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Telling Outlook How to Handle Messages: Tip #14

written by: Mojave Media Group•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 1/29/2009

How does Microsoft Outlook know where to go when you delete a message from a folder? What are the options?

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    Message Handling

    Outlook offers considerable and configurable control over what it does in certain circumstances. When you are reading an open e-mail message and delete it, where should Outlook go? That is, what should it move to next without user intervention? Not surprisingly, users have demanded a variety of locations. For this reason, Outlook allows the user to configure where the focus goes after deleting or moving an e-mail message.

    To configure this setting, navigate to Tools | Options and under the Preferences tab, click on the E-mail Options button. In the resulting window, there is a section called 'Message handling' as shown in Figure 1. The very first line in that section reads 'After moving or deleting an open item:' followed by a drop down list with these options:

    • open the previous item
    • open the next item
    • return to the inbox

    If you read messages in your inbox sequentially, then opening the next item might be fitting. I use a lot of rules to sort messages into subfolders. I don't often open messages, but rather read them using the preview pane after scanning the inbox for messages that are important to me at the time. As a result, the option to return to the inbox works best for me.

    Another option for handling messages when the user performs an action is found in the very next line in Figure 1. When you open a message and then reply to it, or forward it, you have some control on what Outlook should do with the original open message you acted upon. By default, Outlook returns to the open message after you reply to it. Checking the box next to 'Close original message on reply or forward' will indeed close the open message you replies to and returns you to wherever you last were in the main Outlook interface.

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    Figure 1 - Outlook 2007 - Message Handling