Adjusting our Navigation Pane and To-Do Bar

This would be my last post on the email view layouts. In this post I would talk a bit about adjusting our Navigation pane (left most one) and our To-Do bar (right most one).

We would focus on optimizing our view for seeing more of the important items and less of the non-relevant items.


The Navigation Pane

The Navigation pane appears on the left side of the Outlook window and is how you switch between the different areas of Outlook, such as Mail and Calendar. In addition, when you are working within a view, the Navigation pane displays the folders within that view.

Let me through out a wild guess here – you are spending 90% of your Outlook time on the Mail view of the Navigation pane. The other 10% are probably used for the Calendar view. The rest of the views usage is negligible (Contacts, Tasks, Notes).

If I got it right, the first thing we should do is removing all the views except for the Mail and the Calendar. In order to do so:

  1. Go to the View tab
  2. Go to the Layout section and click on the Navigation pane
  3. Select Options
  4. Make sure only the Mail and Calendar options are checkedNavigationPaneoptions2

Once you did that, go and move the separation line (at the top of the Mail/Calendar buttons) down as much as you can. As result, the big buttons are turning into small icons. This would give you more space for the rest of the items on the Navigation pane.


Although I have more enhancements for this pane, I would stop at this point. I might return back to this pane later one, after we learn more about the folder options and how to manage them in the most optimized way.

The To-Do Bar

The To-Do bar is located on the right side of the Outlook window. Is has a few modes: Normal, Minimized and Off.

My recommendation is using either the Normal mode or the Minimized mode. The reason is that I like to see a preview of my coming meetings, and I do not want to jump to the Calendar view for that purpose. Why? Because jumping back and forth between the Mail and Calendar views, shift our focus and interrupts our work flow.

When I’m using Outlook on my desktop with the big screen, I keep the To-Do bar in Normal mode. When I’m using Outlook on my laptop with the tiny screen, I want to see more of the Reading pane and therefore I keep the To-Do bar in a Minimized mode.

Now we need to clean up the To-Do bar a bit. Let’s see what we have on the To-Do bar:

  1. Date Navigator: move you to the Calendar view to a specific date. I don’t find it useful at all.
  2. Appointments: show you a preview of the coming meetings. This is useful to give you a brief heads up on what coming next in your day.
  3. Task List: those are the items that you have marked with flags. If you are using flags, usually you would have much more items then the To-Do bar can show you. I like to see the flagged items in a different way (more on that in future posts). Therefore, I don’t find this list useful.
  4. Quick Contacts: nothing much to say about that – not useful in my opinion.

Summing it up – the really useful item here is the Appointments option. Having the Appointments option enabled along with all of the rest makes it useless, since you see only couple of meetings. Therefore, my recommendation is turning off all the options except for the Appointments options.


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Erez Morabia

I’m an engineer and a leader in the computer software industry which is passionate about leading teams, embracing new technologies and improving soft skills for work efficiency.

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