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First look at Microsoft's 'Focused Inbox' feature for Windows 10 Mail, now in limited testing

While many of the "big" features for Windows 10 Creator's Update have been revealed, there are many smaller bits that will still delight many that we haven't seen yet. One of those is Focused Inbox, which has been on iOS and Android for some time already. To be fair, Microsoft bought Acompli in late 2014 who originally had the feature and the company has been rebranding and merging it with Outlook for some time now.

All of that is about to change, however, as Microsoft is now "A/B testing" the Focused Inbox feature for Windows 10, finally. Put into layman terms that mean some users – even on Production – have the feature right now while most you do not.

Focused Inbox as spotted by @zool_hilmi who also puts the Start menu on top (shudder)

So far, two users have separately reported the feature. One of those is @zool_hilmi on Twitter, and the other was tipped to us by Debjyoti G. The version of the app is v17.7903.40527.0, which is the same as the one released for Production. This rollout is similar to how some users have the new Share icon in Photos while most do not.

Focused Inbox works on an algorithm that detects frequently used contacts that you respond to often and do not fit the criteria of newsletter format. Focused inbox also pulls in the new "Reminder" feature based on Cortana that can put an email in your inbox based on commitments you have made to others.

The implementation is as expected. In the standard Inbox header, there is now a second pane labeled Focused. Tapping it reveals your prioritized emails and reminders making it easier to manage.

Focused Inbox with light theme tipped to us by Debjyoti G.

Going by Microsoft's past practice, we should be hearing about this feature rolling out to Insiders in the coming weeks for everyone to test out. The feature is expected to arrive on Mobile as well although so far, we have not seen it just yet.

Combined with the new colored contact circles and Windows 10 Mail should be a substantial upgrade from the current version.

