Adjusting our Outlook Messages Pane: Sorting

In this post we would focus on the Outlook Messages pane – adjusting it for a convenient and fluent work.

The Messages pane is the 2nd pane from the left. It contains the list of our emails. Our goal would be to view as much emails as we can while including only the mandatory information needed for our work (remember, our screen is the most valuable real estate property in our work environment).

In this post we would focus on how we should sort our emails.


How should we sort our emails?

My first and trivial recommendation is sorting the emails by date. I recommend having the new ones on top. I have never saw anyone looking at it in a reverse order, maybe because most of us don’t use the zero-inbox approach (if you don’t know what zero-inbox approach means, leave it aside for now, we might be back to it later on).

For adjusting your email sort, right click on the Messages pane title, select Arrange By and Date.


My second recommendation is grouping the emails by conversation. This means that all the emails that are related to the same conversation, would appear as a single email message line, with the ability to expand/collapse for looking at the entire conversation. If you are not using it yet, it means you are reading a conversation in a fragmented way – jumping from one conversation to another conversation instead of reading the entire conversation, start to end.

As a side note, fragmentation is our #1 enemy for efficient time management (we will talk more on this along the way).

Not using a conversation approach also means that you probably replying on emails which are not the latest ones in the email conversation. I see it happens a lot to people who are not using the conversation grouping. The reason for this is simple – people usually start reading emails from the oldest to the newest (which is fine), and I believe we just can’t help ourselves from replying on an email that requires our response. Once we start the reply, we do not scroll up in the email list for finding the latest email on that conversation before we hit the Send button.

For enabling the conversation grouping, right click on the Messages pane title, select the Advanced View Settings option and then the Group By option.


My third recommendation is a fine tuning of the conversation grouping – setting the Conversation Index sort as descending. This would place the newest email in the conversation on top. You will notice the difference especially in long conversations.

The way Outlook works is that it shows you the entire conversation, even if the conversation emails are not located in the current folder you are in. For example, if you have conversation of 20 emails and only 5 of them are still in your inbox (while the rest were moved to another physical folder), you would see them all when expending the conversation. Viewing an email at the bottom of a conversation is not efficient because:

  • We need to use our mouse in order to reach it (instead of using our keyboard),
  • It is opposite to the order of the main email sort (we said we usually sorting emails as newest on top)
  • The indentation is so deep we barely can see title information on the newest emails (each email is a bit to the right from the one above it, which means that in long conversation, the last emails are barely shown).

This adjustment can be done using the Group By option.


Published by

Erez Morabia

I’m an engineer and a leader in the computer software industry which is passionate about leading teams, embracing new technologies and improving soft skills for work efficiency.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *