Manage emails efficiently using Lotus Notes 8.5

Karen Hooper

November 2010

IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide

IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide

A practical hands-on user guide with time saving tips and comprehensive instructions for using Lotus Notes effectively and efficiently

  • Understand and master the features of Lotus Notes and put them to work in your business quickly
  • Contains comprehensive coverage of new Lotus Notes 8.5 features
  • Includes easy-to-follow real-world examples with plenty of screenshots to clearly demonstrate how to get the most out of Lotus Notes
  • Packed with expert tips and best practices, for using business e-mail, calendars and other Lotus Notes applications for efficient business communication
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This article, by Karen Hooper, author of IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide, focuses on the advanced features available in mail and how we can best utilize them to assist us in being efficient with mail management.

In this article, we will explore the following topics:

  • Senders Colors and Recipient Icons
  • Collaboration history
  • Finding available time
  • Copying into Tool … Memo/Calendar/To Do
  • Follow up Feature (flagging)
  • Stationery
  • Message recall

(For more resources on IBM, see here.)

Senders Colors and Recipient Icons

Often it is important for us to identify particular e-mails in our inbox quickly, specifically if they are sent only to us or we have been Cc'd, or if an e-mail has been received from a certain person. We can specify text and background colors to identify messages from particular senders. For example, we could use one color combination to identify co-workers on an important project, another color combination for our manager, and some other combination for personal messages from friends. We can specify several color combinations. In the following screenshot, background colors of red and blue have been selected for specific individuals:

We can also display icons that identify messages in which we are the only recipient in the To field or our name appears only in the Cc field.

Specifying colors that identify senders

We can follow the instructions given next to enable Sender Colors:

    1. If necessary, open your e-mail.
    2. Click the More button above the message list, and then click Preferences.
    3. Select the Sender Colors tab.
    4. In the first Sender names field, enter one or more names of people whose messages we want to display in the first color combination. Separate names by pressing Enter (rather than using a comma as a separator). To select names from a directory, click the down arrow next to the field.

We can enter individual names only; we cannot enter group names.

  1. Select a background color and or text color.
  2. Click OK.
  3. To remove all color combinations, return to the Senders Colors tab in Preferences, click Restore Default Colors, and then click OK.

Displaying icons that identify your recipient level

To Cc a person in a message typically means that the message content is for information and we may not need to respond or action anything. E-mail etiquette dictates that if we want a person to take action on an item we have included in the e-mail, we add their name into the To field. It is therefore handy for us to immediately identify an e-mail where we have been Cc'd or an e-mail where our name is in the To field. The following are the instructions on how to enable this feature:

  1. If necessary, open mail.
  2. Click the More button above the message list, and then click Preferences.
  3. Go to the Recipient Icons tab.
  4. Select one or more of the display fields to display solid-circle if Mail sent to me only, half-circle if Mail sent to no more than this number of recipients in the To field and then select the number, or empty-circle icons if Mail sent to me as a cc.
  5. To display the selected icons when mail is addressed to us with an alternate e-mail address or group name, specify one or more alternate addresses or group names in the field below, this step is optional.
  6. Click OK to save the settings.

Collaboration history

Collaboration history incorporates quite a few features. We can view a history of collaborations or communications that we have had with one of our contacts such as e-mail, Sametime chat transcripts (if you have saved them), or meetings. Collaboration history includes all activity with a selected contact for the previous two weeks.

Viewing collaboration history for a person

Follow the instructions given next to see the options available with collaboration history:

  1. From within your mail select a message from a person who you want to view collaboration history.
  2. Right-click on the message and we will see the person's name that we have selected at the top of the menu options. This is marked as step 1 in the following screenshot.
  3. Select the person's name and then we will see an extended menu. We will see an extended menu.
  4. Select Collaboration History. This is step 2 in the following screenshot.
  5. A dialog box will appear with a collaboration list; select and double-click to open one of the collaborations.

Finding available time

Often when we receive a message from a person and we realize that we need to organize a meeting with them. The Find Available Time feature is a great shortcut to show us the first available time for ourselves and the sender of the message so that we can create a meeting with them.

  1. We can select the context menu by right-clicking on a person's name in our mail; we can then see their name listed at the top of the context menu.
  2. When we select their name, an extended context menu appears.
  3. Select Find Available Time to open the Calendar Scheduler and see when is the first available time for ourself and the person we have selected. If the person we have selected is an external person to our organization, the scheduler shows greyed out time slots as the information is not available; however, it does show our first available time.
  4. From the Calendar Scheduler window, we can create a meeting as shown in the following screenshot:

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(For more resources on IBM, see here.)

