Tip 965: Changing Outlook 2010's Conversation View Message Order

Why is the default message view showing the latest message first? For example, when I click on the conversation and it states 'Latest message shown. Click to view earlier items.' How can I change this? Isn't it more logical to show the first message in the thread, not the last? Surely it is more common to start reading a conversation at the beginning? Is this configurable?

last message is shown notice

As a person who was in the habit of reading the last chapter of a book before reading the whole book, I'm probably not the right person to ask about reading from the beginning...

If you're reading messages as they arrive, the newest message first makes sense, as you've already read the earlier messages. It would make sense if the oldest unread message was shown when you select a conversation, but it might be more confusing to users than showing the latest message in the thread.

But, yes, it is configurable. If you use the Classic Indented View, the messages within a conversation are arranged in proper threading order within the conversation, according to which message was replied to and the received date. (Note that threading may not work as expected with email from mailing lists or with mail sent from some email clients. When outlook doesn't know where the message belongs in the thread, its placed at the end of the thread.)

Indented Conversation layout

To change the conversation view settings, go to the View Ribbon and expand Conversation Settings. Select Use Classic Indented View.

Classic indented view menu

Alternately, you can change the sort order, so oldest messages are on top. While most people find an oldest on top sort order unworkable unless they move or delete their mail as they read it, it will sort the messages within a conversation oldest to newest too.

Sort oldest messages on top

Published March 15 2012

  • Richard Brust

    No chance of this in 2007, is there? Not sure when upgrading to 2010...

  • Diane Poremsky

    Outlook 2007 has a conversation view - it's not quite as nice as Outlook 2010's, but it will (mostly) group message by threads. Click on the row of field names and choose Conversation. You can sort it by received date too.

  • Heiko

    "not quite as nice as Outlook 2010′s"
    Sorry, but in this aspect, Outlook 2010 really sucks.
    In case a user is happy with the thread-view of OL2007 I'd never recommend to upgrade to OL2010 (my own experience).

  • Diane Poremsky

    Do you use it with Exchange 2003 or 2007? The Conversation view is buggy & annoying with those accounts because the servers don't add the values Outlook needs to track conversations.

  • Marc S

    The problem is that the conversations are still sorted by the latest mail in the thread/conversation, regardless of which of the suggested options you use. If anyone knows how to change that, I'd really appreciate it! However all signs point to not possible.

  • Diane Poremsky

    The latest message is listed in the group/conversation header. Have you tried changing the sort and group setting in the custom view settings? Disable the automatically group option and group by conversation. Sort by conversation and/or conversation index fields.