Has an Outlook message been edited?

Office for Mere Mortals
Your beginners guide to the secrets of Microsoft Office
Invalid email address
Tips and help for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook from Microsoft Office experts.  Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.  Office for Mere Mortals has been running for over 20 years, we've never, ever revealed or sold subscriber details.  Privacy policy

We look at some more advanced Outlook tricks that might be old news to you but have surprised a lot of Outlook users.


The latest issue of Office for Mere Mortals has a collection of Outlook tricks that might be old news to you but have surprised a lot of Outlook users.

That issue prompted some interesting, but more advanced, topics for this weeks Office Watch.


It’s probably happened to all of us – you send a message from Outlook and later see that it’s still sitting in your Outbox. Other messages, sent before or since will be dispatched but one or more messages just sit there.

This problem has been around since Outlook was first released and while it seems rarer in Outlook 2003 it still happens. What can you do?

We’ll assume there’s no problem with your connection and delivery services, as they are whole other topics if such a problem exists.

The most common cause of the problem is that you opened the message while it was sitting in the Outbox. This can happen if you are offline or your outgoing mail connection is scheduled.

If you want to change or just check a message about to go out you can go to the Outbox, double-click on the message and you can edit it. The trick is that when you save your changes the message status changes and the message won’t be sent. Why this hasn’t been fixed is anyone’s guess – there’s KB articles and a long, long list of support calls on the matter yet no sign of a fix.

Thankfully the fix is simple – having saved your changed message back to the Outbox – just open it again, click the Send button and it should now go on its merry way across the ether.

If it doesn’t, and sometimes a message is really stubborn, open up the stuck message and create a new message window. Copy the contents from the stuck message to the new one and send the newly created clone. Delete the stuck message.

One other common possibility is if you have multiple email accounts – check the Accounts tag on the toolbar and make sure the message is set to the correct outgoing email account.

There’s Knowledge Base articles covering some versions of Outlook, but not all.



The recent issues of Office for Mere Mortals have talked about the ability of Outlook to edit an incoming message or subjects in your Inbox. Details here.

This can be useful for various reasons – most likely to annotate an otherwise obscure message with additional words so you can find it later using a desktop search tool. See our Desktop Search Handbook for details.

For most people this is just a handy tool but we’ve heard from several lawyers who are most concerned that vital information in a case might be tampered with. Emails are often subject to examination by a court and the idea that an employee could re-write history rings alarm bells.

There’s a simple way but incomplete way to tell if a message has been modified. Each incoming message has three date settings:

  • Sent:
  • Received:
  • Modified:

You can see these by opening a message and choosing File | Properties.

Normally the Received time will be slightly after the Sent time – though time zone differences or an incorrectly set computer clock could affect that.

But the Received and Modified times should be the same in an unchanged message. You can create a special Outlook view showing Received and Modified times plus a special formula column that shows the difference, if any, between the two. This will show up as days and decimal fractions of a day.

If you do this you’ll see that editing a message will certainly change the Modified time but so will replying (Outlook records that you have replied and that counts as a modification). Moving or copying a message from one folder to another does NOT count as a modification.

So it seems that you can tell when a message was last modified but not what was modified and no history of modifications. The date of the modification might be a clue, especially if there’s no reply in Sent Items to match the modification date. The number of days between Received and Modified might also be helpful.

You could compare messages from backups with the one stored now but that would be time consuming and probably only worthwhile if you knew there was something amiss.

There seems no obvious way to track the changes made to an email in the same way you can for, say, a Word document. That’s understandable since it would add a heavy load on an already lumbering Outlook.

However it is a problem for companies.



What’s the best way to create a rule to highlight or move your Office Watch newsletters? The answer to that might help you work out what to do with other incoming emails.

There’s various things you can look for in an email. The senders name or email address, subject or address the message is sent to (if you have multiple addresses).

Like many newsletters we have a ‘bounce address’ in each mailing. This address is specific to each subscriber and mailing. Because the return or ‘bounce’ message can be in so many different formats this is the most reliable way of tracking exactly which subscriber/newsletter was returned as undelivered. They were not designed to be used for mail rule triggers.

For mail rules to use with out newsletters we recommend is to track the FROM: name – this is the same for each newsletter: Office Watch Office for Mere Mortals etc, Email Essentials and Access Watch . and hasn’t changed for years (except when we varied the newsletter names at the start of this year).

Set the rule to the name, not the From email address. We’re very aware that people use rules to manage the messages they get from us and we try to keep the heading information as static as possible – but changes are sometimes necessary for technical reasons. The FROM name is the most prominent and least likely to change element.



And to complete the Outlook theme …

There’s many ways to jump between different Outlook folders. On option is:

Ctrl + Y open folder dialog

This shortcut will open a list of Outlook folders, click on the folder you want and the window will change to that folder. Sadly this feature doesn’t let you open a separate window, just change the current window.


subs profile e1563205311409 - Has an Outlook message been edited?
Latest news & secrets of Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office experts give you tips and help for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

Give it a try. You can unsubscribe at any time.  Office Watch has been running for over 20 years, we've never, ever revealed or sold subscriber details.  Privacy policy
Invalid email address