How To Shrink Outlook

Q. I handle my e-mail through Microsoft Outlook, sorting and saving the incoming messages by project in separate folders. It works quite well, but over time the Outlook file has grown to gargantuan size; it’s now over 95 megabytes (Mg). When it reaches 1 gigabyte (Gb) I’m going to be in trouble. Since I use both a desktop and a laptop and I try to keep the two synchronized, having to transfer such a large file will present serious problems. Do you have any suggestions?

A. I can understand your frustration. This is an issue that irritates many Outlook users, especially since the application is in every other way very efficient, powerful and easy to use. What makes it popular is its many diverse functions, which are enhanced by their ability to work together. For example, its primary application is to send, receive and store e-mails. Add to that a calendar function that can include any number of people on a network and automate meeting organizing; a contact manager that links to Word; a date-sensitive task manager; a memo “spike” for storing reminders; and a journal that tracks selected files by date, application or project and can launch those files with a mouse click. On top of all that, it’s highly customizable. In short, it’s indispensable.

But for all that, it has one design flaw: It’s very hard to keep lean. While it does contain a Compact function, that function is not particularly effective. To compact the single Outlook data file (Outlook.pst), right click on Outlook Today – (Personal Folders) . Then click on Properties for “Personal Folders” to bring up the menu at left:

Then click Advanced, which evokes this menu:

And click Compact Now. You’ll notice, if you check the before and after size of the Outlook file, that compacting shrinks it only slightly. To check its size, you’ll usually find it at c:WindowsApplication DataMicrosoft OutlookOutlook.pst. However, if your computer is on a network, you’ll have to search through the Windows folder; its location depends on how the network is set up.

To shrink the file further, you’ve got to change the way you work in Outlook. Here are some tips for keeping the file as lean as possible. Instead of saving all your correspondence in Outlook, periodically move your received and sent e-mails, their attachments and even the deleted items to other folders. I simply create E-Mail folders with subfolders for each work project: Sent, Received, Attachments, Deleted. It takes just a few mouse clicks to move them into those folders.

To do that, highlight the e-mail item in the Outlook Inbox (or you can double-click on it and bring up the entire document), go to the toolbar and click File , which evokes a menu that includes the Save As option. If the file contains one or more attachments and you need to save some or all of them, click on Save Attachments and make your selections.

Now choose where to save them: The default folder location is usually c:My Documents or c:WindowsTemp. To make it easy to find your special e-mail folders, add them to your Favorites .

The other thing I do is archive my older calendar items. You can archive manually ( File, Archive ) or program Outlook to do it automatically ( Tools, Options, the Other tab and click AutoArchive . Notice that you can set the AutoArchive frequency.

Q. I love Word’s AutoCorrect function. Not only does it fix my frequent misspellings and typos, it saves me time. For example, when I type AICPA , I’ve programmed it to spell out the full name—American Institute of CPAs. However, sometimes it’s a real pain—such as when I really want it to read AICPA . I thought at first I could use lowercase letters in my shortcut word (hoping it would follow the command if the word was typed in capital letters). But I discovered that AutoCorrect isn’t case sensitive. Have you got a solution?

A. I do. First, for those who are not familiar with the AutoCorrect function, here’s how it works: To program Word to fix common errors or to spell out a shortcut, go to Tools, AutoCorrect , and this screen will come up:

As you can see, the left-hand column contains the misspellings and the shortcuts (for example, aicpa for American Institute of CPAs) and the right hand column the corrections and replacement text.

So that you will have a choice whether to have Word spell out the full text or keep the abbreviation, just create a shortcut code. For example, when you want the shortcut to spell out the full text, add an f (for full) in front of the aicpa shortcut ( f-aicpa ). And if the shortcut is just aicpa, the full text will appear. If you don’t like the f, you can use any other character: `~!^, for example.

Q. When I’m making a presentation with Excel, there are times I want to highlight a few key numbers to make them stand out from all the other numbers. I know I can color them—and that’s helpful—but I’d like to give them more emphasis. Ideas?

A. In addition to coloring them, try zooming them, too—that is, enlarging just those numbers. Excel’s Zoom function can select which cells to enlarge. For example, highlight your numbers, then click View, Zoom to evoke this menu:

Now check Fit selection and Excel will make those numbers as large as possible while still fitting on one screen. When you’re done, you can undo the enlargement by pressing Ctrl+Z, or just evoke Zoom again and select 100% or go to Edit and Undo Zoom .

Q. One of my duties is to calculate the number of business days—leaving out Saturdays and Sundays—between two dates and then insert that information in a spreadsheet. Is there a software program which does that?

A. You’re in luck—you don’t need a special program. Excel’s Networkdays worksheet function does it. However, if you did a typical installation of Excel, without Analysis ToolPak, that function will be missing. That’s not a problem, though; it’s easy to install.

First, to check whether the function is in Excel, go to Tools, Add-Ins and this menu will appear:

Place a check next to Analysis ToolPak and click OK . In all likelihood, Windows will report that it must install the function and will ask you to insert the Microsoft Office disk in the CD drive. Once you do that, the installation will take a few minutes. You probably will have to reboot the computer before it will function.

Once Analysis ToolPak is loaded, use this formula: =NETWORKDAYS(A2,B2) . Put the beginning date in one cell and the ending date in the other.

If you want to figure just the spread between two dates, including weekends, enter the formula: =DAYS360(A2,A3) .

More on Excel headers

If you tried to follow Monika Smith’s alternative way to create a faux header in Excel ( JofA, Oct.00, page 122 ) and it didn’t work, don’t blame yourself or Smith. I misstated one small—but significant—instruction. In the final step, where you fill in the info-type box, don’t enter the file’s path and file name. Instead, type filename .

For those who want to use that technique, Smith suggests a shortcut adopted by her firm, Grant Thornton, which often uses the same spreadsheet setup for different clients or even creates master spreadsheets. Simply evoke Save As to store it in a different folder with a different file name. If the original spreadsheet came with the file name function entered in a cell, all you have to is double-click that cell and Excel automatically updates the file path.

But if you want a real header—not one that’s included in a cell, you can get a free add-in at

Do you have a technology question for this column? Send it to Senior Editor Stanley Zarowin via e-mail at or regular mail at the Journal of Accountancy, Harborside Financial Center, 201 Plaza Three, Jersey City, NJ 07311-3881. We regret that we cannot answer letters individually. If a reader’s question is deemed to have sufficiently broad interest, we will answer it in a forthcoming Technology Q&A column.

—The editors


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