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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why use Categorize Plus?
  2. What is the purpose of the Categorize Plus drop down menus?
  3. What are menu items and how are they used?
  4. What are menu hierarchies?
  5. What types of menu hierarchies can be created?
  6. How does a Standard Menu Hierarchy behave?
  7. How is a Standard Menu Hierarchy used?
  8. How does a Group Menu Hierarchy behave?
  9. How is a Group Menu Hierarchy used?
  10. Can categories and menu hierarchies be shared between computers?
  11. Do the Categorize Plus menus use shortcut keys?
  12. Why doesn't the Category Editor use a hierarchy?

1.  Why use Categorize Plus?

Outlook items that span multiple subjects do not fit into a single Outlook folder.  Managing such items is where the power of Outlook categories comes to life.  By categorizing items with multiple categories, the user is no longer limited to a single Outlook folder and can more efficiently organize and store information.

Categorize Plus takes categories a step further.  Categorize Plus allows the user to structure categories into a convenient drop down menu hierarchy.  Once created, this menu hierarchy can be used to quickly and easily categorize, filter and search Outlook items allowing the user to view the information in a variety of ways.  This provides maximum flexibility when organizing information within Outlook.

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2.  What is the purpose of the Categorize Plus drop down menus?

The objective of Categorize Plus is to provide a means for categorizing, filtering and searching Outlook items so that information can be found quickly with the fewest possible keystrokes.  This is accomplished by employing drop down menus that contain category, filter and search criteria in the form of a selectable menu hierarchy.

There are three possible Categorize Plus menus that can be installed in the Categorize Plus toolbar.  These include the Categorize Menu, the Filter Menu and the Search Menu.  The Categorize and Filter Menus are installed when using both Outlook 2003 and 2007, while the Search Menu is installed only when using Outlook 2007.  The Categorize Menu is used to categorize Outlook items, while the Filter and Search menus are used to filter and search Outlook items using a wide range of filter and search criteria.

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3.  What are menu items and how are they used?

Menu items refer to the menu buttons found in each of the Categorize Plus drop down menus.  Menu items are created using the Categorize Plus Menu Builder.  There are four types of menu items used in Categorize Plus.  These include Category Tag, Email Address, Custom Filter and Custom Search.  Please refer to the Menu Items help topic to learn more about each type of menu item.

Each menu item includes a Caption and a Criteria.  The Caption is the name that is displayed in the drop down menu, while the Criteria contains the Outlook category that is used to categorize Outlook items.  The Criteria can also contain other filter or search query strings that can be used to filter and search for Outlook items.

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4.  What are menu hierarchies?

Menu hierarchies are created whenever menu items are positioned as a sub-menu of another parent menu item.  Menu hierarchies are created using the Categorize Plus Menu Builder.  Please refer to the Building Menus help topic to learn more regarding building menu hierarchies.

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5.  What types of menu hierarchies can be created?

There are two basic ways to group menu items when designing a menu hierarchy.  Each structure produces different results when selecting items from the Categorize, Filter and Search menus.

Standard Menu Hierarchy
The first structure is referred to as a “Standard Menu Hierarchy” and is used to categorize, filter and search Outlook items based on combinations of categories and/or other criteria.  A Standard Menu Hierarchy is created whenever menu items are positioned as children of other menu items and the parent menu item's criteria field is NOT blank.

Group Menu Hierarchy
The second type is referred to as a “Group Menu Hierarchy” and is used to group multiple categories and/or other criteria under a single item in the menu hierarchy.  When group menu items are used to categorize, filter and search Outlook views, then each of the group's children are included in the operation.  A Group Menu Hierarchy is created whenever menu items are positioned as children of other parent menu items and the parent menu item's criteria IS blank.

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6.  How does a Standard Menu Hierarchy behave?

When a child Menu Item is selected from within a Standard Menu Hierarchy, then both the child menu item and the parent menu item are simultaneously added as combo boxes to the Categorize Plus toolbar.  Or, if categorizing items, then both the child and the parent categories are added to the selected Outlook items.

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7.  How is a Standard Menu Hierarchy used?

The purpose of a Standard Menu Hierarchy is to organize information based on combinations of categories.  As a simple example, assume that a company sells a product, and during the process of selling the product, the company manages activities related to design, reliability, packaging and distribution.  To organize information pertaining to each of these activities, it makes sense to create four categories consisting of Design, Reliability, Packaging and Distribution.

Now assume that the company receives returns and that these returns can be categorized into one of the above four categories.  In other words, the four reasons why products are returned can be described as design flaw, reliability failure, damaged packaging or errors in distribution.  Therefore, to organize information regarding returns, rather than creating four additional categories for each type of return, it is easier to create a single category called Returns and then combine this category with one of the other four previously created categories in order to uniquely classify each type of return.  If this is done, then Categorize Plus can be used to filter or search all Outlook items that pertain to returns for package damage simply by adding both Packaging and Returns as Filter Combo Boxes or Search Combo Boxes to the Categorize Plus toolbar.

