Is your preview area squashed so narrow that you can’t comfortably read messages in Outlook’s main window? I’ll show you how you can use a single keystroke to expand it to read your messages, and then contract it again. This is an incredibly simple tip, but I’m amazed at how much it has changed my email experience.
By default, Outlook divides its main window into three sections: navigation pane, message list and the preview area. If you don’t have a wide screen, the preview area is squashed up against the right hand side, and is not really comfortable to use for reading messages — just for scanning them to see if they need to be opened in a separate window for more attention.
This frustrates me, as I like to use the main window for actually reading my messages. I’ve tried widening the preview area at the expense of narrowing the message list, but if the message list is too narrow, it will take up 2 lines for each message, i.e. show only half the number of messages as before — not good, since I also like to see as much of my inbox as possible in a single glance.
There’s another obvious solution that’s been staring me in the face, and it took one of my SpeedFiler customers to point it out to me — just get rid of the navigation pane! All it takes is an Alt-F1 to make it disappear and another Alt-F1 to bring it back when you need it. When the navigation pane disappears, it donates its space to the preview area, which suddenly becomes wide enough to display the messages in a readable manner.
In fact a lot of the time I manage quite well without a navigation pane at all. Whenever I need to go to another folder, I hit Ctrl+Y to bring up SpeedFiler’s streamlined navigation window and choose my destination. If you don’t have SpeedFiler, Ctrl+Y will bring up Outlook’s own Go to Folder window, which shows exactly the same folders that appear in the navigation area that we just hid.
In addition, if you want to get quickly back to the Inbox from another folder, all it takes is a quick Ctrl+Shift+I.