applied tips : april 2008

microsoft outlook : making use of BCC

How do you use it and why is it there?

If you’re an avid e-mailer, you’ve probably used the Cc field before. Cc is an abbreviation for “carbon copy.” The Cc field can be used to send an e-mail to someone who might benefit from receiving a certain message, even if they are not directly involved. For example, you might type your assistant’s name in the Cc field of an e-mail so that he or she can keep up to date with what you’re working on.

Similar to the Cc field is the ever-elusive Bcc field. Bcc is an abbreviation for “blind carbon copy.” The Bcc field is used to send a copy of a message to someone without making his/her name visible to other recipients of the message. For example, you might want to Bcc your manager when responding to an important email from one of your customers.

Here are some other examples of when you might want to use Bcc:

Summoning the Bcc field

The first step in understanding the Bcc field is making sure you know how to display it.

First, you’ll need to create a new e-mail message.

Create a new e-mail message. If the Bcc field isn’t already visible underneath To and Cc, you will need to summon it. The way you do this depends on your configuration.  Try one of these two methods:

You'll only need to summon Bcc once.  It will remember to display it every time hereafter until you turn it back off.

Testing, testing

If you’re still a little confused as to how the Bcc field works, try sending yourself an e-mail using the Bcc field.

To do this, type your Outlook e-mail address in the Bcc field. Once you’ve done that, type “This is a test” in the Subject field and then click the Send button to send the message. After a few moments, the message should appear in your Inbox. If it doesn’t, click the Send/Receive button. Double-click the message to open it in its own window.

Notice how the To field appears empty. This is because you entered your e-mail address in the Bcc field, and anything entered in the Bcc field is hidden to the recipients of the message.

Now try emailing a coworker (using the To field) and tell him hello. But before you hit send, add another coworker (using the Bcc field).  Run over to both of their desks as they receive the message.

You'll see that the first coworker (To) can see that he was sent the email, but he will not have any idea that you also sent it to the second coworker.  Head to the desk of the second coworker (Bcc) and you'll see the same thing.

A little netiquette

If you Bcc someone on an email but leave the To field blank, it will look kinda weird in their inbox.  Try putting yourself in the To field so that it is not blank.

Watch for Junk Mail Filters

Unfortunately for us, a lot of junk mail senders (spammers) have already familiarized themselves with the Bcc field. The majority of the email they send takes advantage of Bcc. Therefore, most junk filters have been programmed to look out for this.

But don’t despair – junk filters are on your side, and there are ways around this. Before you use the Bcc field to send out a message, make sure that your intended recipients are expecting it. If you are in their address book and/or their "white list" or "Safe Senders List" you are off to a good start.

To add a person to the Safe Senders list in Outlook 2003, select Tools > Options from the menu. On the Preferences tab, click the Junk E-mail button under E-mail. Click the Safe Senders or Safe Recipients tab, then click Add. In the “Enter an e-mail address or Internet domain name to be added to the list” text box, type the person’s e-mail address that you want to add to the Safe Senders list. Click OK, and then repeat this process for each additional person you want to add. 

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