Managing Focused Inbox in Office 365 and Outlook


Focused Inbox—focus on the emails that matter most

For many, the inbox is the command center for their day. It’s the way to keep track of what is going on and what needs to get done. Outlook’s Focused Inbox makes this process easier by helping you focus on the emails that matter most to you. It separates your inbox into two tabs—Focused and Other. Emails that matter most to you are in the Focused tab, while the rest remain easily accessible—but out of the way in the Other tab. You’ll be informed about email flowing to “Other”, and you can switch between tabs at any time to take a quick look.

For more about what makes Focused Inbox great, see Outlook helps you focus on what matters to you.

Admin controls available for Focused Inbox:

Ensure certain business critical mails land in the Focused tab.

Tenant admins will have controls to ensure certain business critical communications, like HR, Payroll, etc., always land in the user’s Focused tab of the Inbox. These whitelists can be set up using mail flow rules from the Admin center or via PowerShell cmdlets. After these are set up successfully, all future messages that satisfy these mail flow rules would be delivered in the Focused tab of the Inbox on Outlook clients that support Focused Inbox.

Tenant and mailbox level control to enable/disable Focused Inbox.

Tenant admins will have controls to enable/disable Focused Inbox on Outlook clients for all current and future mailboxes or select mailboxes in their tenant. These controls will be available via PowerShell cmdlets.

If tenant admins enable/disable Focused Inbox, the Focused Inbox experience on Outlook clients would be turned ON/OFF for these users the next time they boot the client.

These controls do not block the availability of the feature for these users. If the users so desire, they can still re-enable the feature individually again on each of their clients.

Transition from Clutter

Focused Inbox is a refinement and improvement of a previous feature called Clutter. Clutter’s purpose was also to help you focus on the most important items in your inbox, but it did so by moving “Other” email to a separate folder. Focused Inbox makes it easier for you to stay on top of incoming email without having to visit another folder.

Active Clutter users will have to opt-in to Focused Inbox and will be able to do so from an in-app prompt in Outlook. After they opt-in, they will no longer receive less important email in the “Clutter” folder. Instead, email will be split between the Focused and Other tabs in their inbox.

The same machine learned algorithm that moved items to the Clutter folder now powers Focused Inbox, meaning that any emails that were set to move to Clutter will now be moved to Other. The learning and training that users invested into Clutter would be transitioned to Focused Inbox without any effort on the user’s part.

Users can keep using the existing Clutter experience through the transition. However, after the transition period, Clutter will be completely replaced by Focused Inbox. Tenant admins would be proactively notified before this change is made.

If you have previously disabled Clutter for users in your organization, we will not automatically re-enable Clutter for those users, nor will we automatically enable Focused Inbox for those users.

Roll out of Focused Inbox

Focused Inbox will be rolled out in a staged manner in accordance with the change management policies for Office 365. The feature will be first rolled out to customers who have selected First Release cadence. Once it’s determined that feature is ready for broader audience, it will be rolled out to everyone in the service, including customers who have selected Standard Release cadence.

Updates to the stages of roll out will be announced on the Office 365 Public road map and more detailed information will be communicated closer to the roll out via the Office 365 Message Center.

Frequently asked questions:

  1. What happens to the Clutter folder after a user enables Focused Inbox?
    After Focused Inbox is enabled for a mailbox, Clutter folder would be demoted to a regular user folder. All regular user created folder operations would be supported, including delete.
  2. Could admins clean up the Clutter folder for their users without enabling Focused Inbox?
    We will enable admins to clean up the Clutter folder for their users, if they so desire. This will be supported via the current PowerShell cmdlets.
  3. Is Focused Inbox available to on-premises users?
    Focused Inbox only applies to Office 365 Exchange Online tenants and users.

The Exchange Team

Comments (43)

  1. David Green says:

    I have clutter disabled on my tenant for all users. Will I be required to run another powershell cmdlet to disable focused mailboxes?

    1. Noah Kirkus says:

      I have never heard of anyone disabling clutter on the tenant level. It has always been per user based and would enable itself no matter what.

  2. Michael says:

    Yet another unwanted forced feature that I am going to have to waste time running powershell scripts to disable for my entire tenant.

    1. Dan says:

      I actually fine if you educate your user base, many will find it amazing. I to was not a fan of Clutter, but after a campaign the feedback we got back was incredible.

      1. whocares says:

        Dan, “focused” email has NOT been very popular. I found it to be one of the most needless, time wasting pieces of nonsense I’ve ever seen. And for the MANY (actually MOST) people who NEVER requested it, MS should NOT be making these changes that are causes more WASTE OF TIME for users and possibly missed important email.. and/or delayed in seeing it. Yes, just let MS decide on what is important for them to see …. such silliness. Like many people, one of many reasons, I HATE MS (Microsoft).

      2. Tami Shaw says:

        I agree Dan. However, educating your user base on Focused Inbox, Power Apps, Flow, Teams, Office 365 Planner, Modern Sites…oh, let’s not forget Docs.com and Office 365 Groups….the list goes on. Change Management is needed for a number of these items, in addition to security review and training. It’s not too much to ask to have it turned off by default so we can strategically enable features instead of re-actively responding to them.

