2006-05-15

Give Outlook a GMail Conversation view


This is an entry that shows how to make a fairly useful version of the conversation view for Outlook.

It draws on some great articles from all over the web, see below for full reading list.

What makes this article different is that although many people have commented how you can use Outlook's "Conversation" feature to emulate GMail's threading it is limited to the INBOX. The problem is that your replies don not show up in the thread thus removing much of the usefulness of the threaded view in the firstplace.

Here I show how you can apply the conversation view over a custom Search Folder. Thus if you specify your Custom Search to include all mails including those in the sent folder then you will get the GMail threaded look!

It is not perfect as you now have ALL you emails in a threaded view. GMail bumps your conversations out of archive when there is activity in them. I can't copy this behavior in Outlok, but what I do is specify a custom filter to allow the user to exclude e-mails more than a certain number of days old. For example I use 2 weeks. So, I see all new or unread emails plus the last two weeks of recieved emails in a threaded view. As activity occurs in the conversations they are bumped up to the top of the list. For me two weeks is a good compromise. For you it might be four weeks or just four days.

So here it is:

Step 1: Search Folder with all mail in it
Make a search folder and get all mail, I use the following criteria - mail received by "anytime"


Ok, now onto Step - 2












Step 2 - Give the folder a good name i.e.: GMail



Step 3 - Define a view grouped by Conversation and ordered by Received Date (Descending)



Now you will see all of your conversations (WITH SENT MAIL) in a conversation style Gmail view. Make sure you have the "In Folder" column in you view so you can see if mail is in the SENT or INBOX folder.

Only problem - you have all your mail. I have found a way to limit the ammount of conversation to a useful ammount - see below:

Step 4 - Limit view to NEW MAIL or mail less than 14 days old (works for me - play with the time 7 days whatever, it is a negative value in seconds)

To do this you need to manually edit the Filter data, there is an article below which will talk you through it. I will just compy my filter text:

("urn:schemas:httpmail:datereceived" >= today(-1209600)) OR "urn:schemas:httpmail:read" = 0

The numerical value is the time in seconds, as a negative value, that mail is shown for. For example 1209600 is two weeks. If you can't calculate your time period in seconds try a search like this in google: "18 days in seconds" and the calculator will give you the seconds result. In this case 1555200 seconds. So make it negative and paste it in the DASL filter.

Here is the screenshot:



It works fine for me, what are your opinions or improvements?

My final View:




Reading List & Thanks:

Doing more with Outlook filter and SQL DASL syntax
http://blogs.msdn.com/andrewdelin/archive/2005/05/11/416312.aspx

Outlook as Organizr
http://blogs.msdn.com/mpower/archive/2004/10/05/238284.aspx

Using Search Folders in Outlook
http://sysdev.uncc.edu//Office2003/Search%20Folders.htm

Make Outlook work like GMAIL
http://www.petroleumjelliffe.com/ideas/make_outlook_work_like_gmail.html

Sorting your mail in Outlook
http://www.richardgoodwin.com/wp/2006/02/07/sorting-your-mail-in-outlook/

17 comments:

Marijn said...

To show only threads from the last month (or 2 weeks or so).
Why not use the tab 'advanced' in criteria.
You can add criteria for both send and receive date and select 'last month'(or any other criteria).
Now you'll see only mails from the last month in your search folder.

Dan Brett said...

Dear Marijn,
Now, that is a very good idea and saves playing around with all the filters!!
Dan

Boyan said...

Great summary, however it needs a tweek. As it stands here the "GMail" search folder in Outlook will also show deleted items. This can easily be tweaked to exclude that (or any folder) from the search.

Hardono said...

Thanks alot man...

You posted this like three years ago, but it saved my life today :D

Dan Brett said...

Thanks for the comments Hardono and Boyan. I'm still using the GMAIL view in Outlook 2007. But I just don't bother with the filters. It seems that OUTLOOK caches it's views pretty well so there is no need for limiting the timescale of the GMAIL view.
Regards to all,
Dan

Dan Brett said...

By the way, you definitely want to colour your emails so that you can see at a glance if you sent them or you received them. Helps a lot. You can do that by playing around with the "Automatic Formats" in the view options window. (it's called automatic format in Spanish, it may be sometihgn else in Outlook in English)

Watusee said...

This has been driving me nuts. Awesome article. MS should have this as a view. Thank you!

Bhasker Thodla said...

Great article! I put the suggestions instantly to use. How can I get my search to include Archive Folders? When I define the search, Outlook only allows me to pick from my mail folder.

Thanks.

planetidiot.com said...

Almost but not quite. Gmail shows the most recently updated threads first, but when you open the thread, the replies are in chronological order.

In Outlook the newest replies are on top.

Alexis said...

This morning I have opened my MS Outlook and observed there unpleasant thing: some of my emails were lost. I used the Google,but could find nothing. To my good fortune accidentally somebody called me up,it turned out it was my friend)). He advised me an interesting software - recovery ost files,which I used and was discouraged,reason of its restore all my damaged emails for seconds. And as I knew later for free. I have been using the program for 2 weeks. I have been glad...

Elmar said...

Hi Dan,
Great search view !!!

I have an extra idea:

1- just like GMAIL create a sub folder called Archive
2- move all actioned messages to the Archive folder (just like the 'Y' button in GMAIL) and only leave messages that still needs action in the INBOX
3- Adjust your filter to only show conversations if the last received message is in the INBOX (off course with all related messages from the Archive folder). So, if all messages are actioned and moved to the Archive folder it will not be shown in the view.

Are you able to create such a filter? I tried unsuccessfully.

grtz, LMR

cdpmmatt said...

How do I configure my search folder so it does not contain deleted items that go into my deleted folder?

cdpmmatt said...

How do I configure my search folder so it does not contain deleted items that go into my deleted folder?

Alex said...

My personal MS Outlook often uses, but some weeks ago. I noticed a problem. Some my emails were hid. I tried to fix this situation. But only this morning I have understood that they have been lost. Luckily the Google found - repair pst 2g this tool rapidly. And it solved my issue,but some my friends had like problems and it helped them too. Now I'm quite glad...

maverick said...

Good post. But I have an issue with my Search folder.
Sometimes I see that various conversation groups (including the latest ones) get collapsed on their own. I have to manually go to each conversation node and expand the view which is painful.
Anyone knows how to prevent this?

BluePeter said...

Excellent Post.

Any idea where we can get a list of the DASL syntax and properties/tags?

I create converstaion views on 3 subfolders from my inbox,
~ Clients
~ Office
~ Personal

and active mail goes into these, through rules if possible.

So, it's not only limited to the Inbox as someone mentioned.

One thing I am looking for is the ability to filter on conversations that have no unread mail... I can write the T-SQL syntax, but haven't done the homework for DASL as yet. Anybody have any ideas?

Jeff said...

Visit my Blog Post for step-by-step instructions to organize your mailbox using Gmail-style labels and search folders. It addresses many of the concerns brought up in the comments here and enables you to use your inbox as a true organizational tool so you can "archive" conversations and don't have to see all of your recent messages in your inbox.