How to Turn Off the Outlook Message Preview (Reading Pane)

Step-by-step Instructions

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What is it about Outlook and its reading pane? That reading or preview pane is nice and pretty and helpful but if you don't want it, you don't need to keep it. There are two ways to turn it off: by default and by all folders.

Note: The View menu lets you turn off the Reading Pane easily (for the current folder only), and only for that session. To turn the reading pane off in every folder, you have to manually turn it off in each.

How to Turn Off the Outlook Reading Pane by Default

To disable the reading pane in the default folder views make sure you are in a local or IMAP Inbox folder. Outlook uses different default views for POP and IMAP accounts. If you want to change both, do the process once for each kind of account.

In Outlook 2016

  1. Select Manage Views from the menu.

  2. Select Change Views.

  3. Make sure the View ribbon is active.

In Outlook 2007

Select View > Current View > Define Views from the menu.

Then (for Both)

  1. Highlight Messages or IMAP Messages.

  2. Select Modify.

  3. Now select Other Settings.

  4. Make sure Off is selected under Reading Pane.

  5. Select OK.

  6. Select OK again.

    You can now change the Reading Pane setting for other views as well, of course. Remember that IMAP accounts use a different default message view (called IMAP Messages only accessible from an IMAP account.

  7. Select Close.

It is possible for software updates or Outlook add-ons to reset the default folder views to their factory settings (with the preview pane enabled). 

Turn Off the Outlook Reading Pane by Default at Startup

To disable Outlook's preview pane for all folders (regardless of account type, default views or folder settings) at start-up:

  1. Open the folder that contains OUTLOOK.EXE in Windows Explorer. A typical location for Outlook 2007 is "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE."

    If you cannot find Outlook at this or a similar (say, "Office11" for Outlook 2003) location, try searching for "OUTLOOK.EXE."

  2. Open the Start or Windows menu.

  3. Select All Programs with the right mouse button.

  4. Select Explore from the menu that comes up.

  5. Drag and drop OUTLOOK.EXE from its folder to the Programs folder inside the start menu folder.

  6. Double-click the Programs folder to which you have just dragged Outlook.

  7. Select OUTLOOK - Shortcut with the right mouse button.

  8. Select Properties from the menu.

  9. Go to the Shortcut tab.

  10. Append " /nopreview" (not including the quotation marks) to what is in the Target field.

    Note the white-space character.

    If the Target field contains "C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE", for example, make sure it reads '"C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\OUTLOOK.EXE" /nopreview' (not including the outer quotation marks) after editing.

  11. Optionally, go to the General tab and change the shortcut's name from the default OUTLOOK - Shortcut.

  12. Select OK.

  13. Make sure you use the newly created All Programs entry to launch Outlook with the reading pane turned off for all folders.