    2. Joey says:

      Some of you talk like running a powershell command is an all-day chore. It takes five minutes – max.

      1. Joey, the per-user disabling of Clutter in a tenant the size of the one I manage (about 380,000 mailboxes) could easily take more than a week to complete, with frequent monitoring and restarting due to multiple connectivity losses. Managing mailbox-level features in a large tenant can be time-consuming. I am VERY happy to see that Focused Inbox can be turned off globally with a single command, which was not true of Clutter. This gives us an easier way to roll out the feature according to OUR preferences and schedule after first evaluating it in our test tenant.

        1. whocares says:

          It’s much better NOT to have “focused” email at all. Don’t change things to my inbox which I NEVER asked you to change. Absolutely ridiculous and very many people hate it. When I was about 4 years old, I would have known to just give an OPTION to those who want it instead of this crap. I guess MS is going to decide what’s important, for you! ! I use MS as little as possible and have removed most of MS from my business and personal life, due to this nonsense.

    3. Juan Bell says:

      It’s actually legit if you try it out, stop hatin

      1. Tami Shaw says:

        It’s not about hatin…it’s about change management and productivity. Users have jobs to do not hours to devote to every new whim MS wants to enable.

    4. Scott F says:

      I agree, it’s frustrating that MS enables these new features by Default. I missed disabling Clutter before our 6000 users got it, now i cant disable it for all because some are actually using it. We continually get help desk calls asking why emails went to Clutter. MS please disable new features by Default!

  3. Veronique Van Oost says:

    Active Clutter users will have to opt-in to Focused Inbox and will be able to do so from an in-app prompt in Outlook. What will happen for users who do not use clutter in our tenant (who have disabled the clutter feature in their mailbox)?

  4. Wyatt Park says:

    This is one of the singularly assanine changes ever made. Take something that works perfectly well and screw with it… Just stupid!

  5. Lloyd says:

    Will this include the ability to ‘link’ or ‘unify’ inboxes? It’s a frequent request from my users.

  6. Valerie says:

    how do you disable this Focus….I just want an INBOX

  7. Loretta Sim says:

    Why do you continue to make the experience difficult for your clients. You should ALWAYS default to off for new features and not force the features to clients, especially since you, that are managing the roll out, can’t event give your clients a date for the change which is ‘best practice’ in any kind of standards. You can make it an option for clients that want to receive these updates automatically that they turn on auto updates, no different then Google. You then take another step and put the burden on our admins to constantly learn and have to do additional administrative steps to disable features. This also causes a black eye for the IT departments since they look silly not knowing when changes are specifically coming or how they will work specifically so it can be adequately communicated out. Please think outside the box and respect each client and how they need to operate their business….

    1. Noah Kirkus says:

      This person is speaking for a lot of us. This is ridiculous to force features on to users like this. It is a complete nonsense.. If you can’t figure out how to make this configurable on the Tenant level to let us admins decide when is best to roll this out – then please just DO NOT.

    2. Juan Bell says:

      I disagree out with the old, in with the new. It’s better if you actually try it before complaining.

  8. Pavan says:

    “If we disable Focused Inbox on organization level, will this feature also disable in mobile phones whoever uses exchange account in their phones?” This is being sometime I see this feature already using on phones, if we disable then user might come back with many questions.

  9. Tim Crean says:

    Great questions being asked in Comments below. Is anyone from Microsoft looking at this, or do we need to open a Premier call to get answers?

  10. Matt McNabb says:

    I currently see the Get-FocusedInbox and Set-FocusedInbox cmdlets when connected to Exchange Online PowerShell. Where are the tenant-level commands? Will there be something like Get-TenantFocusedInbox?

    1. Matthew Silcox says:

      I don’t remember the exact property off the top of my head, so just run:

      Get-OrganizationConfig | Select *focus*

  11. Daniel Lynch says:

    Love the Focused Inbox in the Outlook iOS app so very happy to hear this is moving to the desktop.

  12. Jon Littlepage says:

    Will this be pushed out to Outlook 2013 at any point? Or, will it be strictly Outlook 2016 along with OWA and mobile Outlook apps?

  13. Jill Mero says:

    Yes, I’m a solo business owner. I need to see all of my e-mails in one place. Switching between two different places just makes no sense. I may miss important e-mails, like the ones that were sitting in my Clutter box. I will be calling your tech line so that you can walk me through how to turn this feature off.

  14. MarioP. says:

    Could this be causing emails to be pending in defer status in (EOP)

  15. Nigel Mayo says:

    Please post instructions on how to disable this feature before it is implemented.
    Clutter could have cost us serious money if it wasn’t for one eagle-eyed employee.
    All our emails are important.
    I am not allowing this farce again.

  16. Liesha says:

    Will there be a way for an individual user to switch this off without the admin doing it? Not everyone will want this.

