Whether you're an experienced Outlook user or just starting out with Outlook, sooner or later you'll want to customise one of the message views. In this article we'll look at creating a new customised inbox view and the concepts also apply to creating other customised views within Outlook as well. Creating a customised inbox view allows you to add extra columns, change the column order, change the sort order and apply message grouping or filtering if you wish.

To begin, ensure you are viewing your inbox view in Outlook. You can of course click once on any inbox heading to sort your messages by that heading. So if you click on the "From" heading, all messages are sorted alphabetically in ascending order, by the sender name, with those without a sender listed first. Click once more on the "From" heading and the messages are sorted in descending order. This can be useful if you're trying to find messages from a particular person.

If you select a message from a particular sender and then sort by "From", all the messages from that sender will show together. Once you've tried different sorts, click on the "Received" heading to sort messages in received date order. If you click on the same heading more than once, you'll see an arrow pointing up or down to indicate ascending or descending order. You want to ensure you're sorting on "Received", descending order to ensure you see latest messages at the top of the list.

If you select the View tab, you'll see the same table headings listed in the "Arrangement" group. You can click on the headings in the group to achieve the same sorts, or click on "Reverse Sort" as appropriate.

We'll now describe how to create a custom view by copying the original inbox view and then amending it by changing fields or field order, sorts and filters. By keeping the original view untouched you can always return to it later.

To start creating your own view click "Change View" on the far left of the "View" tab, then choose "Manage Views". In the "Manage All Views" panel click on "Copy", then give the view a name and click ok.

You're then taken to the "Advanced View Settings" panel which contains several buttons including "Columns, Group By and Sort" which let you tailor your view to suit. Click the "Columns" button and the "Show Columns" panel appears. On the right you'll see all the headings in the copied view, and on the left you'll see lists of other available headings. Above the left hand list is a category selector showing the default frequently-used fields. If you look at other options you'll see other options including "All Mail" fields. Choose this to show the complete list of available headings.

You can then choose one or more headings from the left hand list and add them to the list on the right, your custom view. For example try adding the field "Read" to the right hand view. Then select it and use the "Move" buttons to position it just below the "Subject" field. The "Read" field displays a closed envelope for unread mail and an open one when read. Then click ok, and ok again, then finish by clicking "Apply View". You're returned to inbox but with your custom view showing. Note the new "Read" column with the distinctive envelope icon within each message.

If you want to modify the view you are currently using, click "View Settings" just right of "Change View". The "Advanced View" panel shows with your named view, and you can then modify the field list as much as you wish.

In this "Advanced View" panel you'll also see other options you can used to create more specialized views, for example to group messages by a specific field or to filter messages to show messages which only contain your chosen key word or words. Using these additional options allows you to easily organize and view specific messages, but note that any filtered view will then mask messages which don't meet the filter criteria. Such views are therefore useful to create in addition to not instead of the default views.

Once applied, you can always check which view is currently in use by clicking the "View Settings" button. You can also see all the views you created by clicking "Change View". Here you can then switch views by simply selecting one from the list. You'll also see Outlook's default views "Send To, Compact, Single and Preview".

Customising the inbox view allows you to give more or less emphasis on particular headings or fields, and you can add extra columns or remove others to create a view to suit you best. Don't forget that you can always return to one of the default views at any time and each default view contains a full field list for the original view.

If you'd like to learn more about Outlook 2010 and managing its many features you might like to consider attending a training course. This can be a really effective way to gain lots of extra skills in a short time.