Or, remapping keys for fun and profit.

I subscribe to a fair number of email lists, and use Exchange rules to filter them to individual folders. Since I read just a fraction of the new emails that arrive each day, I find myself doing “Mark All as Read” in Outlook 2003 a lot.

Enough to get aggravating, in fact. “Mouse over folder name, right click, mouse to Mark All as Read, left click” gets boring after a while. A little keyboard experimentation showed that a two-key combination is Ctrl-A (select all), Ctrl-Q (mark as read). But that's still one key too many. Now, here's a quiz - what search terms should you use in Outlook help or Google to find out how to do this? “Outlook keyboard remapping”? “Outlook keyboard shortcuts”? “Outlook mark all as read key”? Fail, fail, fail.

Thankfully, KC Lemson's blog came through - the other one to try for any Outlook question is Marc's Outlook on Productivity. In her post “Outlook 2003 tip o' the day”, KC explains in painful detail how to customize your toolbars to add a new clickable action. The trick here is that you can assign the action an Alt-shortcut key by putting an & at the appropriate place in its name. And the painful detail is because the customization of Office toolbars involves a big cognitive break from the usual modal interface - even though you have a “Customize” window in the foreground, the Office toolbars in the background are still active in a special “drag text or buttons onto me” mode!

So, following KC's instructions, I dragged the “Mark All as Read” action onto my standard toolbar and renamed it as “&Quickmark”. Now Alt-Q will mark all items in a folder as read. Why Q? Two reasons: I want to do all keyboard work with my left hand so that I can keep my right hand on the mouse, and Alt-Q was the first key I tried that didn't make Outlook do something else entirely.

Now, the next question is how to get this into office.microsoft.com