  17. Bill Dickson says:

    Just to counterbalance the other comments: I work in a less centrally controlled organization where I, and other users, have been using Focused Inbox in Outlook on our Android and iOS devices for months. The availability of a combination of a combined inbox for all accounts (I have six), and having Focused Inbox operate on the combined inbox has been the greatest sanity saver I have had in over 30 years of dealing with very high mail volumes. It frustrates me no end that (apparently) because my Outlook is tied to an Office 365 account, I cannot apparently turn on Focused Inbox in Windows Outlook, even as an Office 365 administrator. I realize that the iOS and Android apps were obtained by purchasing another company, and that their full functionality may not have been incorporated into Outlook, but it seems silly and rude that a functionality that has long been available in your free software is not available in either the front-end Outlook software or the back-end server that we pay for! Please tell me that I have missed something, and there is some workaround for this, and that there is some way, presumably implemented on the Outlook client, that does what I do in iOS and Android, that is, gives me a combined inbox across several Office 365 mail accounts and several more IMAP account, and applies Focused Inbox filtering to the combined box.

  18. JD says:

    Why can’t you make these features disabled by default instead of forcing it on everyone? Admins can then enable per user when, and if, they think it is appropriate to use. Clutter was a disaster IMO. I had to tell users to check their spam quarantines AND check their clutter folders if they couldn’t find an email. This is all assuming they knew they had a missing email. Most people don’t know they have a missing email so it goes days before they discover it and never fail, the email that was in the clutter folder was super important. Ugh! I ended up disabling it for everyone just to stop the insanity.

    So now here we go again. I’m sure some important email is going to get sent to the “Other” tab and get missed for days. I will be disabling as soon as it is released and enable only if it makes sense. (i.e. after testing it out)

  19. David Jade says:

    So how will this work for customers using other mail clients like the standard mail app on iOS? Will everything start being dumped back into the Inbox now? If so that’s a bad trade-off for all my users who have trained Clutter and don’t have to deal with unimportant emails in their Inbox every day. Telling them they have to start using the Outlook app is not a solution, btw.

  20. School says:

    This should be an opt in feature, not an opt out one.
    It is not needed and I shouldn’t have to have to disable it manually for all users!

  21. Michael says:

    I manage the installation and tech support for a small charity – and we all volunteer our time. I now have a choice of spending a long time trying to understand the implications of this change and then briefing everyone about it, or spending even longer trying to figure out if I can change how it behaves and then doing that.
    Clutter was NOT supposed to be on by default, but it was.
    I’m happy that some may find this useful but I fully agree that if anything is going to be removed from my SINGLE inbox then I want to be in control, not some anonymous algorithm that has no idea how I work or whom I correspond with.

  22. Michael McNally says:

    “email will be split between the Focused and Other tabs in their inbox…” Tabs? in my inbox? What tabs? My Outlook 2013 doesn’t have any tabs that I know of. We have some users who are still on Outlook 2010. Is there a minimum Outlook version to support “tabs”? What happens to user’s who have Focused mailbox enabled but are using a version of Outlook that doesn’t support tabs?

  23. Gary says:

    It’s not the changes that bother me, it’s that it occurs so quickly and on by default. After many emails and running Ps scripts to disable clutter, some users finally understand what it does. Most just are mad “IT” changed their Outlook folders and half their email went somewhere else. I had no control over this until AFTER it was turned on for the whole tenant. I should as a admin be able to control when and how this rolls out. How am I supposed to prepare users and higher ups when it just shows up one day without warning ? So, fine add new features and replace old ones, but let me control it so we don’t waste our time and our money fixing things.

  24. Chris Parker says:

    Why hasn’t the Exchange team responded to any comments?

    I, for one, am really looking forward to this feature but I agree with everyone that’s saying this should be off by default.

  25. Reinhard Schuerer says:

    That’s really bad news. Clutter is a great feature but the Focused Inbox as know from the Android Outlook client is absolute terrible!

  26. antonio sagansay III says:

    it would be precise, great

  27. Joey says:

    I am glad for new features like this, it’s one of the advantages of having a cloud-hosted infrastructure. If I didn’t want new features, I would stay with old software on-prem. Company admins do need to stay on top of these changes and Microsoft needs to clearly communicate when features are coming, how we will be impacted, and how to administer.

    Timing is good on this since I am planning a move of 8,000 users from Office 2013 MSI to Office 365 ProPlus.
    1. I am moving users in phases. Is there a way to enable Focus just for the users moving to ProPlus. I would like to introduce Focus as a feature in the rollout.
    2. If I enable for all users, what will the experience be like for those still on 2013?

  28. Alex says:

    This shouldn’t be something that just gets rolled out and turned on automatically. My users live in the inbox, so we take any changes to that very seriously. Now I will need to keep watching for focused inbox so I can quickly learn how to disable it. Just more undue stress…

  29. S says:

    God, this is annoying!!!! I had no problem ‘managing’ my inbox. Now some bright spark has decided to split it into ‘focused’ and ‘other’ and I cannot figure out how to get all my mail back in ONE place!!!!

    MS should have the courtesy to ASK people if they want changes before arbitrarily making them.

  30. Scott F says:

    What is the powershell cmdlet to disable Focused Inbox for the Tenant?

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