Keep Outlook Emails as Unread until after you actually read them

By standss Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

For big parts of my day my Outlook Inbox is where I work. I read many of my emails in the Outlook reading pane (the preview of the email while I am still in my Inbox). I also use the fact that unread emails still need some action from me. The problem is that as I step through emails, they get marked as having been read, even though I may not have actually read them.

Here’s a setting that one of my team member (Thank you Anand) pointed out to me that you can quickly change… now Outlook will only mark an email as read if you’ve spent a minimum time on it.

I’ve set mine to 5 seconds. That way if I am on an email for less than 5 seconds it stays unread. Anything longer than 5 seconds and Outlook assumes that I have read the email. You can use any time setting that fits the way you work.

For Outlook 2016/2013/2010:

  • Click on File > Options
  • Click on Mail from the left side column
  • Click on the Reading Pane button on the right
  • On the Reading Pane dailog box, tick the checkbox for “Mark items as read when viewed in the Reading Pane
  • Enter a time in the box beside “Wait XX seconds before making item as read”
  • Click OK and than OK again

For Outlook 2007/2003:

  • Click Tools on the menu > Options…
  • Click the Other tab
  • Click on the Reading Pane… button
  • On the Reading Pane dailog box, tick the checkbox for “Mark items as read when viewed in the Reading Pane
  • Enter a time in the box beside “Wait XX seconds before making item as read”
  • Click OK and than OK again

I hope that this little tip makes your life in Outlook a little bit easier.

Categories : Outlook Email Tips

19 thoughts on “Keep Outlook Emails as Unread until after you actually read them

  1. My users are encouraged not to use Preview Pane. Many of today’s virus’ and malware are now smart enought to execute by sensing preview Pane. The risk is just not worth it.

  2. Have you found a way to keep an email unread even after opening it, until you choose to close it?

    I thought i remembered this feature prior to Outlook 2010 (where you configured to mark it read immediately after opening, or only upon closing) …. through various changes in OS, laptops, and MS versions, my companys outlook goes through waves where it crashes constantly, and all my open emails are set to read at that moment, and I lose visibility (set to read) when outlook restarts. I get 150 email a day, so remembering which were open at the time is daunting ….If i could keep them marked unread until i closed them, it would help.

  3. Thank you! Had hard drive replaced & could not figure out how to keep messages from being read as I scrolled through them. A++

  4. Thanks for the information about how to keep outlook emails as unread until I actually read them.
    I discovered a correction to the settings you recommended.

    For Outlook 2007/2003:
    Click Tools on the menu > Options…
    Click the Other tab
    Click on the Reading Pane… button
    On the Reading Pane dailog box, UNCHECK the checkbox for “Mark item as read when selection changes“
    Click OK and than OK again

  5. Thanks for saving me a lot of time.
    I like the fact that you separate instructions, based on the version of Outlook being used.

  6. I have a similar issue with one of my customers but it’s a little more tricky and I dont even know if this is possible in Outlook 2010.

    Jane Doe receives emails into her inbox and would like to mark them as read when she passes over them, she also has access to a shared mailbox which is used by her team, the emails in here she would like to remain unread until someone has taken repsonsibility for the request.

    Is it possible to setup different reading rules in Outlook for multiple mailboxes?

    Thank you – oh this is OUtlook 2010 and Exchange server 2010.

  7. THANKS! I got a new computer, and this was driving me crazy. Am SO glad to be able to leave my unread messages showing as unread. Much appreciated!!

  8. Thanks. Just got a new computer and this was driving me mental! Seems no one else I work with caressing I guess I work differently to others!

  9. I do not get any of this? An email is either READ or NOT READ and time setting has nothing to do with it. If I read the email in 5 seconds or 10 hours it should not matter. The email should be marked as READ only when I exit the viewing pane. OUTLOOK seems to be illogical about this setting since it insists in marking my Emails as read AFTER 8 MINUTES (GOD KNOWS WHY!) I cannot find a setting to turn this stupid thing OFF! Any tips would be appreciated.

  10. The setting is actually very useful. For example if you move down a list of emails in your Inbox and just glance at them for a few seconds, you probably don’t want them to be marked as unread. Many users skim through emails and deal with the urgent ones and then come back to the others later.

  11. The Outlook 2010 steps work on Outlook 2013 also :-)

    I set the seconds to be 999 which appeared to be the maximum value permitted.

  12. I absolutely agree with Robert. In Thunderbird for example, the status does not change until you manually leave the message. Note that the software can still change the status after a set time period; it just shouldn’t apply it and move automatically to the next message. The Microsoft engineers didn’t think this through. Perhaps we can encourage a more sensible approach with the Office 2016 beta versions.

  13. Or…. They can try to format and group it similar to Gmail with unread at the top until you read them with whatever rule you set up as qualifying as “read”.

    I tried doing this with a separate window open and searching unread messages, but they would keep disappearing after 5 seconds and then select the next one in line!

    When you have a backlog of projects, it is difficult to track the un-reads when they are 40-100 messages down the list!

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