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Have you ever had to find an email that was part of a long thread--an email with lots of replies about the same topic? For example, your boss might have asked for the results of last month's important meeting, and you know Sherry sent an email outlining them, but then you remember that Todd followed hers with more information. If you group your emails into conversations, you can find the emails you want more quickly.
Show emails as conversations
Most people organize their emails in a running list arranged by the date they were received. Grouping your emails into conversations helps you locate all the emails related to that conversation.
On the View tab, in the Conversations group, click Show as Conversations.
You can choose to apply the Conversations view to the folder you're in or all folders..
Your emails are now grouped by conversation. Click the arrow to expand the conversation and find the specific email you're looking for.
Clean up conversations in Outlook
To make it even easier to find specific emails in Conversation view, you can delete replies that contain the same information.
On the Home tab, in the Delete group, click Clean Up, and click Clean up Conversation.
Click Clean Up to remove emails with redundant information.
You'll see that your ten emails were reduced to eight.
Don't worry, you won't lose any information - the only emails that are deleted are those with the same content. For example, let's say someone replies to the latest email in the conversation, but then someone else comes along and ingores that email by replying at an earlier point in the conversation. When you choose to clean up your conversation, the email that was ignored isn't deleted because its content is different than the others.
More info on Outlook conversation view:
What's up with my Inbox in Outlook 2010?!Webinar: Unclutter your Outlook inboxCES: Outlook 2010's Conversation View puts you back in action (video)Inbox sanity: Prioritize your email with Outlook conversation toolsHow Outlook 2010 cleans up after meUse Conversation Clean Up to eliminate redundant messages Turn on or off Conversations arrangement in the message list
Unfortunately, for a significant number of users* this functionality is severely impaired, to the point (for many) of being more frustrating than not using it at all (and hence totally worthless).
I'm a big fan of the conversation threading concept, but Microsoft need to understand that this is NOT the same thing as grouping by subject - which is all that Outlook 2010 does, even when using Exchange 2010* (in Office 365, at least).
The email my boss sends me with the subject "Today's meeting" does not belong in the same conversation as the ones from several weeks (or months) ago between another colleague and myself; nor does every single separate conversation ever started with the subject "Dinner?", or a myriad of other commonly repeated subjects, belong in one vast thread for each... and never mind all those different people who send emails with a blank subject!
An email ONLY belongs in a conversation thread if it is a reply or forward of an earlier email in that thread (and there's then a potential difference of opinion as to whether such a reply/forward where the subject has been changed starts a new thread or not). When Outlook finally implements this it will actually truly deserve to be called "grouping by conversation" - but I'm not holding out much hope since the also-fairly-new WP7 email client does "conversations" in exactly the same broken fashion, implying that MS simply doesn't understand the issue.
Nevertheless, since there's a lot else to like about Outlook/Exchange, here's hoping that Office 15 will finally grab it's 'last chance' and fix this...
* Note: I believe, but cannot myself confirm, that for conversations purely between users within the same Exchange 2010 domain this does not happen and the proper conversation behaviour occurs. Since as both a freelance IT consultant and an individual there aren't any other users in my Exchange domain(s), that's no use at all.
I had avoided using the Conversation view for a long time because it did not feel right BUT..
I started using it to test a new Outlook addin that we are about to release.
After about a month's use I am finding that Conversation View works well once you get used to it.
What is particualry nice is how it displays related emails from other folders without you having to go and look for them.
Make Outlook Work for Your Business
I think one of the hardest things to do is break old habits. Conversation views are fairly new and most users find it difficult to get used one. Once you get a chance to play around with it, its clear that this is a great addition.
As far as the method MS uses to group messages, I agree with Stephen. At the very least you should give users an option to group by subject and/or email message id (generate unique id).
As already mentioned before by others, the conversation view of OL2010 is absolutely useless also for me.
Even worse: it prevents me from working as efficently as with OL2007.
Here's the reason why.
1. how I did it in OL2007: I used the manually created view "group by subject, sort by received" in order to get something like a thread-view. Not exactly a thread as Stephen already explained, but ok for me. At least I got the conversation with the most recent mail on top of the list. One important point here was that I wanted to see all mails expanded for all threads at the same time. This gave me the best overview about complexity and completeness of all of the individual conversation.
2. now, why doesn't this work with OL2010? First of all, MS removed for some reason the possibility to manually create the same view as described above. With "group by subject, sot by received" you get a list of threads which is alphabetically sorted by subject. Sort by received only works within a thread. So, absolutely useless because you do not have a chance to get the conversation with the most recent mail on top of the list (try to keep up organized with more than 5-10 threads in your inbox with that). Now, I had no choice and gave the new conversation view a try. I am using it now for >6months because it is the best I can get from OL2010 for my daily work, but it still drives me crazy and if it would be possible from our IT department I'd switch back to OL2007. Why? First, it's not possible to keep all threads open (expanded) at the same time. The individual threads are expanded and collapsed everytime you click on another topic. I'm getting blind by this flicker-show. Secondly, I like the 3-line-preview of an unread message, but when a collapsed conversation contains such an unread mail, the 3 lines from this mail are shown but the from-field shows the sender of the last mail in this conversation which not necessarily fits to the 3-line-preview. So, this is always misleading and confusing. As a result, with OL2007 it was possible for me keep the inbox clean and just have the "ongoing" conversations in it. Closed conversations were moved to dedicated folders. In OL2010 my inbox maintains to have over 700 items and I'm not able to get them organized within my normal working hours. It simply takes more time because I do not have the same good overview as with OL2007, and I do not have this extra time...
These were my 2ct.