Introducing the To-Do Bar

To help people get a handle on their time and tasks, we are introducing the To-Do Bar into Outlook.

Outlook 12

Instead of looking at scraps of paper, notepads, planners, and the Outlook Inbox, you can see everything you need to do simply by looking at the To-Do Bar. The To-Do Bar shows a Date Navigator (a small monthly calendar), your upcoming appointments, and a list of your tasks on the side of the screen. In the To-Do Bar, you can accept/decline meetings, quickly access the full Calendar, add new tasks, categorize, rearrange, and change the dates of your tasks all while responding to e-mail. With the new To-Do Bar, you may never leave your Inbox.

We wanted to provide a light weight view on one’s time and tasks – to help people to better prioritize their time. Hopefully you will find that the To-Do Bar, and the rest of the time management system will help you do just that.

Some more details and a little background

Outlook 12: The To-Do Bar

During site visits, we discovered that people frequently referred to desk calendars or their system clocks when looking for date (sometimes changing their system clocks in the process - oops.) To help with this simple task, we added a Date Navigator to the To-Do Bar, which allows you to find a date with just a glance. In addition, clicking on a date in the Date Navigator takes you to the Calendar, making it even easier to get to this oft visited place.

For many of us, what we can accomplish in a day is dictated by what appointments and meetings we have. By default, the To-Do Bar shows your next three appointments. Like the Date Navigator, the appointments in the To-Do Bar look and act just like they do in the Calendar: you can right-click on them to accept/decline meetings, change privacy settings, apply a Color Category, forward, print, and open.

Through our time management research, we found that people are likely to use scraps of paper or notepads to keep track of the tasks they need to complete because a) the content of these lists is always visible and b) it is easy to add items. Therefore, in the To-Do Bar, we made tasks always visible and added an easy task entry point where tasks can be entered without switching context.

To add a task to the To-Do Bar, you can:

  1. Type in the easy task entry line in the To-Do Bar
  2. Flag a mail item or a contact
  3. Drag a mail item or a contact to the task list portion of the To-Do Bar
  4. Hit Control-Shift-K to create a new task
  5. Click New->Task

(And this is just within Outlook. You can also create tasks in SharePoint, OneNote, and Project and have them show up in Outlook too.)

We also improved upon paper lists by making it easy to manage your tasks once they are in the list. Once a task is in the To-Do Bar, you can:

  • Drag it between groups to rearrange it

  • Drag it with in a group to set its priority

  • Add a category to make it stand out

  • Change the arrangement to pivot your tasks by different fields (date vs. category)

  • Click on the task to rename it – without overwriting the subject of the mail or contact.


In cell editing in the To-Do Bar: Changing to-do title of flagged e-mail with subject "Getting Things Done" to "Write to GTD group."

The To-Do Bar also filters out completed items, keeping your list tidy.

You can change the arrangement of tasks in the To-Do Bar by using the arrangement drop down. This feature enables you to easily switch from viewing your tasks by start date to due date to categories, etc.  You can even specify your own custom arrangement.

To prevent you from losing your tasks, overdue tasks continue to "roll over" to the present day until they are marked complete, deleted, or the flag is cleared. If you don’t complete your tasks, they will begin to accumulate in the Today grouping. However, we have kept the coloring of overdue tasks so that you can tell which are overdue.

Because not everyone works in the same way, we have tried to make the To-Do Bar as flexible as possible. The task list can be customized in the same ways that lists in the Task Module can be customized. (For example, you can turn off the coloring of overdue tasks by clicking on the Arrange by: header in the To-Do Bar, then Custom…, and then change the settings in Automatic Formatting.) You can also change the number of Date Navigators and appointments shown in the To-Do Bar by going to the View menu then to To-Do Bar (in Beta 1, you may have to expand the menu to see the To-Do Bar option on the View menu.)

While one of the To-Do Bar's advantages is that it's always visible, you can also minimize it, thereby allowing for more space for viewing mail while still providing useful information such as the time and subject of the next appointment and the number of remaining tasks on the day

The hope is that the flexibility we have provided will let you work any way that you are accustomed to – while still providing valuable information to help you get your job done.

Comments (81)
  1. WorldMaker says:

    Here’s one of the customizations I’ve looked for in a Todo list: I want some sort of highlighting (gradient coloring, perhaps) for the relative "age" of a task; how long it has been sitting on my Todo list.

