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Mastering your Outlook inbox

The truth is, I hate Outlook. But in the Windows environment, there’s no better email, calendaring and contacts package than Microsoft Outlook 2016. When I think about why I hate the software, it comes down to a set of frustrations around key areas like a lack of focus on inbox management, a tacked-on search facility with a terrible user interface, and the absence of two-way syncing with non-Microsoft sources of calendars and contacts.

I’ve decided to tackle Outlook’s annoyances head on. This article focuses on making inbox management much more productive.

To be fair, Microsoft has been trying to address the overwhelmed-inbox condition for the last couple of years. It started by introducing to Office 365 subscribers a feature called Clutter, an automated filtering tool that put emails you were unlikely to open (based on your past behavior) into a separate folder. Clutter was not well received because users were not given a way to fully remove it.

More recently, Microsoft rolled out a feature called the Focused Inbox. This is little more than Clutter inverted so that it highlights mail you want to see instead of mail you probably don’t want to see. The difference between them is more marketing than programming. (Microsoft shrewdly implemented Focused Inbox as a view instead of as a mailbox. That makes it much easier to disable.)

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