Copy Into Tool

Often we might receive an e-mail giving details that we need to paste into a meeting, memo or To Do. The Copy Into Tool allows us to select a Message, Calendar Entry, or To Do and then copy the information from either one of these documents into a new Message, Calendar Entry, or To Do. This saves us from having to copy and paste information between the message and the target document.

This feature is available from the right-click menu and under the More button as shown next:

One can drag a message to the Day-At-A-Glance time slots area to create a calendar entry from that message.

Follow Up feature

The "Follow Up" feature, or "flagging" as it is known in some other mail applications, is a fantastic tool for managing our mail. Many times when we receive an e-mail that we can't respond to there and then, we typically leave it in our inbox so that we remember to get back to it; we might even mark it as unread to further prompt us. The problem is that our inbox is designed for incoming e-mails, so as new mails keep pouring in our inbox, the e-mail that we need to follow up gets pushed further down the list.

Marking an e-mail for follow up assists us in managing those e-mails that we need to respond to, as it flags the message with an icon so it stands out from the other messages; we can also set alarms and view the flagged messages in a special follow up views to make managing them easier.

Flagging messages for follow up

Flagging messages is a great idea. We just need to select one or more messages in a folder or view and add a flag by performing any one of the following steps:

  • Click the flag icon above the message list, select Add or Edit Flag…

  • Enter flag priority, and follow up action, date, time, and alarm if required.

  • Select a message or several messages and then drag to the Follow Up folder (this will move the message out of the Inbox). Then enter preferred options.

  • Right-click and select Quick Flag (this will apply options that have been set in Mail Preferences).

The Quick Flag option is like a shortcut to flagging messages. Before we learn about the Quick Flag option, let's look at the several options that can be selected when we select the option to Add or Edit Flag.

When we create an e-mail, we have the option to add a flag. This is handy when we want to mark an e-mail we are sending for follow up and it saves us from having to go to our Sent folder to perform the task after we have sent the message.

When we add or edit a flag, we will see an array of choices as to how we want to manage the flag depending on the importance and how we want to be notified. I will often use this area as a place to leave notes and set alarms for those messages that need more detail. If we have already added a flag and we want to change some of the options, we can select the same menu that we use to add a flag—Add or Edit Flag.


The first option we have is to select the flag priority icon that will be displayed next to the message or messages we have selected for follow up. There are three priorities to select from:

  • Urgent
  • Normal
  • Low

As shown in the next screenshot, just click the priority that is relevant for what we have flagged for follow up; in the following screenshot Normal priority has been selected:

Optional follow up settings

In the Enter a Follow Up Action, we can add comments relevant to the follow up required for the message. I use this area in the same way I would add a Post-it note to add some comments or actions to something I am working on. It is great when we are going on leave and we can't finish off all of the messages. Just add comments in the Enter a Follow Up Action and, when we get back after a well-earned break, we will be able to look at the comments to refresh our memory as to the status or action required. If we have to share our job with someone or manage an individual's mail, we can add comments so that the person knows the status of the follow up and we can let them know what they need to do without having to send them a separate message about it. In our busy lives, adding comments to a message that we can't deal with there and then is a great advantage.

Other follow up settings available to us are:

  • When to Follow Up: This option helps us to specify a follow up date and, optionally, a follow up time—I love alarms and I use this option often. I also like to see the due date for each follow up so that I can manage my time. It is like a "To Do" list or "Priority" list of messages I need to deal with.
  • Play sound: This option is for those who set an alarm. Using this option, we can select a sound to play when the alarm goes off. Click the speaker icon to test the selected sound. You might want to select a separate sound for different priorities or have a sound dedicated just for follow ups.
  • Send e-mail notification with subject: This option will send an e-mail when the alarm goes off. It is a great option if we want to remind someone else that something needs to be followed up. Make sure to type the addresses of those we want to receive the notification in the Recipients field. Click the address book icon to select names from a directory. I know lots of people who send a message to themselves to remind them that they have to follow up a message!

At any time, we can edit the flag options. I sometimes do this to change the due by date or to add additional comments in the Enter Follow Up Action field. For example, I might have rung the person and been told they are on leave. I would change the due date to be a couple of days after they return and add comments noting the date I rang and that they are currently on leave.

Quick Flag

The Quick Flag option allows us to quickly add a flag with preset options. To add a Quick Flag, we have the following options:

  • Select a message(s) then click the flag icon above the message list as shown next:

  • Select a message(s) and then click the flag icon above the message list and select Quick Flag:

  • Select a message(s), and then right-click and select Quick Flag:

  • From within a message, click the flag icon in the row of buttons above the e-mail header.

