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Instead of just relying on email and voice calls, put another option in your communication arsenal: text messages. These quick notes are pushed straight to a mobile phone, making them instantaneous; you don't have to rely on your recipient to check an email account. Texts, A.K.A. SMS (Short Message Service) can quickly alert employees and friends with updated meeting details, contact information, or other information that would require transcription. And with Outlook, you can even send them to multiple recipients. Here's how.

You'll first have to configure Outlook for SMS. Choose Tools, Account Settings. Click the E-mail tab, and pick New. Click Other, and choose Outlook Mobile Service (Text Messaging). Click Next.

You'll have to link Outlook to a third-party service that actually sends the messages. Some options include SMSOfficer, Red Oxygen, and Joopz. All offer free trials and then charge to continue. (Don't expect to spend more than a few dollars a month.) Finish entering the service address, User ID--likely your phone number with country code--and password, depending on the specific service. Click OK.

Restart Outlook, and choose File, New, Text Message. Texts are limited to 160 characters; watch the preview screen on the left to see if it'll be split up. Fill out the To: field with one or several contacts, and Outlook will route the message to their mobile numbers.

Several websites--including Joopz--send free text messages, but you can also do the same thing from AIM on your PC. Just send an instant message to the phone number with the country code in front. For example, a U.S. message would be aimed at +15551234567. And their direct replies will show up in AIM on your PC.

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