Outlook 2007 Time Saving Tips – Turning Off The Reading Pane

Due to a recent migration from a Novell to Microsoft, our company has also migrated from Novell Groupwise to Outlook 2007. This article is one of a series of short "How To" articles that I have been publishing internally to make the transition easier. Please keep in mind that this was written with Outlook 2007 in mind, so you may have to follow slightly different steps to make this work in earlier Outlook version.

Less Clutter
The default Outlook 2007 interface is extremely busy, with lots of information to take in. One of the pieces that helps contribute to the clutter is the Reading Pane, shown below in a red outline:

The reading pane can be useful if you like to go through your emails without double-clicking each one, but it does have some drawbacks:

  • It is a huge consumer of screen real-estate
  • As soon as you open your inbox, the most recent email is displayed in the preview pane. As soon as this happens, it is considered "read" by Outlook, and its bolded properties disappear. If you close Outlook, it is still considered read, so you may miss it if you aren't paying attention.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of the reading pane. I like to have control of when an email is considered read, and I can't stand it when one is flagged that shouldn't be. (You only need this to mark one email read that shouldn't have been, and you'll understand why I classed this as a time saving tip.) If you're like me, and would rather not have this feature, you can turn it off. To do this, go to View --> Reading Pane --> Off, as shown below.

Now, to be fair, you can actually toggle the reading pane settings a bit, but I'd argue that it still has issues. If you go to Tools --> Options --> Other, and then choose Reading Pane, you'll see the screen below:

The problem with these options:

  • Marking as read after x seconds still doesn't help you if you open your email in the morning, get distracted by someone, and then close it. So long as your email has been open for more than that x seconds, the email is marked read even if you actually haven't.
  • Marking as read when the selection changes, even if the timeout above is not set, still leaves you in the same place. You'd better make sure your email is read before you click on another one.
  • The last option moves you down the email list using the space bar. (In case you prefer that to using your arrow keys.)

My preference remains to actually double click the email to open it, and close it when I'm done. Then I know for sure I haven't missed anything.



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