Software

Ignore unwanted email conversations in Outlook

Outlook lets you completely ignore an email conversation with a simple click or two of the mouse. Susan Harkins shows you how.

When things get to hectic at work, you can walk away from the water cooler and return to your space. If you're lucky enough to have an office, you can even shut the door. But, what do you do with Outlook conversations that aren't important to you? Even if you opt not to read them, you still have to delete them. There's good news; you don't have to read or even delete irrelevant conversations. Outlook lets you completely ignore them.

Before I show you how to ignore a conversation, let's make sure you know what a conversation is. Microsoft defines a conversation as follows: A Conversation is the complete chain of email messages from the first message through all responses. The messages of a Conversation have the same subject. You might be more familiar with the term thread.

Now, here's how to ignore a conversation:

  1. Select the message in the Reading pane.
  2. Click the Home tab, and click Ignore in the Delete group, or press [Ctrl]+[Delete], or right-click the message and choose Ignore from the resulting context menu.
  3. Click Ignore Conversation.

That's it - that's a lot easier than wading through all those unwanted messages!

This quick solution will remove all emails belonging to this conversation from your Inbox (or folder). But there's more! Outlook will automatically detour new messages in that conversation, so it never even hits your Inbox.

The conversation's not really gone and you can easily reclaim it, as follows:

  1. Select the Deleted Items folder.
  2. Select any message in the conversation that you want to recover.
  3. Click Ignore in the Delete group.
  4. Click Stop Ignoring Conversation.

When you stop ignoring a conversation, Outlook will move all messages in the conversation back to your Inbox. In addition, you'll start seeing new messages in your Inbox as they arrive.

Contrary to what you might read elsewhere, you don't have to be in Conversation View to ignore or un-ignore a conversation. Unfortunately, there's no way for you, the end user, to view a list of ignored conversations. It's just up to you to remember that you've ignored a conversation. If you're on Exchange, your administrator can get a list for you, but they might not appreciate the extra work.

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

7 comments
ian
ian

you don't mention the version to which you are relating. I am using 2007 and don't see these options.

boabhan
boabhan

I think there are better tools to do online conversations than Outlook or email in general. Each reply-to-all email generates myriads of data and duplicates content, which finally leads to the well-known information overload. To avoid this, we should forget conversing via email and use tools, which are specially geared to group conversations, like taskmind, for instance. (http://www.taskmind.net)

ssharkins
ssharkins

Oh -- I understand now. Yes, if you change the subject line, it will break the link to the conversation. A related problem is what happens to new messages with the same subject line but not part of the first conversation. You'll see those in 2010 -- I think that feature was "broke" in earlier versions.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

in the middle of the thread does that break the conversation?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

The 'Ignore' feature was introduced in the 2010 version of Outlook, along with the 'Ribbon' interface.

ssharkins
ssharkins

I'm not sure what you mean by "break the conversation" -- but... you can do this at any time and it will move the whole conversation and any new messages. I'm not sure I'm answering your question though.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

from the definition: "A Conversation is the complete chain of email messages from the first message through all responses. The messages of a Conversation have the same subject." Sometimes I change the subject when replying to an email. Would Outlook still see the new email as part of the conversation? Or would that break the chain?

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