Q&A: Audible alerts in Outlook

Q I use Outlook 2011 and would like to customise it so that it sounds an audible alert when I receive a new message. How can I do this

A Outlook’s custom sound sets work essentially the same as those in Entourage (although you will need to substitute ‘Outlook’ for ‘Entourage’ in folder names, and the like), and are detailed here.

You need a set of six sounds, and a property list (.plist) file, placed in ~/Documents/Microsoft User Data/Outlook Sound Sets/. Sounds can be in AIFF or WAV format, but each audio file must be no larger than 1 MB in size, representing about 8 seconds of audio.

Some follow this to the letter, but their Outlook remains mute; this might be because they still have a copy of Microsoft Office 2008 installed, and reliability should also improve by installing Office 2011 Service Packs. If you still cannot get your sound set to work, check the entries in the .plist file are completely correct, as a single typo can stop sounds working altogether. You may also have success with a proven sound set, such as these for Entourage, although a few users seem completely unable to get any custom sounds to work.

Unfortunately, at present, Outlook 2016 does not appear sufficiently stable to allow such simple customisation. Aharon Hannan is tracking this issue on his blog, and hopes to resolve it very shortly, Microsoft willing.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 27 issue 12, 2011.