This new Outlook feature will organize your inbox for you

Focused Inbox is coming from Outlook mobile app to the desktop

Microsoft is finally bringing one of the best features of its Outlook mobile app to the desktop. Users of Outlook on Mac and Windows will start seeing their inbox separated out into two tabs: Focused and Other.

As the name implies, the Focused Inbox is supposed to hold all of a user's important emails, while Other contains everything else. Users can train the system by moving email to and from the Focused Inbox, and establishing rules about certain senders and subjects.

When new messages come into the Other inbox, a banner will show up at the top of the list of focused messages letting users see how many new messages are in that section of their inbox, along with a select list of senders.

It's aimed to help mitigate the problem of an always-overstuffed inbox by moving things like promotions, newsletters and other irrelevant emails to a separate screen where they aren't blocking the view of important messages.

The feature learns from a person's usage patterns, as well. When I had to find a new roommate through Craigslist earlier this month, all of the emails sent in response to the ad I put up went to the Other inbox in Outlook on my iPhone at first. But after that, new messages in really active conversations that I had with prospective cohabitants started cropping up in my Focused inbox.

Eventually, the Focused inbox will replace Outlook's existing Clutter feature, which also uses machine learning to separate important and unimportant emails based on a user's behavior. The big difference between the two features is that Clutter moves messages to a separate folder, while Focused Inbox keeps all of the emails in the inbox, just changes how they're displayed.

People who just want to see all their emails will be able to turn the feature off at any time, too.

Focused Inbox has begun rolling out to Outlook on Windows, Mac and the web, but it’ll take a while for everyone to get it. First, users will need to have updated client apps that will support the system, and then Microsoft will need to enable the web service powering Focused Inbox on the back end.

Outlook at mention screenshots Microsoft

An illustration of how the new "@mention" feature works in Outlook on the web.

Outlook on the web is also getting support for "@mentions," which let users put the @ sign in front of someone's name in a message. Users who get mentioned will see their name highlighted in blue in the message, along with a large blue @ symbol next to the message in their inbox.

It's possible for people to filter their search results to find only emails where they're mentioned, which may make it easier for them to seek out messages that include to-do items. When a sender mentions someone, their email is automatically added to the message's list of recipients, too.

The feature seems tailor-made for people who are frequently on large group emails and need an added tool to track what's actually relevant to them.

It's all part of Microsoft's continued work on Outlook, after acquiring mobile email app Acompli at the end of 2014. The company faces tough competition in the workplace communication space, from Google attacking it from an email standpoint and startups like Slack trying to reduce the use of email through chat and other means.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Office 365Microsoft

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?