We are being inundated with more information, more communication and more email vying for our attention. It is more critical than ever to have tools that help us cut through the noise and focus on what matters most. Today, Outlook is expanding the availability of two new experiences to do just that—Focused Inbox and @mentions.
These new experiences add to several recently released features, all aimed at helping you take control of your mailbox. In December, Outlook began automatically adding events from your email to your calendar. And last month we added simplified summary cards in your inbox and calendar for travel reservations and package deliveries. Combined, these features help deliver on Outlook’s core mission: Keeping you connected, focused and on top of what matters.
Focused Inbox—focus on the emails that matter most
For many, the inbox is the command center for their day. It’s the way to keep track of what is going on and what needs to get done. Outlook’s Focused Inbox makes this process easier by helping you focus on the emails that matter most to you. It separates your inbox into two tabs—Focused and Other. Emails that matter most to you are in the Focused tab, while the rest remain easily accessible—but out of the way in the Other tab. You’ll be informed about email flowing to Other, and you can switch between tabs at any time to take a quick look.
You’re in control
Focused Inbox is not meant to take control of your mail, but rather work with you to prioritize what is important to you. What lands in your Focused Inbox is determined by an understanding of the people you interact with often, and the content of the email itself (e.g., newsletters, machine generated mail, etc.). If you need to fine tune your Focused Inbox, just use the “Move to Focused” or “Move to Other” options.
What this means for Clutter
Focused Inbox is a refinement and improvement of a previous feature called Clutter. Clutter’s purpose was also to help you focus on the most important items in your inbox, but it did so by moving “Other” email to a separate folder. Focused Inbox makes it easier for you to stay on top of incoming email without having to visit another folder.
As Focused Inbox rolls out, we’ll stop moving messages to the Clutter folder. See the “Frequently asked questions” below for more details on how this will work.
Rollout of Focused Inbox
Focused Inbox was first released on Outlook for iOS and Android and is being used daily by tens of millions of users. Now, it is coming to all versions of Outlook to give you one consistent view of the important items in your inbox. It begins rolling out this week for users of the new Outlook.com and will soon start rolling out for Office 365 customers in our First Release program in early September. Office 365 admins will have mailbox and tenant level control of the feature to stage the rollout in a manner that works best for their organization.
@mentions—get someone’s attention and focus your own
@mentions make collaborating on email fast and easy. Simply type the @ symbol anywhere in the body of your email and start typing to pick the person you want to address. Once you pick the person you want to address their name is highlighted in the message in blue, helping them know they are being asked to take an action in your message. In addition, if the person isn’t part of the email conversation already, they will be automatically added to the To… line so they receive a copy of your email.
@mention someone by typing the @ symbol, followed by their name in the body of your email.
Focus on what needs your attention
In addition to helping you get other people’s attention, @mentions also helps you be aware of what you’ve been asked to do. Outlook adds an @ symbol in the message list for the messages you’ve been mentioned in, so you can see at a glance which emails require your action before you open them. Outlook also includes a filter so you can sort to see only the messages where you’ve been mentioned. Once you’ve opened the email, the blue highlighting of your name in the body of the email helps you quickly find where you’ve been mentioned.
Pro tip—For messages where you’ve been mentioned, Outlook also updates the preview text of the message. Instead of a preview of the first words of the email, Outlook shows you a preview of the text immediately following your mention.
The @ symbol appears in the message list for emails in which you’ve been @mentioned.
Rollout of @mentions
@mentions is already available in Outlook on the web. Today, @mentions is available for Office Insiders using Outlook 2016 for Windows and Mac and is coming soon for Outlook for iOS, Android and Windows 10 Mobile.
Let us know what you think!
If you’re an Office 365 Home or Personal customer, you can try these new features today by signing up for the Office Insider program. If you have any feedback on these features or new ideas, please share them with us at Outlook.UserVoice.com. Stay tuned for more to come!
—The Outlook team
Frequently asked questions
Q. When will I see the Focused Inbox feature in my version of Outlook?
A. Focused Inbox was first released on Outlook for iOS and Android. All versions of Outlook that receive updates will soon become Focused Inbox capable, including Outlook 2016 for Windows and Mac as well as Outlook on the web and Windows 10. Users will begin seeing the feature turn on once their Office 365 or Outlook.com mailbox is enabled for Focused Inbox. Mailboxes on the new Outlook.com will begin becoming Focused Inbox enabled this week, and will continue over the coming months. Office 365 users in the First Release program will become Focused Inbox enabled in early September. Regular Office 365 mailboxes will follow after First Release availability.
Q. What will the experience be for users of Clutter moving to the Focused Inbox?
A. Active Clutter users will have to opt-in to Focused Inbox and will be able to do so from an in-app prompt in Outlook. After they opt-in, they will no longer receive less important email in the “Clutter” folder. Instead, email will be split between the Focused and Other tabs in their inbox. The same machine learned algorithm that moved items to the Clutter folder now powers Focused Inbox, meaning that any emails that were set to move to Clutter will now be moved to Other.
Read this help article for more details on the prompts users will see and how to turn Focused Inbox on and off.
Q. Can I keep using Clutter instead of Focused Inbox?
A. You can keep using the existing Clutter experience through the transition. However, after the transition period, Clutter will be completely replaced by Focused Inbox.
Q. If I turned off Clutter, will I still be able to try Focused Inbox?
A. Yes, you’ll receive a prompt to try the Focused Inbox when your mailbox is ready.
Q. What controls will I have available as an IT admin for controlling this rollout in my organization?
A. Office 365 admins can manage the rollout of Focused Inbox for their users with tenant and mailbox level controls using PowerShell. More details for admins will become available in August via the Office 365 Message Center, prior to Office 365 First Release customers being enabled for Focused Inbox in September.
Q. I’m using Focused Inbox already on Outlook for iOS or Android; does anything change for me?
A. Nothing will change in Outlook for iOS and Android. As our other Outlook apps are updated to include Focused Inbox, you will now see the same set of items in both the Focused Inbox and Other across all your Outlook clients.
Q. Is it possible to turn off Focused Inbox?
A. You can turn Focused Inbox off or on at any time from any version of Outlook. However, we hear from our Outlook for iOS and Android users that they love Focused Inbox, and we hope you give it a try as it rolls out to all of our other Outlook clients.
Q. What email accounts will @mentions work for?
A. The sender features of @mentions will be available to all—regardless of the type of mailbox or email service you are using in Outlook. The recipient features of @mentions (message list improvements, blue highlighting in reading pane) are only available for recipients using Outlook with Office 365 or the new Outlook.com accounts. We will add support for the recipient features of @mentions in Outlook when connected to other emails account (e.g., Gmail, Yahoo) later this year.