The Best Outlook Feature Ever


Here’s an Outlook party trick suitable for cruise ships, family reunions, and kids birthday parties.

Up until now this secret trick has been known only to Outlook insiders–a kind of “secret handshake” passed through the generations of Outlook team members.  Every few years ago someone files a bug on it and it is quickly closed by an elder.

Today, I pass it along to you to enjoy.  I believe it works in all versions of Outlook.  Do all of these steps in a row; don’t ever click away from the sticky note once you do the first step or it won’t work.

  • Create a new sticky note (File | New | Note or Ctrl+Shift+N will do the trick.)
     
  • Type some text in the note (anything will do, it doesn’t have to be long.)
     
  • Drag the note around the screen for a while (you can move it via the title bar just like a normal window.)
     
  • Now, for the big trick: Press CTRL+Z.
     
  • Sit back and enjoy the show.
     
  • You can keep pressing CTRL+Z again and again to reverse the process.

For extra bonus points, along with moving the window around, try resizing it and (in Outlook 2003 and earlier) changing its color via the icon in the upper-left hand corner.

(The good news is that all the memory used is reclaimed when you close the sticky note.)

Thanks be to that ancient developer who, in his wisdom, persisted every change of position, size, and color in the undo stack.  Many hours of fun have resulted from his work.

Super extra bonus points: Write your name on the screen using the sticky note.  Hint: you need to drag it over the Outlook window.

Comments (35)

  1. Doesn’t work here (Outlook 2000 Sp-3). Ctrl-Z does nothing.

    Outlook 2000 is too old?

    Christian

  2. mschaef says:

    Likewise, I’m also on 2K and it did not work…

  3. KJones says:

    I have Outlook 2003 SP1 and I get nothing but a sticky note. Ctrl + Z does nothing. 🙁

  4. Jens says:

    The same here with Outlook 11.6359.6360 SP1, nothing happens.

  5. Mike says:

    Works for me – awsome!

  6. matt says:

    It might help if you told us what ctrl-z is supposed to do. It may be happening but we don’t know what to look for. Ctrl-z just gives me one level of undo/redo. If that is all you are hinting at then I wouldn’t really call that a parlor trick.

  7. matt says:

    Wait… I get it now. People need to read the instructions very carefully. The point is that the dragging of the note gets "undone". The note flies all over the screen in the reverse of how you dragged it.

    Ok… now that is a little bit cooler.

  8. ChrisC says:

    At first I THOUGHT that Outlook 2k2 didn’t work. (version 10, sp3)

    After playing with it I found that

    you Need to Type in it

    BEFORE

    moving it around.

    (Or maybe it was something else…

    anyway, don’t give up after one try)

  9. Deepesh Shah says:

    Works for me outlook 2003 and sp2

    awesome it animates and restores the position where it was before

  10. BradC says:

    Very nice.

    And it doesn’t just remember the FINAL positions you drag it to. It remembers EVERY PLACE ON THE SCREEN it was visible as it moved.

  11. Dave Solimini says:

    looks like it only starts saving teh undo stack when you TYPE into the note. It doesnt save states that occur before typing.

  12. And says:

    So will this remain in Outlook 12? Hope so…

  13. Dongxian says:

    It seems like if your video card very good, you won’t able to see the trick, because it happens so fast

  14. I think David Letterman may need to add a new feature:

    Stupid Microsoft Tricks! 😉

  15. Fox Cutter says:

    I got it to work on Office 2003, though it seems like it will stop working if the note ever losses focus.

  16. MSDNArchive says:

    I noticed the same. Got it to work on Office 2003 and Office 12 beta 1.

  17. Ilya Birman says:

    Really impressive 🙂 Thanks!

    I believe it’s an Easter egg’ish thing. I mean, the coder knew what he was doing, it was just not that much against the spec to be called Easter egg, so he though, why not to have fun?

    Smart!

