New in Outlook 365 – Quick Actions

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A new feature in Outlook 365 for Windows is ‘Quick Actions’ which we’ll show you, why the name is confusing and the features limitations.

From a very quick look (no pun intended) Quick Actions seems like a good idea.  Alas, it’s not been properly developed or integrated properly into Outlook. Quick Actions only leaves customers wanting more.

Quick Actions did manage something rare for Office Watch.  We started getting reader complaints and questions about Quick Actions before we’d had a chance to try it ourselves!

Quick Actions is in Outlook for Windows now ( version 1905 build 11629.20196). Right-click on any message to see ‘Set Quick Actions …’

 Under that link, you can setup the Quick Action steps (maximum two).

Quick Action options

There’s a limited set of Quick Action commands available.  Very, very limited.

  • None – a ‘no operation’ for when you only need one action.
  • Archive – moves to the Archive folder.
  • Delete – moves to Deleted Items folder.
  • Move – moves to an Outlook folder that you have to choose each time.
  • Flag / Clear Flag – this didn’t work in our testing on multiple machines. Presumably it’s supposed to clear any Flags on the message. At the moment it marks the message as unread but leaves the Flag untouched.
  • Mark as Read/Unread – a confusing label that suggest the read status is toggled. In testing it sometimes toggles the Read status but other times forces messages to ‘Unread’.

Click the Quick Action

The only place the Quick Action appears is a tiny icon on the message list, above the date, between the Flag and Delete icons.

There’s a tooltip if you hover over the icon but it’s not very helpful.

The tooltip only shows one of the two steps (Archive in this case) with no ‘Quick Action’ text to explain how the icon got there.  Maybe you’ve forgotten your Quick Action setting or that you created it at all!

Selecting multiple messages then clicking one of the Quick Action icons will act on that for all the selected items.

Right-click menu

Quick Action doesn’t appear on the right-click menu as something to do. The Quick Action setup is done there but you can’t make it happen for the current message.

Ribbon or Quick Access toolbar

Quick Action has no button on the reading pane or fully open message. That would have been useful for consistency.  A customer could choose the same actions from wherever they are viewing the message.

Quick Action hasn’t been added to the command list so it’s not possible to customize a ribbon or Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) to include it.

Quick Actions shortcut

A keyboard shortcut for Quick Actions would make it even quicker … but there isn’t one.

Quick Actions aren’t Quick Steps

Quick Actions would seem to complement the long-standing Quick Steps features.

Quick Steps let you setup multiple actions to take on a message including reply, forwarding, move to specific folders etc.  It’s the ‘grown up’ version of Quick Actions.

There’s no link between these two ‘Quick’ Outlook features.  Ideally the Quick Action could be linked to a Quick Step to expand ‘actions’ beyond two.

Move to where?

At least with Quick Steps you can choose a specific destination folder.

Quick Actions doesn’t let you choose a single destination.  Any ‘Move’ Quick Action gives a prompt to choose a folder … which is a lot less quick.

The future?

Quick Actions is a bad name.

It’s not quick (especially if you want to move).  It’s hard to find with a single tiny icon as the only way to access it (no shortcut, no menu, ribbon or QAT option).

Actions are limited to just two from a very short list.

Hopefully, Quick Actions is just a small start towards a more useful Outlook feature.  At it stands, Quick Actions might be useful for some, but most Office 365 customers will soon balk at it’s restrictions and lack of integration with Outlook’s existing features.


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