Setting Follow Up Preferences for the Quick Flag option

The Quick Flag has similar options available that we have when we add a flag. We can follow the instructions given next to set this preference:

  1. If necessary, open mail.
  2. Click on More above the message list, select Preferences, and then the Follow Up tab.
  3. For Priority, select a priority to display when we flag a message.
  4. Check Set follow-up date, type a number, and select day(s), month(s), or year(s) to set a default follow up date. To add a follow up time, select Set follow-up time and select a time of day.
  5. Check Set an alarm to go off and then type a number. Select Day(s), Hour(s), or Minute(s), and select Before or After to set the amount of time before or after the follow up date or time to trigger the alarm. Then do any of the following:
    • To apply the default alarm settings when we use the Quick Flag feature, check Use alarm settings for Quick Flag.
    • To play a sound when the alarm goes off, check Play sound and select a sound to play from the drop-down list. Click the speaker icon to test the selected sound.
    • To send an e-mail when the alarm goes off, check Send e-mail notification to and type the addresses of those who should receive the notification. Click the address book icon to select names from a directory.
  6. Click OK.

For alarms to work with follow up flags, we must first enable them in our preferences. Go to File | Preferences | Calendar and To Do, select the Alarms tab and check Display alarm notifications, and then click OK.

Follow Up view and Mini view

The Follow Up view is positioned under Sent. We can drag messages to this folder to add a follow up flag or we can open this view to manage our follow ups. From within this area, we can sort our columns, open or preview the message(s) that have been flagged, edit the flag, and remove the flag.

The Follow Up Mini view is always in the line of sight as it displays in the bottom of the navigator on the left-hand side of our mail file, which is an invaluable feature.

From within this area, we can sort our columns, open the message that has been flagged, edit the flag, and remove the flag:

  • We can display all of the columns for a message by moving the cursor over the message. Alternatively, we can resize this window.

  • We can open the message by double-clicking it.
  • We can remove the message from the Mini View and Follow Up view (once you have completed the action) by clicking Remove Flag. The message stays in other mail views or folders, but no longer has a follow up flag.
  • In the Mini View we can resize the view and columns:
    • Resize the Mini View Vertically by dragging the area above the words Follow Up
    • .
    • Resize the Mini View Horizontally by dragging its right edge.
    • Resize the Columns by dragging the column dividers.
    • Reorder the columns by dragging and dropping the column headers.

    With the mini view we can choose to display meeting notices and To Dos, and not display Follow Up messages if we prefer. We can switch to the display New Notices (Calendar notices such as invites or acceptance and so on) or To Do by clicking the down arrow beside the words Follow Up.

    In the mini view, there is a column dedicated to the priority flag icon. We will see this column in our Inbox and other views in our mail, as well where we can see the priority icon. We can then click on the column header to group all our priorities together; this will group all our high priority follow ups to the top of the list.

    Allowing delegates to add follow up flags when managing our mail

    We can give delegates (typically personal assistants) the ability to add follow up flags on our behalf within our mail. This option is enabled within Access & Delegation Mail Preferences|. Delegates must be given Read, edit, and create any document, send mail, enable Out-of-Office access or higher.

    When I flag a message that is in my inbox I then file it into one of my folders. I can access the message from either the Follow Up view or the Mini view so it is not necessary to keep it in the inbox—a great option for keeping the size of one's inbox to a minimum.

    When we display conversations, we can flag conversations for follow up action and, when we do, the flag is added to each message in the conversation.

    Removing flags

    There are several ways to remove a flag from an e-mail. The obvious action, if one has completed the follow up action and no longer requires the e-mail, is to simply delete it! In the Mini view, click the Remove Flag button.

    Alternatively from any view or folder or from within the e-mail, select the Follow Up button and then select Remove Flag as shown next:

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(For more resources on IBM, see here.)


Stationery in Lotus Notes is a similar concept to templates in Microsoft Word, you can create a message that has information in it that we will reuse. For example many HR departments have a standard message they send to announce job vacancies. The IT department may send out a standard message announcing server outage etc. The information in these messages is predominately the same. For example, the server outage memo would have a different server name and date but the other information such as the value in the To and Subject fields would remain the same. Therefore using stationery in these instances saves us from having to recreate the message each time. I have come across quite a few people who have created Stationery to send when they are booking flights or accommodation. The stationery includes their frequent flyer information as well as passport details and so on. They typically will also include a table with headings such as Date, Time, Depart From, Arrive At, and so on so that when they are requesting flights they simply just enter details and tab through the table.

We can create stationery with text or graphics and include a recipient list that we can reuse.

If the Stationery includes an attachment, we can edit the attachment each time we need to send the stationery.

