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How to use Focused Inbox in Outlook

In Outlook, Focused Inbox is a feature that uses machine learning to control the overflow of emails by analyzing incoming messages and placing the most important emails in the "Focused" tab, while the rest go to the "Other" tab.

The feature is available for all Outlook.com, Live.com, Hotmail.com, and Exchange users through the web portal, using the desktop version of Outlook included with Office, or using the default Mail app available with Windows 10.

In this Windows 10 guide, we walk you through the steps to get started and manage the Focused Inbox feature included in the Outlook app or on the web.

How to enable or disable Focused Inbox in Outlook desktop app

If you're using Outlook 2019, Outlook 2016, or Outlook from Office 365 (opens in new tab), you can manage Focused Inbox using the instructions below.

Enabling Focused Inbox

To enable automatic sorting of messages, use these steps:

  1. Open Outlook.
  2. Click on the View tab.
  3. Click the Show Focused Inbox button.

Once you complete these steps, the "Focused" and "Other" tabs will appear in the Inbox column.

Disabling Focused Inbox

To disable Focused Inbox in the desktop version of Outlook, use these steps:

  1. Open Outlook.
  2. Click on the View tab.
  3. Click the Show Focused Inbox button.

After completing the steps, the changes will revert to the original settings, and you'll once again be able to switch between the "All" and "Unread" tabs from the Inbox section.

How to enable or disable Focused Inbox in Mail app

If you don't have an Office 365 subscription, and you use the default Mail app included with Windows 10, you can enable or disable Focused Inbox using the instructions below.

Enabling Focused Inbox

To enable Focused Inbox in the Windows 10 Mail app, use these steps:

  1. Open Mail.
  2. Click on the Settings (gear) button in the bottom-right corner.
  3. Click on Focused inbox in the right pane.

  1. Use the drop-down menu and select the account you want to configure.
  2. Turn on the Sort messages into Focused and Other toggle switch.

After you complete these steps, the Inbox section will sort the most important messages in the "Focused" tab, while the emails that seem to be irrelevant will appear in the "Other" tab.

Disabling Focused Inbox

In the case that you don't find Focused Inbox useful in the default Mail app, you can disable it using these steps:

  1. Open Mail.
  2. Click on the Settings (gear) button in the bottom-right corner.
  3. Click on Focused inbox in the right pane.

  1. Use the drop-down menu and select the account you want to configure.
  2. Turn off the Sort messages into Focused and Other toggle switch.

Once you've completed the steps, the Inbox will show all the messages as they arrive.

How to enable or disable Focused Inbox in Outlook web

If you use the web version of Outlook, it's also possible to enable or disable Focused Inbox in your account.

Enabling Focused Inbox

To enable Focused Inbox in your Outlook account, use these steps:

  1. Open Outlook web.
  2. Sign-in with your Microsoft account.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button in the top-right corner.
  4. Turn on the Focused Inbox toggle switch.

After completing the steps, the Inbox will sort incoming messages in the "Focused" or "Other" tab depending on their importance.

Disabling Focused Inbox

To disable automatic email sorting in Outlook.com, use this steps:

  1. Open Outlook web.
  2. Sign-in with your Microsoft account.
  3. Click the Settings (gear) button in the top-right corner.
  4. Turn off the Focused Inbox toggle switch.

Once you complete these steps, Focused Inbox will no longer be available in your account, and all your messages will appear without any smart sorting.

How to use Focused Inbox in Outlook

Although the instructions to set up Focused Inbox are slightly different depending on your experience of Outlook, the feature works virtually the same on every environment.

Once the feature is enabled, you'll notice two new tabs in the Inbox section, including the "Focused" and "Other".

The Focused tab includes the emails that Outlook understands are the most important to you using machine learning. The emails that you'll find in this tab will consist of those emails from work, contacts, people you interact frequently, and other emails that the feature detects as important.

On the other hand, the Other tab includes the less important emails, such as newsletters, advertisements, automatically generated messages, and bulk emails.

While this feature to sort messages is convenient, it's not a perfect system, and you have to train it to improve its accuracy. For example, if new emails arrive and they're sorted incorrectly, in the Focused tab you can right-click the message and select one of the two options:

  • Move to Other — Relocates the email to the Other tab, but future emails from the same sender may continue to arrive in the Focused tab.
  • Always Move to Other — Moves the messages to the Other tab, and future messages will appear in the Other tab.

In the same way, while in the Other tab, you can select the Moved to Focused option when you only want to move one email. Or you can select the Always Move to Focused option if you want future emails from the same address to be available through the Focused tab.

If you're using the web version of Outlook, you need to right-click the email and select the Move submenu to find the options.

Also, because it can be easy to forget to check the Other tab, the Focused tab will show you a message at the top of the column informing you of the emails that have been sorted as less important.

We're focusing this guide on users who access their emails with a Windows 10 device, but Focused Inbox is also available for the mobile version of Outlook for Android and iOS, and it's available for the macOS version of Outlook, as well.

More Windows 10 resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

12 Comments
  • Personally, I haven't found Focused anything useful. Half the time the important email I'm looking for is elsewhere. Nicely detailed article though.
  • e.g. Movie ticket, hotel booking, flight, etc, are not a "today" task, so I'll leave it in the Focus group.
    Days or weeks later, I can find my booking faster than "search". Search, requires more steps than just hit the "Focus" button.
  • Same here. Every now and then Focused Inbox is mentioned but I found it equally useless as Google's Priority email.
  • I turned it off after trying it initially for a week.
  • I have found Focused email to be somewhat "meh". But now that I know how to train it, I'll see if I can get some life out of it. Thanks for the article.
  • I think it does a pretty good job. Unfortunately it only works with a Microsoft email account. I have multiple email addresses including some Yahoo addresses I use. I have been thinking of setting up new Outlook email addresses and automatically forwarding all my yahoo email to the new Outlook address. Can anyone comment if this would be the best way to accomplish this?
  • It also works with Gmail
  • Not on my system it doesn't. I have a Hotmail account, Outlook.com account, yahoo and Gmail account configured in my Windows Mail app and it only works with the Microsoft Accounts. Which is weird because it did work with my Gmail when the Focused function first came out but it no longer does.
  • Sorry but Focused Inbox is a terrible idea that should be turned off by default for the vast majority of users who hate it. It just forces us to perform an extra click to see what’s in the other half of our Inbox. If we could 100% trust that Mail would always put all our junk there and NOT important stuff too that would be one thing. But too often it doesn’t get it right, and something important gets hidden over there. What’s more my Mail app currently crashes when I try to disable Focused Inbox since the original 1804 in Slow Ring. Have repeatedly reported this in Feedback, as well as asking them to please stop turning Focused Inbox back on with every update. But so far... crickets.
  • 👍
    The more companies are trying to do what they think is best for their consumers, and not listening what consumers actually want, the more they are going into wrong direction.
    If only all the money spent for machine learning stuff is used to create stable and software not bloated with marketing/promotional stuff... I don't need machine learning in my email client. I need stability, integration and filters - I need more control and not dependence on unreliable algorithms.
  • What a way to miss an important email!!
  • Step 1. Don't. Nah I'm sure somebody likes it.