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

95 Comments
  • Hopefully it has an off button for people who just want simple black and white
  • There's a toggle to turn this off in Settings -> Reading
  • ? Where's that?
  • Settings > Customization > There is "Light", "Dark" and "Use system mode"
  • I got the feature yesterday and I was able to turn it off.
  • I got the feature yesterday, thankfully I dont use the mail app.....
  • I don't get you... why did you even comment..
  • Already have that since several months..
  • Ya, I've been using this on my android phone for a while. It's ok. Just a filter. Now you have junk, focused and regular to search through.
  • I meant already have that on PC, so much ab testing
  • Similar here. I thought it was something that everyone who was on the insider fast ring had. Been using this for a while, and so far it seems to be doing a fairly good job of throwing unimportant stuff into the "other" category.
  • I turned focused inbox on Android immediately and did the same when it showed up on my PC. Now if I could somehow turn off the junk filter where 90% of the emails aren't junk
  • Can you find out if they will allow you to add graphics to your signature file? It is ridiculous that the program still lacks this feature.
  • Not really. The app is a more casual version of Outlook. You want proper functionality, use the full Outlook app.
  • Correct answer would be no, not not really.
  • Correct answer would be "what's that got to do with this article?".
  • I guess it depends on what you call "proper" and "casual".  I could put graphics into my signature file back in the old days with Outlook Express and even hotmail.  I can still do it in GMail.  In fact, the only place I don't think I can do it, is in Mail.  If I'm not mistaken the OS version of Apple's mail program allows this. Outlook "proper" also can't handle Google Apps calendar/contact management, while Mail does.  Which is more casual and which has proper functionality.   I tend to agree with brocktoon73 that a signature with graphics in it, is something that should be included in Mail...like every other "proper" email management software out there, including web-based, "casual" ones. 
  • I have it! Aren't I special! Got to say, I wondered how an email became part of focused or not. Anyway... Can someone give a little more info on A/B testing beyond what's shown in the article, reposted here: ". . . Microsoft is now "A/B testing" the Focused Inbox feature for Windows 10, finally. Put into layman terms that mean[s] some users – even on Production – have the feature right now while most [of] you do not."
  • It's a mystery. It's the same app version as Production, so it's not that. It may be something they turn on remotely, however. Same with Photos and the new Share icon.
  • Dan, I just sent you this tip. The Focused Inbox won't show if you have accounts that are linked. Once I unlinked by Outlook and Gmail accounts, I got the new Focused Inbox.
  • I don't have any linked inboxes and I still don't have Focused Inbox. It tells me it's not available for any of the accounts I use.
  • You still need to be part of the test. I just meant that more people may not even know they're eligible because it won't pop up and tell you.
  • Saw the tip. I've had the pop up weeks ago but it's still not showing as an option for me in settings.
  • Hey Dan,   its all connected to your outlook.com mail online if you got the message then you have to first login to your outlook.com mail fand click the filter at the top and you should see the focus as an option select it then onpen the mail app and it will sync down to it.. i have had this for several weeks now..
  • I think it's really just that: A switch. If you pay attention closely (and your PC isn't super powerful and fast), focused shows up for a second and then disappears while the Mail app loads sometimes (at least on my Atom-powered Lenovo 2in1). And I don't have the feature yet.
  • Usually A/B testing means they roll out some features to products that users don't use as heavily. For example, the new web Outlook interface didn't come for users that received/sent mail or interacted with the service as heavily as to not disrupt heavy users. Another recent example would be Firefox 48, which introduced multithreading, but only to users which used the browser as it came stock, without UI modifications, settings meddling or addons. Then the multithreading functionality came to more users in time, first to those who only used a few addons or UI tweaks, then to everyone else.
  • Well i had the focused inbox for about 2months now and got the new share button two fast ring builds ago
  • Shoulda told someone then :P
  • Taksbar on top master race!
  • What adding sweep, window pane options,empty folder to right click and tasks? They would be great additions. It's nice to see new features coming along.
  • I saw this in my mail app back in December when I opened it, but it went away after I closed Mail :(
  • I have "focused inbox" in my reading section of the settings as well. But it says "this setting can't be applied to any of your accounts." I do have an Outlook account that I don't use all that much, but I also have a linked inbox. So maybe that's why.
  • I don't have any linked inboxes but I do still get the message you say.
  • You have to link the inboxes yourself in the settings. I have my Outlook and Gmail accounts linked together. But I get the same message about the focuses inboxes not being available yet.
  • No, I do know how to link the inboxes together, I just meant that I hadn't linked any. ^^ My argument was that the linked inbox probably had nothing to do with focused inbox not being available yet.
  • Same.
  • Thanks Cryio.
  • Thanks Cryio.
  • Does anyone actually like the focused inbox? Maybe I just dont get that much mail. I never used it when I tried Android. I was always afraid I would miss important stuff.
  • It has a toggle to disable IIRC.
  • Yeah, its easy enough to ignore. I just dont see who this helps. I'd be curious to hear from people who like it.
  • I get tons of emails and I don't like the focused inbox feature. I'm sure its good for some people, but there's not enough rhythm to my emails for their algorithms.
  • I've got it on Android Outlook app and I have to say I don't like it much but I can see it's uses and I think for some people it will actually be a great feature. I prefer folders and move rules because I don't have many senders to really take notice of it's easy to manage and I don't need to wait for the algorithm to "learn" my usage patterns
  • And now if they only could fix the "Send your messages using this name"-setting for non-Microsoft email accounts. Windows 10 Mail and the Outlook app are unusable for me and loads of other people and have been for months.. :/ Edit: Do the downvote mean that you don't want the bug to be fixed after almost a year?
  • I will trade focused inbox for emailing to Contact Groups.
