A Modern, People-First Inbox in Outlook 2013

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You’ve probably realized that the person at the desk next to you uses Outlook differently than you. Some folks view Outlook as a task system, others use it to collaborate on documents with public folders, and still others use it to manage other peoples’ calendars. But almost every Outlook user reads their email in Outlook. And to do it, they use the message list.

Sure, we aren’t getting any points for creativity on that name, but the message list, put simply, is the list of emails you read in Outlook. Like other parts of Outlook, it’s highly customizable, and yours might look different than your manager’s. In Outlook 2013, we overhauled the message list, focusing on the way most people use it.

Modern Visuals

You may have noticed that the new Outlook looks a little different. The new message list is no exception. The view has been cleaned up to focus on your emails, and keep your computer looking modern and fresh. Outlook and the Outlook Web App share the same design principles, and you’ll notice the message lists look very similar between the two products.


Best for Reading

In addition to making it look cleaner, the message list redesign focused on a functionally better message list. We’ve followed a Microsoft-wide principle of putting people first by making the names stand out in the message list. Our search data indicates that looking for a sender is one of the most important ways people find mail. So whether you choose the classic Date view, or the trendy Conversations view, you’ll see names shown in a larger font on the top line of each message. This makes it easier to scan and find “that message from Jenny.”

We also tweaked the spacing between messages to ensure optimal reading speed. You won’t see quite as many messages on the screen at one time, but we tested the best combinations for reading and finding messages.

We’ve heard from customers that the unread status is extremely important when you’re reading emails, so we made sure the unread mails in your inbox stand out by using Outlook’s new blue color for both text, and a visual bar to the left of each message. The bar makes it easier than ever to focus on the unread messages.

Finally, you no longer have to open each message to find the one you’re looking for. We added a one-line preview to each message in the message list

The few words that a preview can provide makes a huge difference in being able to locate the right message, and scan your new emails to make sure you feel up-to-date on what’s going on. You can customize or remove the preview by going to View | Message Preview in the ribbon.



I’m excited for you to try out the new message list, and feel free to provide your honest feedback in the comments below.

–Josh Meisels, Outlook Program Manager



  1. I did not see the one line message summary in . Also No Bluebars as unread in Outlook 2013. I tried both compact and single preview .

    • I don’t see the blue bar neither and cannot find a way to enable it.

      • You will only see the unread bar in "compact view." Make sure you have the reading pane on the right and the message list is narrow enough to show in compact view. I hope that helps!

        • Thanks, it worked that way!

  2. Next to the already shown Flag ‘instant action’ please show the following ones as well or make it an option (like on Mark as read/unread & Delete.

  3. I like the new message list but I have two problems.
    *The conversations are not being grouped the same as in Outlook 2010…most conversations are missed and only occasionally does it get one.
    *When you expand a conversation it only shows you the date/time of the last message and not any previous messages. I frequently need to know this information, so I can see how long it took for me to reply / for the other person to reply / how long the conversation has been going on.

  4. Igor Abade

    What about Linked Inbox? As a die-hard user of both Windows Phone and Outlook, the feature I miss the most in Outlook is a Linked Inbox such as Windows Phone’s…

  5. Ben Stupples

    I’m a huge fan of the new message list to be honest. I run an IT Support business @ [link=] and my guys spend half their time offering Outlook configuration advice to our clients. I can see this being a really appealing feature and we’re chomping at the bit to get Office 2013 out there……

  6. Jaworskiblog

    This new message list is taking a lot of adjustment for me, and I have heard the same from other heavy e-mail users. I get upwards of 30 e-mails per day that need my attention. The default view can only display a third of those, so now I’m scrolling much more frequently. Changing the reading pane to bottom helps, but there is a lot of wasted real-estate on the "People" section that is more often than not, a blank avatar. What is important to me is being able to easily identify the message subject, and view the message content. I want the ability to minimize the "people" section to the old Outlook 2010 look, so I can see more of what is important to me.

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