  18. jensenh says:

    I edited the instructions to note that you must do all the steps without clicking away from the sticky note. If you are doing them one at a time and moving focus to the web browser in-between, it won’t work.

    So, try to memorize them or print them out for full effect.

  19. Cleo says:

    I love tricks like this! Thanks!

  20. jensenh says:

    Ilya: It’s not really an easter egg, it’s just a kind of questionable decision in the implementation of undo for sticky notes.

    It may have been more straightforward technically to do it this way and, given the relative obscurity of pressing CTRL+Z in a sticky note, it was just left this way.

  21. Mike says:

    It was to fast to really notice what was going on until I turn on full window drag (right click the desktop, Properties->Appearance->Effects->"Show window contents while dragging")

  22. Deev says:

    outlook 2k3 sp3 worked a treat.

    My boss has almost religious faith in MS so I like to show him proof they mess about same as any one.

  23. Kevin Ryall says:

    That’s brilliant (Outlook 2002, SP3) – don’t fix that ‘bug’, it’s too funny…

  24. James Schend says:

    My favorite "not quite an easter egg but certainly strange behavior" is in Lotus Notes, everybody’s favorite software written by people who only had the concept of the GUI vaguely described to them over a noisy telephone and had never seen one:

    From your email Inbox, hit F6 then try the left and right arrow keys.

    It has the mysterious effect of scrolling the little graphic with your name on it to the left and right. (On the left-hand side, where it says "Mail for James Schend." The word "Mail" doesn’t scroll, but the "for James Schend" does.)

  25. Any chance that a kind person makes a movie for us, outlook-less guys? Thanks in advance!

  26. ChrisC says:

    James: Doesn’t work for me (v6.0, 9/26/2002)

    Tried it several ways.

    When focus is on a mail item the buttons operate the horizontal scrolling – so the fn you describe may be intentional (retarted as that is)

    *LOVE* your description of the Notes UI as "everybody’s favorite software written by people who only had the concept of the GUI vaguely described to them over a noisy telephone and had never seen one"

    May I quote you on that, or did you get it from somewhere else?

  27. Lella says:

    This is cool! works gr8 for me!

  28. Wayne says:

    Awesome!

    Any other little tricks you’d like to share? :o)

  29. Alex says:

    Whoa! Thanks for sharing! Great laugh! :))

  30. James Schend says:

    Chris C: Quote away. I consider it my solemn duty in this life to prevent businesses from buying Notes for email/groupware. Worst software ever.

    (If they want to buy it for shared databases, it still sucks, but not as much as it does for email.)

    blakeyrat at gmail.com if you’d like to chat.

    It works in 6.5.1, and 6.5.0. I think the issue is that:

    1) "for James Schend" is a separate pane from the word "Email"

    2) for some reason, Notes gives this pane focus when you open the in box.

    3) for some reason, this pane has a horizontal scrollbar (hidden beneath the folder list below it) that’s active, even though the pane’s not any wider than the space its in.

    4) for some reason, F6 maps the arrow keys to scroll left/right on the focused pane.

  31. Ross Hawkins says:

    James and Chris C: The actual version of your client is irrelevant – it’s the version of your mail template which determines the appearance of your mail, and hence the behaviour when you hit F6. Ie, you could be running R6 / R6.5 / R7, but still using the R5 release of the mail template.

    From the sounds of it, Chris is running R5 mail ("it looks green") and James is running R6 or R7 mail ("it looks blue").

    The mail templates that Lotus provides have always had some interesting behaviours, and recently they seem obsessed with splitting everything out into strange combinations of nested framesets. The actual function of F6 is "Move to next pane or frame", so while the visual result is pretty horrible, it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to 🙂

  32. Pete Maclean (pete@maclean.com) says:

    This works for me with Outlook 2003 SP2 (11.6568.6568) but afterwards, when I try to terminate Outlook, I get an error message "Could not complete the operation. One or more parameter values are not valid."

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