In this scenario, one could construct a menu hierarchy where the Returns Menu Item is a child of each of the four other Menu Items, Design, Reliability, Packaging and Distribution.  Then, to filter for Outlook items that pertain to returns for package damage, one would select the Returns Menu Item under Packaging from the Categorize Plus Filter Menu.  This would then add both a Returns and Packaging Category Filter combo box to the Categorize Plus toolbar.  In this manner, Categorize Plus allows complete flexibility in arranging Menu Items into hierarchies, and these hierarchies can be replicated and arranged in a infinite number of combinations.

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8.  How does a Group Menu Hierarchy behave?

When the Child of a Group Menu Item is Selected
When the child of a group Menu Item is selected from a Categorize Plus menu, then the child will be added as a combo box to the Categorize Plus toolbar, but the parent group Menu Item will not.

When a Group Menu Item is Selected
When a group Menu Item is selected directly, then the group Menu Item will be added as a combo box to the Categorize Plus toolbar, or if categorizing items, then each of the group's child Category Tags will be included in the categorization.  Furthermore, for all group menu items that are added to the toolbar and then used to categorize, filter or search Outlook items, then each immediate child of the group menu item, that is of the same item type as the parent group item, will be included in the operation.  For example, if a Category Tag is designated as a group menu item, then each child that is a Category Tag will become a member of the parent group and will be included in the selected operation.

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9.  How is a Group Menu Hierarchy used?

Managing Multiple Projects
Lets assume you are managing multiple projects and want to use Categorize Plus to categorize, filter and search Outlook items associated with each of these projects.  For this scenario, it makes sense to create a separate Category Tag menu item for each project.  Categorize Plus can then be used to categorize Outlook items with the associated project name and then filter and search Outlook items based on these categorizations.

Managing Active vs. Completed Projects
Next, over time some projects will be completed while other new projects will be created.  Therefore, at any given time, the state of some projects will be active and the state of other projects will be completed.  For this scenario it also makes sense to create two additional Category Tags labeled Active and Completed and to categorize all active projects as Active and all completed projects as Completed.  This way Outlook items can be filtered and searched by active verses completed projects.

The Problem
Unfortunately, a problem arises when using this approach.  When an active project is finished, then all of the Outlook items associated with that project will need to be re-categorized from Active to Completed.

The Problem Solved:  Use a Group Menu Hierarchy
Instead, a better approach is to use a Group Menu Hierarchy where each project's Category Tag is grouped under a respective group Category Tag that is labeled either Active or Completed.  This approach will still allow filtering and searching for projects by either Active or Completed.  In addition, the advantage of this approach is that when a project is finished, then no items need to be re-categorized.  Instead, the Category Tag for the completed project will simply need to be moved in the menu hierarchy from the Active group category to the Completed group category.

Examples and Additional Information
For more information, please refer to the Group Filters and Searches help topic that provides several examples that demonstrate the power of using a Group Menu Hierarchy to filter and search Outlook items.

As a final comment, it is important to note that since group Menu Items are not added to the Categorize Plus Toolbar when child Menu Items are selected, group Menu Items can be added throughout the menu hierarchy without disturbing the behavior of the Standard Menu Hierarchy.

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10.  Can categories and menu hierarchies be shared between computers?

Yes.  The Categorize Plus categories and menu hierarchies are saved in a menu file on each user’s computer.  Therefore, these categories and menu hierarchies can be shared simply by sharing the menu file.  This is briefly highlighted in the
15-minute Getting Started Tutorial.  As explained below, there are a couple of options for sharing menu files.

  1. The first option is to use the Menu Builder to save a menu file to any shared file location.  For example, a menu file can be saved to a shared drive on a server.  Categorize Plus will then load this menu file each time that Outlook re-starts.  Additionally, multiple shared menu files can be saved and opened in real-time simply by using the "File" commands in the Menu Builder.
     
  2. The second option is to save a menu file to a local file on each computer and then periodically synchronize this local file with a file on the server.

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11.  Do the Categorize Plus menus use shortcut keys?

Yes.  The Categorize Plus drop down menus employ the use of Underlined Keyboard Accelerators the same as those used in the standard Outlook menus.  Therefore, by adding an ‘&’ in front of a character in the caption field of a menu item, then that character becomes a keyboard accelerator.  Then, all you need to do is press the “alt” key and then press the underlined letter to select the menu item.  For example, to open the Categorize menu you would press “alt” and then “z”.  And you only have to press the “alt” key once to then navigate through the entire menu hierarchy using the accelerators.  Categorize Plus is also designed to auto expand the Categorize menu after each selection so that you can immediately make the next selection.

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12.  Why doesn't the Category Editor use a hierarchy?

The intended purpose of the Category Editor is to quickly edit categories that were previously assigned to Outlook items and it is not intended to be used for categorization.  That is why Categorize Plus employs the drop down menus.  It all comes down to speed.  To categorize an item with multiple categories, the fastest way is to use the keyboard accelerators in the drop down menus and not the Category Editor.  Please refer to the pervious FAQ that explains the use of keyboard accelerators.

Typically I structure all of my menus using accelerators and then I never use the mouse.  My hands become so fast that I can usually categorize an email with a dozen categories in under 2 seconds.  After awhile you don’t even think about it and your hands just know what to press.  Kind of like playing an instrument.  If you were to try to accomplish this using the Category Editor, then you would first need to expand the hierarchy, then select the categories, then select save.  Hence, the drop down menus are much faster.

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