Sunday, May 20, 2007

Creating Gmail-like conversations with Outlook

If you've used Gmail you know that all your mail is presented to you as a conversation. It's not radical - but the fact that it is the only way to interact with Gmail is definitely new. And a lot of people love it - because they see email as exactly that: conversations with people.

I use Outlook at work and have always wanted a Gmail-like conversation view. Outlook has a feature which you can select by choosing View -> Arrange by -> Conversation from the menu bar. This will group all your emails by subject after filtering the usual prepends like "Re:" and "FW:".

But this doesn't give you your own sent items in the conversation. So it's not true Gmail-like capability.

Fortunately it's easy to do this using another feature of Outlook called Search Folders.


First, right click on Search Folders in the folder view. In the dialog box that pops up select Create a custom Search Folder and click OK (1).

You'll now see the Custom Search Folder dialog (2). Type in a name for your Search Folder. This can be any name really - I like to call mine Smashbox. Next on the same dialog, click on the Browse button.

You'll see the Select Folders dialog (3). Here is where you select the mails that you want in your conversation view. Select Inbox, Outbox and Sent Items so that all these types of mail items are included in your conversation (4). Click OK twice to get back.

The first time you do this, Outlook will take a few moments to set up your Search Folder correctly 5). Once its set up, select the Search Folder - your included mail from Inbox, Outbox and Sent Items will show up on the right. Select View -> Arrange by -> Conversation and you'll see Gmail-like conversations!

The first thing you'll need to do is find Search Folders in the folder view on the left and right click on it. Then select New Search Folder from the context menu.

10 comments:

Kalyan said...

Very useful tip, I set up mine and now it is easy to go by topic and view all messages.

Satish Vellanki said...

Hey thanks for that tip, I was really missing this in Outlook, not anymore.

Anonymous said...

Can you paste the screenshot, on how it finally look?

Chris said...

Thanks for the clear and easy to read post. The only problem I have is that now ALL my mail is displayed here. I'm a big fan of keeping a minimal inbox. Is there anyway to do that and have the indexing?

Aspi said...

Anon, I can't post the inbox screenshot - I'd have to obfuscate too much :)

Chris, not sure what you mean by minimal inbox. Your search folder will show what your inbox already has + your sent items. What do you not want in there?

Anonymous said...

Dude, you rock! I f*ing HATE outlook.

Naush said...

how to include conversations from the same person but in a different email. I did the settings but the past conversations do not come in?

Naush said...

how to get past conversations with different subject line alongwith the sender?

Jeff said...

This is a good solution if you want the ability to see threaded conversations with your replies for ALL of your email. However if you use your inbox as an organizational tool and need to keep it free of clutter then please see the solution I posted to enable "archiving" of conversations.

Arnold said...

Great been wanting this for ages