  2. Mike Torres says:

    This is awesome stuff. I can’t wait to use it (staying away from the internal beta for now 😉

    What’s the likelihood that these "new" task types synchronize as-is to a Windows Mobile device? Without the same task list on my smartphone/PDA, it’s kind of hard to stay up-to-date on things while on the go.

  3. Johann says:

    Hi are there any plans to offer a project center similar to what is in the Mac version of Outlook or will this offer the same functionality.

  4. mmacbeth says:

    There are no plans to offer Entourage-like project center at this time. Thanks for the comment!


  5. Apo says:

    I don’t have access to O12, so this question might be a simple one to answer: any chance to have week numbers added to date navigator. Week numbers are heavily used in planning here in Europe.

  6. Siv says:

    I love the To-Do Bar! Been testing OL "12" beta-1 for about a month now. It’s great!

  7. Ariel from Argentina says:


    An idea: A drag and drop feature to start the To Do bar (obiusly from the Task bar at the bottom left side of Office)

    Unfortunately I do not have the beta, so if this feature already exists, I apologize in advance.

  8. mmacbeth says:


    I think that there are two aspects of the To-Do Bar that might interest you.

    1) You can drag and drop mail to the To-Do Bar to flag it.

    2) You can minimize/collapse the To-Do Bar and then drag to it to cause it to open.


  9. Ariel says:


    Thanks for your replay. The two dragging and drop features you mentioned I really like.

    Still thinking it would be a good feature to be able to open (not only minimize/collapse) the To Do Bar by dragging-and-drop the Task bar (the one which is located at the bottom left side of Outlook).

    Perhaps in the next release?, please…!!!


  10. Jeanette says:

    Great stuff!

    I’ve been using Consistency from Sciral for tracking/managing reoccuring tasks. It’s pretty limited in functionality but I do love the visual layout

    I can see at glance what I’ve been, or not been, doing, if it’s overdue, and when I need to do it next. I also love the fact that I can give a task a range of time when it needs to happen.

    Similar functionality or the ability to add it to Outlook would be a great value add!

  11. Greg says:

    This is awesome. I stumbled across your blog doing a search for "outlook task in mail view". I’d go for office 12 based on this alone!

  12. JPMcDonald says:

    "With the new To-Do Bar, you may never leave your Inbox."

    What a horribly depressing thought. In order to be productive it is absolutely necessary to get out of your inbox and direct your focus toward actionable work that can be completed. The calendar or the task list can help you focus on that… they let you be proactive in control and focused. The Inbox does the exact opposite. You become reactive, out of control, and scattered.

    Other than allowing visibility of some appointments and making the view available from any folder and not just the calendar, I don’t really see any new functionality over the old task pad.

    I would much rather see some way of getting an overall view of all e-mail, tasks, appointments, notes, and documents associated with a given project. That would really be useful…

  13. David says:

    Is there any integration with the sidebar that is coming in Vista? Ideally you would provide gadgets (I believe that is the name) for the three elements of the to-do bar that can be hosted in Vista’s sidebar. I love the idea of having a sidebar style view into my tasks and calendar, but I would not like to have two, one from Outlook and one from Windows. It seems that the Windows one is in general more flexible, since one can host arbitrary gadgets on it and because it is visible all the time (if wanted), so I guess you guys should integrate.

  14. K. Lewis says:

    Just found your site.  I am impressed with the To-Do-Bar concept.  I have been a time management/organization skills coach for over 18 years. Until now Outlook has been lacking on task management capability.  Is there a way to get a copy of the beta or what is the projected release date.  My web site will show you why I am interested.

  15. Bill Dyszel says:

    >Once a task is in the To-Do Bar, you can:

    Drag it between groups to rearrange it.

    Can you still drag items between groups in a grouped view? I’m looking at Beta 1 and it doesn’t seem to do that anymore. Earlier versions let you open, say, the By Categories view and change an item’s category by dragging it do a different category group.

  16. mmacbeth says:

    You should be able to grab between groupings, when in the default arrangements, including the By Categories arrangement. You may be hitting a bug. We have made some improvements in this area since Beta1, so your issue may be fixed in a later build. If it is not, please file a bug. Thanks for being a Beta Tester!


