How to Use Focused Inbox in Outlook—or Disable It Altogether

Woman on phone sitting at kitchen table by laptop focus on laptop
Outlook's Inbox is focused, so she has time to chat. StockUnlimited

Recent versions of Outlook have introduced (and made it be the default view) a feature called Focused Inbox. This feature separates important emails from the rest and places them in a special tab for fast access.

If you find Focused Inbox more confusing than helpful and generally cumbersome you can turn it off. If you do like it, we'll show you how to customize it for your needs.

How to Disable Focused Inbox in the Outlook Apps for iOS and Android

If you find a classic and simple inbox most productive, you can turn off Focused Inbox in Outlook for iOS or Android.

To stop the Outlook app from splitting your email inbox in two with Focused Inbox:

  1. Go to the Settings tab in Outlook for iOS.
    Tap the Settings gear icon (⚙️) in Outlook for Android.
  2. Make sure Focused Inbox is turned off under Mail.

Your inbox will now again include all messages from all senders sorted by date.

Note: If you have threading enabled, older emails in a thread will appear grouped under the most recent message.

Tip: You can filter your Outlook for iOS or Android inbox to show only unread or flagged emails, for example; tap Filter.

How to Disable or Enable Focused Inbox in Outlook 2016 for Windows

To turn off Focused Inbox in Outlook 2016 for Windows:

  1. Go to your inbox folder in Outlook.
  2. Open the  View tab on the ribbon.
  3. Click  Show Focused Inbox to turn Focused Inbox on or off.

How to Disable or Enable Focused Inbox in Outlook 2016 for Mac

To turn Focused Inbox on or off in Outlook 2016 for Mac:

  1. Open your Inbox folder.
  2. Make sure the Organize tab is active on the ribbon.
  3. Click Focused Inbox to enable or disable Focused Inbox.

How to Disable or Enable Focused Inbox in Outlook Mail on the Web

To toggle Focused Inbox in Outlook Mail on the Web:

  1. Click the settings gear icon (⚙️).
  2. Open the  Display settings category.
  1. Now go to the  Focused Inbox tab.
  2. To enable Focused Inbox, make sure  Sort messages into Focused Inbox is selected under  When email is received:.
    To disable Focused Inbox, make sure Don't sort messages is selected instead.
  3. Click  OK .

How Does Outlook Decide Which Emails to Put in the Focused Inbox?

For any email you receive, Outlook takes into account a number of factors to see whether it is worthy of Focused Inbox treatment. These include:

  • Previous training for similar emails.
    Example: If you have moved an email from a newsletter to Focused Inbox, future messages from the same newsletter will appear under Focused Inbox automatically.
    Note: See below for how you can train your Focused Inbox.
     
  • People you have emailed in the past.
    Example: You have sent numerous messages to a client; a new message from their email address automatically appears under Focused.
    Tip: You can override this for individual emails or the contact in general by training your Focused Inbox. (See below.)
     
  • People in your Outlook Contacts.
    Example: a marketer asked you to add them to your address book, which you did to avoid having their messages treated as junk; now, their emails appear on the Focused tab.
     
  • Known newsletters, mailing lists, and transactional emails or notifications.
    Example: Updates about the Facebook page you set up for your side business appear under Other.

    How Can I Move Emails and Train Outlook Focused Inbox?

    Did you spot an important email under Other, or are an insignificant newsletter's mailings clogging your Focused Inbox?

    Don't worry; rescuing any message from Other is as easy as training Outlook Focused Inbox not to classify a newsletter under Focused.

    Note : Any rule you create while moving messages will apply only to future messages; emails from the same sender already classified under  Focused or  Other will remain there.
    Tip: You can always reverse a rule by moving the message in the opposite direction and setting up the opposite rule.

    To move emails in Outlook 2016 for Windows:

    1. Click on the message you want to move with the right mouse button.
    2. Decide whether you want to create a rule for future messages from the same sender:

      To move the message without setting up a rule:
      Select  Move to Other to classify the email as non-focused.
      Select  Move to Focused to mark the individual email as important enough for Focused Inbox.

      To classify the message and set up a rule that automatically classifies messages from the same address in the same manner:
      Select  Always Move to Other to move to the  Other tab and create a rule.
      Select  Always Move to Focused to classify as focused and train Focused Inbox for the sender.

    To move emails in Outlook 2016 for Mac:

    1. Highlight the email you want to move in the inbox.
    2. Make sure the Home tab is active and expanded on the ribbon.
    3. To move the message to the  Other tab, click  Move to Other.
      To classify as important and focused, select  Move to Focused.
    4. Decide whether you want to train Outlook Focused Inbox for future messages from the same sender:

      To just re-classify the message without creating a rule, select  Move to Other or  Move to Focused again, respectively.

      To move the message and also train Focused Inbox for the sender, select Always Move to Other or  Always Move to Focused.

    To move emails in Outlook Mail on the Web:

    1. Open the message you want to move in your Outlook Mail on the Web inbox.
      Note : You can also check multiple messages in the inbox to move them in one step; this will not let you set up sender rules, though, it just moves the emails.
    1. Click  Move to in the toolbar.
    2. Decide whether you want to have all future emails from the same address treated like you are treating the selected one:

      To move the email without creating an Outlook Focused Inbox rule:
      Select  Move to Other inbox from the menu to classify the message as not important (or urgent) enough for Focused Inbox.
      Select  Move to Focused Inbox to put the message on the Focused tab.

      To classify the message and set up a rule for the sender:
      Select  Always Move to Other inbox to move the email to  Other and train Focused Inbox for future emails from the same sender explicitly.
      Select Always Move to Focused Inbox to

    To move emails in Outlook for iOS:

    1. Open the message you want to move.
      Note : You cannot select and move more than one message (or conversation) at a time.
    2. Tap the three dots (•••) menu button.
    3. To classify the message as other (not focused), select  Move to Other Inbox from the menu that has appeared.
      To move the message to the focused inbox (from other), select  Move to Focused Inbox from the menu.
    4. Decide whether to train Focused Inbox for future messages from the same sender:
      To set up a rule for future emails, select  Always Move.
      To just move this message as an exception without setting up a rule, select  Move Once.

    To move emails in Outlook for Android:

    1. Open or select the email you want to move.
      Tip : To move more than one message in one go, tap and hold one in the inbox, then tap all other messages you want to move.
      Note: If you move more than one message, you will not get the chance to set up rules for the emails' senders.
    1. Tap the three dots () menu button.
    2. To move the message or messages to the Other (not focused) inbox tab, select  Move to Non-Focused Inbox from the menu.
      To classify the message or messages as focused, select Move to Focused Inbox from the menu.
    3. Decide whether you want to train Outlook Focused Inbox:
      Select  Move this and all future messages to have Outlook create a rule for future email from the same sender.
      Select  Move this message only to move the email without setting up a rule.

    Will Focused Inbox Synchronize across Computers, Devices, and the Web?

    Yes, the contents of your Focused Inbox and tabs will synchronize.

    You will always see the same messages in your Focused Inbox in Outlook Mail on the Web, Outlook for Windows or Mac and the Outlook apps for iOS and Android. If you use Mail for Windows 10, you will see the same Focused Inbox there as well.

    Can I Have Focused Inbox Enabled in One Place and Disabled in Another?

    Yes, all installations of Outlook and Outlook Mail on the Web let you enable Focused Inbox independently. If you turn off Focused Inbox in one place, it will not automatically be disabled with other installations—and vice versa.

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