Outlook: Moving up or down?

It’s been a few months since I posted, and I’m emerging from my technology sabbatical. Fall quarter is in full-swing; it’s time to share what’s new.

It’s often the day-to-day kinds of activities where a little change can make a big difference. My focus in this post will be changing a default setting in Outlook that affects the order in which Outlook shows you messages.

Outlook assumes that you want to start reading the most recent message first. After deleting or filing the first message, Outlook takes you to an earlier message.

But that’s not how I read my messages. I start with the earliest one I haven’t read and then move forward in time toward the most recent message.

If I had no other mail in my inbox, it wouldn’t be a problem. However, mail I haven’t decided what to do with yet stays in my inbox until I have time to get to it. For instance, in the example I’m using, I may begin reading with the email marked with the arrow below.

After I delete or file that message, Outlook automatically takes me to the message below it. But I’ve already read that message. I want to move to the one above it. To do that, I have to use the arrow keys or the mouse to navigate. Or I can change Outlook’s default setting so that it moves up instead of down.

In Outlook, go to the File tab and select Options. Click Mail. Scroll down to the very bottom of the screen. In the dropdown menu, select “open the previous item.”

Click OK.

Now when you delete or file email messages, Outlook will automatically advance to the next most recent item.









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40 thoughts on “Outlook: Moving up or down?

  1. Hey Sue, This works fine if you first double click on the first message to OPEN it. However, not if you just preview it in the preview pane. Is there anyway to force this to happen if you preview the message and file/delete it, but NOT OPEN it? Thanks.

  2. VS, I usually read my mail in the preview pane. With this changed setting, if I delete or file the message, Outlook automatically moves me up to the next most recent email message. I don’t have to fully open the message to get it to work. It’s not working for you?

  3. This is exactly how i read my messages and was looking for a way to make this change. My only problem is I have outlook 11 for MAC. I cannot figure out how to make this change in my outlook. Can you help?

  4. Outlook for Mac feels like a downgrade from Entourage in many ways. I understand in others it is an upgrade (though I’ve noticed very little). Thankfully, I’ve integrated my Exchange into Mac Mail/Address Book/iCal but my manager has yet to do that and I have a feeling he won’t like the fact that it’s not possible in Outlook 2011 yet.

  5. Thanks so much! This would’ve taken forever to find in Outlook help, but thanks to you I found and solved it quickly.

  6. Sue, I have got Outlook 2011 and it doesn’t have options in file tab? So I cannot get this done. Do you know why? Thank you Yvonne

  7. Sue – we read emails in the same order!! IT just replaced my 8yr old machine (obviously I work in higher ed if I was using an 8 yr old computer) and now all my settings need to be changed. THanks for providing easy to use directions!!!

  8. There are only two types of people in the world. Those who read their email oldest first and those who read it newest first. Obviously those in the former category are the best. But I can tolerate my brethren in the latter category.

    Congratulations on your new computer! Windows 7-new or Windows-8 new?

  9. Insane that this “feature” was removed from Office 2011. How hard/complicated can it be?? I cannot ever every understand why “upgrades” remove features that we had in the past! >:(

  10. Thanks so much. I recently upgraded to Office 2013 and it does take a while to get things they way you want them on all these programs. I quick internet search and then a reader-friendly answer is a great thing to find !

  11. Thank you! This has been annoying me since I changed jobs a few weeks ago and was forced to change from Mac to Windows. Now if only my hideous HP could become a Macbook Air…

  12. Congratulations on the new job! I’m glad I could eliminate once annoyance. =)

    To change from your HP to a Macbook Air, try waving your fingers over it while eating an apple and silently chanting “Steve Jobs.” Let me know if that works.

  13. Yes, I looked at that question and looked over it.

    Thank you for explaining what it all means.

  14. Every time I get a new MS Office install I have to look this tiny preference up because I miss it in the Outlook options. Every time! So, thanks for the quick reminder.

  15. My problem is that I can only read the most recently received message. I cannot access earlier messages without deleting the more recent ones. Clearly a problem when trying to reread kept emails.

  16. I have Outlook 2007 but Options is not under the File tab. What do I need to do to have my cursor move up instead of down?

  17. Thank you for these clear step-by-step directions. This issue has bugged me from the time our office started using Outlook. I am thrilled to undo this annoyance. Again, Thanks! From Amy Schutzer at the Law Office of Sheldon S. Aronson

  18. It’s the little things that make a difference – this is a great tip, thank you.

  19. I just upgraded (well changed from) Entourage to Outlook 2016 for Mac. This absolutely drives me crazy too but I can’t find “Option” anywhere. Please don’t tell me I can’t do this is Outlook 2016 for Mac either.

  20. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news… But I’m pretty sure Macs don’t have this option.

  21. I use Outlook for Mac, too, and would like to change this very behavior! My hopes soared when I came across the article and then crashed when I couldn’t find the setting!!! Wow…what a difference it would make for me to be able to change this!

  22. On a mac, you could mimic this behavior by using the “Oldest On Top” setting under the View –> Arrange By menu.

    Now if you delete a mail item, the focus goes to the next (newer) mail message.

  23. Yeah, I get that. That means that the oldest is on top not the newest, which is the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here. 🙂

  24. Know what’s amazing to me? These instructions are still accurate 8 years later.

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