Creating stationery

To create stationery is very simple. There are three options, which are as follows:

Option 1:

  1. Create a message and add required text, recipient list (if necessary), delivery options, and any other elements we require in the message.
  2. From the More button, select Save as Stationery; we will see a prompt requesting a name for the stationery.

  3. Type in name and click the OK button (or press the Enter key).
  4. Stationery will be saved in the Stationery folder.

Option 2:

  1. In the mail side navigator, expand Tools and then select Stationery.
  2. Click New Stationery | Message.
  3. Add required text, recipient list (if necessary), delivery options, and any other elements we require in the message.
  4. Click Save, type a name for the stationery, and then click OK.

Option 3:

  1. In the mail side navigator, expand Tools and then select Stationery.
  2. Click New Stationery | Personal.
  3. Between the first set of brackets under Header, insert any text or graphics to show at the top of the message. Note that importing is the best way to include graphics.
  4. Between the set of red brackets, insert any text or graphics to show directly before the body of the message.
  5. Between the last set of brackets, insert any text or graphics to show at the bottom of the page. If we want to add our signature to this field, we can insert it between the red brackets and then cut and paste it between the last set of brackets.
  6. Click Save, type a name for the stationery, and then click OK.

Of all the three options, I personally prefer option one.

Editing, renaming, or deleting stationery

Often we need to tweak the stationery that we have created. We may need to change the recipient list or add a new section to the body of the memo. Other times we may need to delete stationery as it is not longer required or we may need to rename stationery.

The following are steps we need to follow to edit, rename, or delete stationery:

  1. In the mail side navigator, expand Tools and then select Stationery.
  2. Select the stationery to change.
  3. Perform any one of the following:
    • Click Edit, make changes to the stationery, and then click Save.
    • Click Rename, type a new name for the stationery, and then click OK.
    • Click the trash icon to delete the stationery.

How to use stationery

Once we have created our stationery, we will find it very easy to use. Stationery is stored in the Stationery folder. To use stationery, we can go to the Stationery folder and double-click on the stationery we require. Alternatively, if we are in our inbox, we can click the More button and select New Message with Stationery; this will open a prompt box listing the stationery stored in the Stationery folder, we need to select the Stationery we require.

Bookmarking stationery

Stationery that is most often used can be bookmarked so it can be easily accessed. We can do this by opening the stationery message and then dragging the window tab of the opened stationery to the Open button or the Bookmark Bar. This will result in the stationery being listed in our Open button or the Bookmark Bar. The following screenshot shows that I have bookmarked the Travel request stationery. When I need to use the Travel request stationery, I simply click to open it from the Open button or the Bookmark Bar.

If we find ourself searching for the last e-mail we sent to a person(s), copying the contents to the clipboard, pasting it into a new memo, making some slight changes and then sending it on a regular basis, it is time we think about using stationery!

Message recall

It happens at times that we send an e-mail and then immediately realize that we have either sent it to the wrong person, have forgotten the attachment, or just should not have sent it! We can recall a message that we have sent and saved. This is useful if we sent a message when it was still not ready to be sent, or if we want to edit the content of a sent message and resend it. Be aware that some organizations may have disabled this feature and the Recall Message button will not be available to us.

How to recall a message

If we find that we have sent a message that we need to recall, follow the steps given here:

    1. In our mail, open Sent or All Documents.
    2. Select the message that we want to recall.
    3. Above the message list, click the Recall Message button or alternatively the recall option is available by clicking the More button and then Recall Message… option. Remember if this button does not get displayed, then the IT Department has potentially disabled this feature.

  1. If the message was sent to more than one recipient, select the recipients to recall the message from, by checking or unchecking the names displayed.

  2. To recall the message from a recipient even if the recipient has already opened or previewed it, select Recall the message even if it has been read. Note that many IT Departments allow messages that have not been read to be recalled, so that even though this option is available to be selected, it will not recall the message if this option is not allowed. This is an optional step.
  3. (Optional) To suppress recall status reports, check the Send me a recall status report for each recipient option. Recall status reports confirm whether or not a message is recalled successfully.
  4. Click OK.

For a message recall to work, both we and the message recipient must be using Lotus Notes 8 client, mail template, and mail server. The message recipient must have the basic mail preference Allow others to recall mail sent to me selected. If messages are being sent externally from our organization, message recall is not possible as message recall only works internally within an organization.

If we were prompted to save the message when we clicked the Send button and we selected No, we will not be able to recall that message as it has not been saved in our Sent view or All Documents.


In the above article we have covered:

  • Senders Colors and Recipient Icons
  • Collaboration history
  • Finding available time
  • Copying into Tool … Memo/Calendar/To Do
  • Follow up Feature (flagging)
  • Stationery
  • Message recall

Further resources on this subject:

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IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide

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