How to View Mail Grouped by Conversation Thread in Outlook

Outlook can collect messages in a conversation from multiple days and folders, and display them all together.

Not All That Is Scattered Is Lost

Instead of hunting down all messages belonging to a conversation in multiple folders (Inbox, archive, Sent Mail and what not), you can have Outlook do the organizing and read together messages that belong together.

View Mail Grouped by Conversation Thread in Outlook

To see mail arranged by conversation in Outlook:

  1. Go to the View tab in the main Outlook window's ribbon.

    View menu in Outlook
  2. Make sure Show as Conversations is checked in the Messages (or Conversations) area.

  3. To enable conversation view for the current folder only:

    Click This folder under Show messages arranged by conversation in:.

    Microsoft Outlook dialog for grouping messages by conversations
  4. To apply conversation view to all your Outlook folders immediately:

Click All mailboxes instead.

Include Your Sent Mail (and Other Folders) in Conversations

To have Outlook not only group messages in the same folder but draw from other folders—including Sent Items:

  1. Make sure the View ribbon is selected and expanded in Outlook.

  2. Click Conversation Settings in the Messages area.

    Conversation Settings in Outlook
  3. Make sure Show Messages from Other Folders is checked.

Select Show Messages from Other Folders​ in the menu if it is not.

Show Messages from Other Folders in Outlook

How Does Conversation View Work?

Now, conversations will show an arrow next to their left in the message list. Click the arrow to expand and collapse threads.

Unread messages appear bold; any collapsed conversation with at least one unread message will appear bolded, too.

To streamline conversations, you can have Outlook remove redundant, quoted messages; for irrelevant threads, Outlook can also delete future messages automatically.

Other Conversation View Settings

The Conversation Settings menu has a few more choices:

  • Show Senders Above the Subject has Outlook display From: names first followed by the email's Subject lines in a thread; with this option off, Subject lines are atop senders.
  • Always Expand Selected Conversation will make Outlook explode, in the message list, the list of all emails in a conversation as soon as you open the conversation.
  • Use Classic Indented View has Outlook display, in the message list, threads in a list that has replies indented below the messages they answer; with this option off, threads are shown as a flat list.

"Show as Conversations" Is Grayed Out. What Can I Do?

Outlook can group by thread only when the folder's emails are sorted by date. If they are arranged any other way, Show as Conversations will be grayed out and unavailable to check.

To make Show as Conversations available:

  1. If you have customized the view—and message sorting, especially—and might want to return to it later easily:

    • Click Change View in the View ribbon's Current View area.
    Change View button in Outlook
    • Select Save Current View As a New View… from the menu that has appeared.
    Set Current View As a New View... menu in Outlook
    • Enter a name that will help you recognize the view's settings.
    • Click OK.
  2. Click Arrange By in the View ribbon's Arrangement section.

  3. Select Date from the menu that has appeared.

    Arrange by Date (Conversations) menu item in Outlook

Now, you should be able to check and use Show as Conversations as described above.

(Updated May 2016, tested with Outlook 2016)