  • For people not seeing this, it's actually apart of the last update. It only supports Outlook accounts right now so if you have Linked Accounts you will not see the focus option at all.
  • How to install creators update?
  • Wait for it to be released ;) (Or join the Windows Insider programme)
  • Does anyone know how to change the ordering of the account in the left pane in Outlook Mail? (If possible, without removing the current account and readding them in the order that you want.) For example, right now I have Outlook - Yahoo - Gmail, but I want to change to Outlook - Gmail - Yahoo.
  • Link the mailboxes. Then unlink them one by one. :) It's a bit tricky if you have many accounts, but since you only have 3 it should be a breeze. :)
  • Thanks man, it works like a charm! As a bonus, although the Focused Inbox feature has yet to come to me, when I linked the accounts, the app showed "Focused Inbox isn't currently available for all accounts you selected. If you link them, email won't be separated into Focused and Other in the linked inbox." Which basically means that they are really preparing this feature. So excited!
  • Cool! Will check it out here too. Thanks for the tip :)
  • One more thing. The Outlook Mail in my Windows 10 Desktop (both in a laptop and a tablet) works wonders. The Outlook Mail in my Windows 10 Mobile phone, however, has stopped receiving emails in the last month or so. When I press the sync button, it will show "Hold on while we fetch your email", followed shortly by "Nothing has arrived yet.". I believe that the app is in its latest version in production, i.e. Version 17.7903.40528.0. Do you have any suggestions?
  • Meh, I'll switch it off if it comes to my device.
  • Focused inbox on tablet but won't work on pc or phone. Same build and outlook account.
  • It's not about the app at all, the production app has had this feature for months (settings-->reading). It is definitely linked to whether the feature is enabled on your outlook.com account.
  • how do you enable this focused inbox on outlook.com account?
  • They enable it for you at their own discretion.
  • Circular contact icons is uninspiring. Square icons for contacts looks good with the rectangular tiles on windows 10.
  • To each their own I guess. At the beginning of Windows 10 I thought exactly the way you did, but now the circular contact icons kind of grow on me.
  • I thinks users should have an option to choose these basic aspects of OS.
  • Is the functionality different from "Clutter" on Office 365 Mail?
  • This actually works fairly decent on my iOS devices and my work email. I get about 30-40 emails a day and focused inbox is pretty accurate
  • What I still find odd on the Windows Mobile version of Outlook is that you still can't get the animated emails. Lots of ads from retailers will send an email with animation that shows several things featured (Victoria Secret) for instance. It works as intended on the Android version of Outlook but there is no way to even enable it in the Windows version. Odd.
  • I think this continues to be an issue because for whatever reason, Microsoft is using the Word rendering engine to compose/display emails. They claim it's far superior too, and yet formatting seems often wonky or lacking (like GIF support).
  • I got version 17.7906.42258.0 of the Mail app on my 640XL slow ring, but still I don't see any colored circle. Anyone else has this issue?
  • The only thing I need so much is how to mark spam. I got plenty of spam mails on it.
  • Blocking spam or marking them as phishing seems to do little to stop them as they change address all the time. So whether you use Outlook.com on the web or the Mail app, just bung them in the junk mail folder they get automatically deleted after a week or two. Also both the app and web version send info back to MS about the junk mail you have received.
  • Its really not intuitive and the first thing to do is turn it off. So annoying.
  • Categories and Sweep actions. All I want.
  • This is an eternal feature of the Outlook app in iOS and Android, so I don't understand the excitement.
  • The excitement is that it's coming to Windows as well.
  • And this is something to be sad about, not excited about!
  • I like the idea of it, but it really just makes me ignore the others even more than usual.
  • I'm not a fan of my email clients adding grey areas for important messages to slip through the cracks. At least Microsoft has always been good about giving you the option to use these things or not to use them. Gmail automatically filters messages and causes a lot of issues for me at work.
  • Focused Inbox appears in the settings but it says cannot be applied to any of my accounts.
  • hh
  • Can anyone confirm if they've fixed the years-old-by-now Reply-To bug, where reply-to headers are completely ignored by W10 Mail?  (Phone, specifically)
  • Outlook on ios and android is pretty nice.  Though on my surface book i dont want the focused inbox, just regular mail.  
  • I got it a day or so ago. I thought everyone got it at the same time
  • I tried this on my iPhone. It was hiding important emails. At least you can shut this "feature" off. I found it totally useless
  • Yeah, first thing I do when I install Outlook for Android. It does the same thing to me. It just makes emails harder to find.
  • This has been a feature on Outlook for Android for a while. Can't for it to be in Outlook on my Surface Pro. 
  • I got the focused in box feature Thursday.
  • Oh! It's me. I've been placing start menu on the top since Windows XP. 
  • It's an old and battered sentiment but I will repeat it again...MS, please don't break our hearts by letting others have your goodies before us, we are with you through thick and thin 😭😭😭.
  • I still havent been upgraded on outlook.com
  • I've had this feature on my Android phone for the longest time. Nice to see it in the Windows 10 mail client I find if I hit refrest while other is selected it never updates but if i do the same thing under focused it updates immediately.
  • it was mentioned above that you need to setup focused inbox in outlook.com settings in order for the feature to work in mail, for myself even though I have been updated to the new outlook.com the feature is not available, it should be listed under settings/display settings - here is a link https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Focused-Inbox-for-Outlook-f445a...
  • One of my Hotmail accounts got it last week, I did nothing to get it. I use mail and outlook equally on all my machines, but usually mail for reading and archiving mail as it is easier than outlook.
  • So "Other" is the new "normal"/regular inbox?
  • Just received the update today and it says none of my email accounts work with Focused Inbox. Funny thing is those same accounts use Focused Inbox just fine in Outlook for iOS.
  • Hi! Is it still like that? Same for me but maybe you already got some update or just was unlocked with that option?
  • I got it as well now. Mail app version 17.7922.42017.0 on Anniversary update (build 14393.xxx)