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Screen shot: Outlook 2010.

Conversation View in Outlook 2010

The conversation feature shows all e-mail messages with the same Subject together, arranged by date with the most recent message on top. Grouping all of the messages in one conversation can help you manage your mail.

Using Conversation View

To turn on conversation view, with Mail selected in the navigation pane, select the View tab, and in the Conversations group, select Show as Conversations. You will be asked whether you want to show as conversations in just this folder or in all folders.

If you have any e-mail which has a Subject line not shared with any other e-mail, that piece of mail will be displayed as normal. For any e-mail which does share the same Subject with other mail, then you will see the Subject of the conversation and an expand button (a triangle).

Screen image: Conversation unexpanded.

 Click on the expand button to see the conversation.

Screen image: Conversation.

As you click on the most recent message in the conversation, the entire conversation will appear in the Reading Pane (unless you have turned the Reading Pane off). If you click on a less recent message in the conversation you will see the conversation up to that point. Notethat the conversation includes all messages in the conversation in all folders (includingInbox and Sent Items).

Note, however, that conversations aren't always simple. A message may get two or more responses. Outlook regards this as the conversation has split into two (or more) branches of the same conversation. If this happens, Outlook will display: Split conversation. Expand to see all items. In this case click the expand triangle again to expand the conversation fully.

Screen image: Expanded split conversation.  Screen image: Expanded split conversation.

In this example you can see that the six messages are divided into two branches of three messages each. You can click on the collapse triangle to collapse the conversation.

Conversation Settings

Note that in the View tab, in the Connections group, there is also a Conversation Settings button.

Ignoring Conversations

If you find that you are a recipient of a conversation which does not affect you, you can Ignore a Conversation: this will move all messages already in the conversation to Deleted Items and all future messages in the conversation.

On the Home tab, in the Delete group, click Ignore, or press Ctrl+Del.

If you subsequently wish to undo this action, open the Deleted Items folder, and select any message in the deleted conversation. Click on Ignore again and all of the messages will be restored.

Clean Up Conversation

On the Home tab, in the Delete group, click Clean Up and then select Clean Up Conversation.

This will remove all "redundant" messages in the conversation. Usually this deletes all except the last message; if the conversation branches, this usually deletes all except the last message in each branch.

Clean Up Conversation will not, however, delete messages which are not "redundant" because they:

  • Are Unread or
  • Are Flagged or
  • Have a category or
  • Have a digital signature or
  • Have an attachment.

You can also set up Outlook to not delete unread messages.

You can change this behaviour (apart from attachments): From the File tab select Options, then select Mail and scroll down to Customise Clean Up.

Also note, if you have several conversations you can use the Home tab Clean Up button options Clean Up Folder or Clean Up Folder & Subfolders.


If you can't clean up your conversation because of attachments, remember that you can save attachments in a "proper" place like the Documents Library. You can subsequently remove attachments from e-mails. See below for further details.

Removing Attachments

Large e-mails almost always have large attachments - you can quickly save space by deleting the e-mail. What if you want to keep the e-mail message but you don't want to keep the attachments? This may happen, for example, when you already have the attachments stored in your Documents folder. This may also happen when you have been collaborating on a document and don't need every single amended version, just the final one.

What you can do is optionally save the attachment or attachments, and then remove the attachment(s) from the e-mail.

  1. Open an e-mailIn the e-mail pane you will see an icon for the message and an icon for each attachment.
  2. Select one or more of the icons for the attachment(s)- The Attachment Tools tab will appear: 
  3. Save or Save All then Remove - In the Actions group you can optionally use Save As or Save All Attachmentsto save one or more of the attachments. Also in the Actions group you can use the Remove Attachment button to remove the selected attachment(s).


Always Move Messages in a Conversation

On the Home tab, in the Move group, click the Move button and select Always Move Messages in this Conversation. This will display a dialogue box showing you all your folders - select one; now all of the conversation and all messages in the conversation will be moved to the specified folder.

If you subsequently select a message from that conversation (in whichever folder it is), then the Move button will instead offer Disable Always Move Conversation.