  17. m | power says:

    A column by Jason Fry in the WSJ (registration required) talks about how he’s changing how he uses his…

  18. After a long journey from Brussels over Atlanta to Las Vegas, and on the day that Team Foundation Server…

  19. m | power says:

    The tickler file is another concept that I first encountered in David Allen’s Getting Things Done, though…

  20. Although I haven’t installed the latest Beta 1 refresh of Outlook 2007 yet, I’ve already decided what…

  21. Here is a post from Hank Leukart about the Outlook 12 Calendar.


    Over the past 15 years,…

  22. Recently, I received the following e-mail and I thought I would post my response:

    Hi Melissa,


  23. Karin says:

    Sorry, I don’t get it! How do I get this (amazingly sounding) to-do-bar??

  24. or, "Everything you know about Word is wrong."

    With all the talk about the SharePoint 2007 beta, it…

  25. Now that Beta2 is out, it seems like high time I explain how I use the new time management system in…

  26. Brian says:

    I’m trying to use the to-do bar and create tasks by flagging messages for follow-up, but nothing is showing up in the to-do bar.  Is there more to it than just flagging a message?

  27. mmacbeth says:


    Try clicking on the up arrow in the To-Do Bar that says "Today on top" to toggle the arrangement. Sometimes the To-Do Bar doesn’t populate even though it should. E-mail me directly if that doesn’t fix your problem.


  28. I found this site: This is the best task management system I have seen in years.


  29. Currently I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself. My inbox has only 5 items in it and while work…

  30. Very many thanks for a good work. Nice and useful. Like it!

  31. Fredrik E. Nilsen says:

    Any chance of using different sized to-do bars for different folders? I always show the folder list on the left side to have access to all the folders. When I’m in the inbox (or other e-mail folder) I would like a to-do bar that is one column wide, showing this and the next month. When I go to the calendar, I want it to be three columns wide as I don’t need all the space in the calendar itself and I want to see more months ahead in the to-do bar.

  32. There is a feature available now from a Utility called TaskToCal that lets me set up my Tasks (To-Do list) such that Tasks can be linked with Calendar appointments.  Doing this, if I create a task, with a linked Calendar appointment, if I move the Calendar appointment to another day, the Start/Due dates on the task automatically update.     It is a great feature since it lets me schedule time to do the tasks (a Time management mandate)and lets me allocate To-Do activities in a way that reflects what I would do with pen and paper if I had a To-Do list and needed to decide what days I was going to do things on.  Is this feature in Office 2007 Outlook.

  33. Mike Kwak says:

    My company is currently on MS Outlook 2003.

    Anyway that I can get this To Do bar to work, if not is there some type of alternative that is very similar.

    Thanks for your time – the To-Do Bar looks great!


  34. Richard says:

    I am very disappointed to hear that Microsoft has no plans to introduce Entourge Project Center-type functionality to the Windows Office.  I have been using Mac for about 2 years, am ready to move back to Windows, but am TOTALLY hooked on Project Center in Entourage, have a ton of projects (I am looking for a job right now so projects help me keep track of everything for individual companies that are active.  I am VERY surprised that Microsoft won’t consider bringing Windows Office up to par with the Mac version.  WHY, WHY, WHY?


  35. A Clark says:

    I am enjoying the To-Do Bar, however I would like to be able to see all-day, untimed events and multiple-day events as well as appointments (with start and end times).  I travel frequently for work and block out entire weeks when I will be out of the office and would like to see this show up.


  36. Steven T. says:

    I’m using Outlook 2007, and love the concept of the To-Do Bar.  However, I’m disappointed that the bar only displays appointments that have an assigned time, and does not display all-day appointments.  I use all-day appointments to track a lot of things on my calendar, and the To-Do Bar’s inability to display all-day appointments severely cripples its usefulness.  

    Hopefully MS will update Outlook to include this capability.

  37. Al T. says:

    I concur that the To-Do Bar adds a much needed view.  However, it seems limited in that it only shows appointments from my primary / default calendar. How can it be set to show other calendar appointments? Am I missing something?

  38. Robert says:

    I agree with the other writers – what about ALL DAY EVENTS?? They don’t show. This is weird because on my pocket pc it will show both ALL/MULTI day events as well as scheduled events. Outlook should follow the ppc format.

  39. Brad says:

    Me too. Gotta have all-day appointments.

  40. Paul says:

    YES, I want all day appointments as well.

  41. Dietmar says:

    Well, I certainly need the all-day-appointments as well.

  42. JTOG says:

    Not having all day appointments on the todo bar is a real bummer.  I live my work life off of all day appointments.

  43. Stephenie says:

    While I admit that I am using all day appointments for some things that may actually be tasks, I do still really need the functionality of all day tasks to show up on the to-do bar.  

