option.

It can be easily accessed via a button that looks like this:

In Outlook 97, I found this button on the far right of the Standard toolbar and in the newer versions of Outlook, I located it on the Advanced toolbar. (You can use the View menu, Toolbars submenu to display a toolbar if necessary).

At any rate, once you locate the button, click it.

Immediately, you should see this new space above your listing of messages.

Notice the text that is lightly displayed in that empty space?

Yep, that’s right.

It says to “Drag a column header here to group by that column.”

And that’s exactly what you do.

If you want to group your messages by sender, click, hold and drag the “From” column header into that space and then release your mouse button.

If you need to sort by date, just drag the “Subject” column header into the new space.

Whatever your highest priority in group criteria should be the column heading you move.

Now take a look at the messages. See how they’re no longer individually listed?

This was a grouping done by subject.

See the little plus sign to the left of each entry?

Click there to expand the group and see all the messages contained within.

Click the minus sign (what the plus sign became once you opened the group) to close the group.

If you change your mind about the grouping, simply drag the column header back into its proper location and put something different there or leave it blank if you want no grouping at all.

To remove that space at the top and to keep you from accidentally changing the group type, simply click the Group By Box button again.


The field is neatly “put away” while still maintaining your grouping.

Oh yeah, one more thing. I found that as I dropped new e-mails into a mailbox set up this way, the messages were automatically placed into the correct group based on the settings for that mailbox. No resorting necessary.

Now you’ve really put order to your e-mail chaos!

~ April

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