Using Conversations in Outlook

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A better way to view your email in Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013

Outlook Conversation view is a different way to arrange your email. It groups messages with (usually) the same subject together making it easier to follow an email thread. Conversations also makes better use of valuable screen real estate.

When Microsoft first showed the Outlook Conversations feature in Outlook 2010 it looked quite ordinary and we avoided it. Conversations view is also available in more recent releases of Outlook Web Access (Exchange Server). But we’ve recently given the Outlook 2013 version a try and we’re a convert!

To change to conversation view, right-click on the Inbox header and choose ‘Show as Conversations’. Make sure that Date order is selected. image from Using Conversations in Outlook at

In a regular, dated ordered, Inbox messages appear in the order received. That means emails on the same topic are scattered down the list.

In Conversation view, they are all grouped together with the most recently received message deciding its place in the Inbox list.

You can see a conversation by the arrow/wedge on the left of the message block when there’s more than one reply. When there’s a single reply, the wedge/arrow only shows up when you select the message. image from Using Conversations in Outlook at

The name list next to the wedge are the people participating in the conversation.

Click on the conversation header to see the received messages image from Using Conversations in Outlook at

If there’s an unread message in the conversation, those messages appear in bold (as usual) as does the top conversation heading. image from Using Conversations in Outlook at

Click on the left wedge again to see even more conversation. Now the list includes your Sent Items as well. image from Using Conversations in Outlook at

Click on the wedge to close up the conversation.

Right-click on the conversation header to take actions on all the messages, most commonly ‘Mark as Read’ or ‘Delete’. image from Using Conversations in Outlook at

There’s also Ignore and ‘Clean up Conversation’ options that we’ll discuss later.

In Outlook 2013 we find that clicking on the conversation heading item doesn’t always play nice with the reading (preview) pane. Selecting the conversation heading (the one with the left-hand wedge) should display the most recent message in the reading pane but doesn’t always. Sometimes you’re left staring at an empty reading pane and you shouldn’t.

Aside from that, conversations view works well and has become our default Inbox view. Give it a try.

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