  44. Vasiliy says:

    +1 here. Inability to see all-day appointments is just bizarre. It’s in a way worse than no to-do bar at all, as I’ve come to trust it and as a result almost missed a friend’s marriage event *grrr*

  45. rshamie says:

    I agree.  Need all day events on the to-do bar.  How could they forget this?

  46. Andy Holland says:

    Yes all day appointments and ability to change whether on not appointments in the far future are visible or not would be excellent.

  47. Robert says:

    Pocket outlook provides functionality very similar to the todo bar.

    However, it is superior to the todo bar in outlook 2007 because it also shows untimed and multiday events.

    On the outlook blog, they say that is is intentional and not a bug. I want to know why!

    Also, why would microsoft be inconsistent in it’s display of appointments between pocket pc and outlook 2007? It doesn’t make any sense. I’ve heard no reason from microsoft as to why they decided to code the todo bar in this manner other than it was intentional and it is not a bug – what a lame answer.

    Customer service please! Can you hear us calling?

  48. Tim McNellie says:

    Yeah, what a strange decision not to include recurring appointments. As if the fact that they recur makes them any less important than one-time events.

  49. mmacbeth says:

    Just to clarify: Recurring appointments do appear on the To-Do Bar. All Day Events, which are not appointments, do not appear on the To-Do Bar.


  50. Nathan Shaw says:

    The unfortunate reality is that events can have attendees, such as customers.  Thus, customer expectations are set.  Have these missing from the To Do Bar does not make any sense whatsoever.  Using the abitrary designation of ‘event’ versus ‘appointment’ is meaningless to me as a user.  

  51. Charlotte Stevenson says:

    Hi Melissa

    I supervise a helpdesk and we have just started using Outlook 2007.  Each team member has their own inbox and also opens a second shared helpdesk inbox, which we use flagged categories to indicate who is dealing with which email.

    Is it possible for me to see the flagged items in the helpdesk inbox rather than the flagged items in my inbox.


  52. Brian says:

    I agree, all day "events" need to be available in the to-do bar, preferably by default.  There’s got to be a reg hack or something to do this, no?

  53. Dan says:

    I stumbled upon this blog searching for "to do bar all-day appointments".  I also cannot understand why all-day appts don’t show up. The only workaround is to schedule the "all-day" appt from 12:01AM – 12:00 AM for 1439 minutes.

    This has the unfortunate effect of placing the appointment across your entire day, but it does make it to the To-Do Bar.

    I say this is yet another example of an oversight/negligence by MS coders who have long moved onto something else and the marketing/support folks calling the oversight a "feature".  Someone with some VBA skills and some empty slots on their To-Do Bar will build an add-on that works better and starts to get traction until MS wakes up and provides an update/feature release/new version…

  54. SAF says:


    I like the To-Do bar and use it extensively. But one thing that I find a bit irksome is that if I want to view appointments on a future day, I have to open the whole calendar for it.

    It would be nice if I could just hover my mouse cursor over the date and a pop-up will list the appointments for the day.



  55. Al says:

    Showing All-Day events in the ToDo Bar is a must! Please update this soon!

  56. CD says:

    What! All Day appointments are not appointments?? Next they’ll be telling us that Windows is actually Linux!!!     🙂

    Need those All day APPOINTMENTS in the To Do bar!

  57. Anthony King says:

    PLEASE, PLEASE put all-day events in the To-DO bar! I cannot live without it! PLEASE!

  58. sTim says:

    I agree too. It’s driving me crazy not to see my all-day events in the to-do bar!

  59. brodiemac says:

    +50 here.  Our company has Outlook 2007 and everyone loves the to-do bar but hate the fact that all day appointments do not show.  I constantly get calls and email about how to fix it.  Great addition, short sighted implementation!  FIX THIS ASAP!!!

  60. manniongeo says:

    I agree with Vasili; having a To-Do Bar without all-day events is worse than not having one at all because you only have an incomplete view of items requiring your attention. I’ve caught myself on a couple of occasions almost missing something the next day because it didn’t show up in my To-Do Bar. The To-Do Bar is too risky in it’s current implementation; I’m disabling it until this oversight is corrected.

  61. mmacbeth says:

    Thank you for all of your comments.

    We are looking into all day events in the To-Do Bar.


  62. Kevin Brown says:

    All day events and appointments are one and the same. I cannot believe someone mised this. otherwise a great outlook tool. Any idea if and when its going to be fixed?

