Creating formatted AutoCorrect entries in Outlook 2010

May 30, 2011 at 11:08 am

The other day, a lawyer asked me how to set up AutoCorrect entries in Outlook 2010. Actually, he didn’t remember the name of the feature; he simply said that he wanted to be able to type an abbreviation for a phrase or paragraph he uses frequently when he writes mail messages and have the abbreviation expand automatically when he presses the spacebar.

To create an AutoCorrect entry — whether plain text or with formatting (you can apply attributes such as bolding, italics, underlining, a font color other than black, hard returns, and so forth) — simply launch a new mail message (File tab, New E-mail) and type / format the text. When it looks exactly the way you want, select (highlight) the text, and then, from within the message, click the File tab, Options. If the Mail category at the left side of the Options screen isn’t already highlighted, click “Mail” to see the Mail options. Next, click the “Spelling and AutoCorrectbutton at the right side of the screen. That will open the Editor Options, with the Proofing category highlighted.

Click “AutoCorrect Options…” to open the AutoCorrect dialog, with the main AutoCorrect tab at the forefront. About halfway down, you’ll see “Replace text as you type,” followed by existing (built-in) AutoCorrect entries and an area where you can add new ones. The text you typed and formatted should appear automatically in the “Withbox. If the “Formatted text” option isn’t already active, click the radio button to choose that option.

Enter the abbreviation you want to use in the “Replacebox. CAUTION: It’s best not to use a whole word or abbreviation that you use often in normal correspondence; if you do, you might be in for a rude surprise when you type that word or abbreviation, press the spacebar, and end up with a phrase or paragraph you didn’t intend to insert into your mail message!

Once everything is set up to your liking, click “OKthree times (once to save your settings within AutoCorrect, again to save your settings in the Editor Options, and finally to save your settings in the Outlook Options). At this point, you can discard the e-mail message in which you created the AutoCorrect entry or, if you like, send it to someone.

It’s always a good idea to test to make sure your new AutoCorrect entry is working as expected. To do so, open another new e-mail message, type your abbreviation, and press the spacebar. The abbreviation should expand into the text, along with any formatting you applied.

Note that unformatted AutoCorrect entries for Outlook 2010 are stored in an .acl file that is shared by all Office 2010 programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). However, formatted AutoCorrect entries for Outlook 2010 are stored in each user’s NormalEmail.dotm template, just as formatted AutoCorrect entries for Word 2010 are stored in each user’s Normal.dotm template. As a result, any formatted AutoCorrect entries you create in Outlook or in Word will not be shared between programs.

Incidentally, although you can use AutoCorrect to create a signature for your outgoing mail messages, it probably makes more sense to use the “Signatures” option. You can find that option by clicking the File tab, Options, Mail, then clicking the “Signaturesbutton. When the Signatures and Stationery dialog appears, click “New,” type a short, easily identifiable name for the signature (your own name, your company name, or whatever is appropriate), click “OK,”and navigate to the Edit Signature area.

There are numerous options for creating your signature. You can select the font face and size, the font color, bolding, italics, and/or underlining, and you can set the justification (left, right, or center). In addition, you can insert a virtual business card — if you have one for yourself set up in your Outlook contacts — and/or insert an image or a link. You can choose from several versatile link options, including a link to an existing file or web page, to an e-mail address, or to a place in the current document (presumably meaning the e-mail message itself). You even have the ability to create a brand-new document on the fly and link your signature to the new document.

After creating your signature (and before saving it), take a moment to review the area at the top right of the Signatures and Stationery dialog box. First, make sure that the correct e-mail account appears; if not, choose the appropriate account from the drop-down. Equally important, if the “New messagesdrop-down shows “(none)” — which is the default setting — click to choose the name of the signature you just added. Otherwise, your signature won’t appear when you create a new message!

If you like, you can do the same with respect to the “Replies / forwardsdrop-down, which will add your signature when you reply to or forward a message. (I prefer to add my signature only to new messages, but that’s an individual choice.)

When you’ve finished setting up your signature, click “OKtwice (once to save your settings in the Signatures and Stationery dialog and a second time to save your settings in the Outlook Options). Test by creating a new mail message. If anything isn’t to your liking, you can edit the signature by reopening the Signatures and Stationery dialog. Just remember to save your changes by clicking “OK” twice.

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