Conversations in Outlook

Jun 23, 2022 | Outlook Hints and Tips

If you are familiar with using conversations in Microsoft Teams or Facebook chat or similar you will already be aware of the benefits they provide.  Everyone in the conversation or chat sees all of the messages once.

This is very different to emailing when a message that is pinged backwards and forwards several times will leave several email threads in your inbox. No wonder we struggle to find the things we need to as we can’t see the wood for the trees. Luckily there are 2 ways that conversations can be used in Microsoft Outlook to provide a similar experience. 

Clean Up 

Clean Up is available on the Home Tab from the main Outlook screen.  It will keep the most recent version of the email thread and remove all the others.  The options available are: 

  • Clean Up Conversation – only works on the conversation selected 
  • Clean Up Folder – works on all the conversations in the selected folder 
  • Clean Up Folder & Subfolders – works on not only the conversations in the selected folder but also on any conversations in any folders within this folder 
Clean Up Drop Down

Generally this works well but sometimes when there has been a mix of reply and reply to all used some parts of the thread can get missed out on the email being kept which you need to be aware of.  By default the emails removed are put in deleted items but this, and other default options, can be changed if required. 

Clean Up Defaults 

  1. Select Options from the File Tab 
  2. Choose Mail 
  3. Scroll to the Conversation Clean Up section 
Conversation clean up

The folder the Clean up items go to can be set to any one folder you like if you don’t want the messages to go into deleted items.  For example, you could create a folder called Clean Up Items, or similar.  When cleaning up sub folders you can keep the original folder hierarchy structure which should make it easier to find emails. 

There are also options to determine which messages not to move. The choices are: 

  • Unread messages 
  • Categorized messages 
  • Flagged messages 
  • Digitally-signed messages 

Finally when a reply modifies a message there is the choice of whether or not to move the original. 

A less permanent option than Clean Up is to change the view to show as conversations instead. 

Show as Conversation 

The original emails in the conversation are grouped together under the last email received.   This is the only email in this group initially visible. 

  1. From the View Tab tick the box Show as Conversations 
  2. Choose whether this is to apply to just the Current Folder or all Mailboxes 
Show as Conversations

Where a conversation has been replied to there is now an arrow next to the message.   This can be expanded to show each of the individual emails making up the final message 

There is also now an option to change the Conversation Settings as follows: 

  • Show Messages from Other Folders – without this ticked selected messages stored in other folders will not be included 
  • Show Senders Above the Subject – shows the senders name above the subject line.  Otherwise, it is the other way round 
  • Always expand Selected Conversation – when the message is clicked all the messages in the thread are viewed.  This can always be done by clicking on the arrow beside the message if this option is not selected 
  • Use Classic Indented View – a different view of the data 
Conversation Settings

Remove Show as Conversation 

This is the opposite of turning this option on. 

  1. From the View Tab untick the box Show as Conversations 
  2. Choose whether this is to apply to just the Current Folder or all Mailboxes 

Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading about how the different ways to use Conversations in Outlook, there’s some other blogs below that you might find useful:

Want to learn more about other Outlook features? Then email to discuss how I can help or have a look at the Courses I run.