  63. Jason Gilbert says:

    There are many thousands Outlook users (like myself) who apply David Allen’s "Getting Things Done" (GTD) model for time and task management to our personal and professional lives. For us, Outlook (married to a Pocket PC) is the system we have come to trust and rely on for keeping us organized, on task, and less stressed. For that, Outlook (especially 2007) is worth it’s weight in gold, and I want to extend my deep personal gratitude to Outlook developers for your brilliance in developing one of the most valuable software resources I’ve ever used.

    With Outlook 2007’s introduction of the To-Do Bar, you’ve made an amazing product even more amazing! What an incredible feature! That said, I’d like to add my voice in agreement with others who are asking for "all day events" to appear on the To-Do Bar. "All day events" are an extremely important piece of the GTD model, and for those of us who use the GTD model (now almost instinctively), having those "all day events" appear very clearly on the To-Do Bar would give us a complete, easy to see and process, at-a-glance picture of our Trusted System, eliminating the extra steps we must now take in switching between Inbox with To-Do Bar view and Calendar view.

    Thank you for thoughtfully considering my request. Thank you also for all you do in tooling Outlook. You are a brilliant team, and for your commitment to developing a resource that allows me to process information in a complete, intuitive, fluid, really almost organic way, I am very grateful.

    May you enjoy a wonderful holiday season,

    Jason Gilbert

  64. Robert says:

    Folks, if you are tired of not being able to see all day events in your to-do bar, please consider joining the facebook group:

    Fix the Outlook To-Do bar for all and multi-day events

    If enough of us join, we could get Microsoft to recognize this travesty rather than the so-called "feature" they are calling it!

  65. Ben says:

    I also found this page looking for a way to enable all day events in the to do bar.  I googled it assuming it was a simple option I needed to set.  I am stunned to find that this functionality was simply left out or forgotten about.  Truely bizarre!

  66. Steve says:

    Like many others I ended up here after Googling for a way to enable all day events in the to do bar. Presumed it was something I was missing. Can’t understand how Microsoft missed something so basic

  67. ljn says:

    Tally another person finding this thread by googling outlook to-do bar "all day events".  Supremely annoying!  Please fix it!

  68. I can understand that the mechanics of the "event" versus "appointment" argument. I therefore, understand that it would be contradictory to label an all day event as an appointment.

    Why don’t you just add an extra tick box on the To Do bar options for events. They could then slot in around the appointments, have a different icon or graphical design as they don’t need to show times on them.

    This is similar to how it shows appointments and all day events on the "Outlook Today" screen. Doesn’t your argument apply to that?

    On a side note, what is the point of having separate calendars if they don’t show up in the to-do bar? I ended up having to use google as my day to day calender then sync the multiple calendars on there into my default calendar on Outlook (using goosync or oggsync)

  69. Greg Devlin says:

    I just realized that my all day events aren’t showing in the To-Do Bar. I agree that the To-Do Bar is a great feature but I see a huge flaw in not including all day events. Microsoft: Please add this feature!

  70. Clemsonjim says:

    Add my name to the list of requestors for all- day events to show up in the To-Do-List in Outlook. How can it not be there? ‘Outlook Today’ shows them. How else are we to keep up with birthdays and anniversaries?

  71. Sven says:

    If one checks the programmer’s object model of Outlook, the all-day-event IS in fact an Appointment. Copied from VBA help:

    Outlook Developer Reference

    AppointmentItem.AllDayEvent Property

    AllDayEvent is thus one sort of Appointment. That means that not showing it in ToDo is more or less to be considered to be a bug  🙂

  72. Bettersoft says:

    Why wasn’t the "All day event" not showing in the todo bar not addressed in SP1.  Actually, why did it ever get to the first release?  When will this be fixed?  I wonder how many people have missed important appointments due to this BUG.  I wonder how much time has been wasted dealing with this.  It’s a tragedy.  This one so called feature has encouraged me to get out on my own and start a software company.  I see so many dumb mistakes like this all the time.  I guess in that regard, thanks Microsoft.  Maybe you will buy me up in the future and then I can go relax on the beach all day and then you can start destroying my product with features.

  73. Peter Goodwin says:

    A ToDo bar that only shows SOME of what I’ve got planned??!! What use is that? Another vote for fixing this!

  74. JB says:

    Add one more to the pile of "gimme my all day appointments in the to-do bar"

    This is almost as annoying as the new Word layout.

  75. DR. John C says:

    How about ading All day and Multi day Appointments to the To-Do bar

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