Technology and the occasional justified rant


Outlook 2013 – better visibility of draft messages

Please note that this post refers to a feature in a preview edition of Outlook 2013 – features and functionality may change before the product ships, etc, basic arse-covering.

Have you ever started a reply to an e-mail, saved it as a draft, and then forgotten about it and found it again weeks later? I know I have. A new feature in Outlook 2013 (preview) makes drafts instantly visible. It’s worth noting that this is associated to another new feature – previously, replies and forwards would open in a new window. In Outlook 2013 (preview, but I’m going to stop mentioning that now) you have the option of having the reply appear on the surface of the inbox’s preview pane. You can turn this off, or if you have this option set on but wish to work on the reply in a new window you can ‘pop out’ the reply e-mail.

But what happens when you move to another e-mail mid-way through composing that reply? As the reply is in-place you lose the context… but you don’t lose the e-mail. At that point the reply is automatically saved as a draft, and the draft is shown as part of the original e-mail’s conversation thread. And so you can’t forget it’s there, a big orange [Draft] marker is places against the conversation. If you click back on the thread, the draft e-mail is the one that automatically comes back into view in the preview pane (you don’t have to expand the thread and then select the draft).

A nice feature. There’s loads more in Outlook 2013, which I’ll cover off in the coming months.

…works for Microsoft as a Global Account Technology Strategist. In a former life he worked for the Lotus brand within IBM for many years. Married with one daughter and two dogs, lives in Camberley (Surrey, England), plays the guitar to a mediocre standard, and runs 10 kms and half marathons at an average speed. That’s it really.


Darren Adams • 20 August 2012

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  1. Flemming Riis 20 August 2012 - 8:39 pm Reply

    I like the popout / discard option directly in the reading pane

  2. Suzanne 16 May 2013 - 5:43 pm Reply

    Where is the Drafts folder in Outlook 2013? I cannot find my draft emails at all.

    • Darren 17 May 2013 - 4:39 pm Reply

      For me it’s underneath my user-created folders, and just above Sent Items and Deleted Items. I’ve also right-clicked on it and added to my favourites, so it also appears at the top of the navigation.

  3. Kimberley 21 August 2013 - 2:13 am Reply

    I hate this new feature because I’ve always kept track of where I am by how many windows I have open. Also, if you’re replying to something old and outside of the current view, you can lose track of it completely. Can you turn this feature off?

    Also, although I have my drafts set up to save to my Drafts folder, they are (sometimes, but not always) disappearing from that folder when I exit Outlook and come back in.

    I wrote the same email twice yesterday because the first one disappeared before I even had a chance to save it when I clicked off of it to look for an email address. The second time, I verified that it was saved in Drafts. In fact, I saved it multiple times. However, today it’s gone. I tried another test without saving any settings and it’s still there. I wonder if it will be gone tomorrow.

    Seems like the draft functionality still needs a lot of love. I, for one, would like the old functionality back. At least it worked!

    • Darren 21 August 2013 - 8:55 pm Reply

      Kimberley, I can’t see any way of switching off the feature. You can change the period after which the message is saved, but I think that refers to new messages rather than in-place replies which are saved immediately when you move away from the thread.

  4. Nicky 2 September 2013 - 9:48 am Reply

    I came to this site as I have the exact same issue as Kimberley! I really don’t get on with this feature and would love to be able to turn it off. I asked our IT manager and she also didn’t like the feature – her solution was to roll back to 2010!

    • Darren 2 September 2013 - 3:44 pm Reply

      The developers will be really upset by this news, but I will try to find out if there is a way of turning it off and will let you know.

    • Darren 6 September 2013 - 9:36 am Reply

      Okay, this seems to do the trick… File, Options, Mail, scroll down to the replies and forwards section, and click on ‘Open replies and forwards in a new window’.

      • Jaime 5 November 2013 - 4:18 pm Reply

        Darren, thank you for this post. I was having the same problem mentioned above. I originally liked the concept of this feature, but in day to day practice, I have now started and forgotten about several important communications. I HATE this feature, and have now turned it off, thanks to your assistance!

      • peter 8 December 2015 - 2:32 pm Reply

        THANKS A LOT DARREN !!!!

      • Bret 27 January 2016 - 2:18 am Reply

        YAY! It was driving me crazy. Sometimes I prepare multiple drafts, sometime to different parties that shouldn’t see the same e-mail.

  5. Ailsa 1 March 2014 - 4:22 am Reply

    Thank you Darren. My ever disappearing and reappearing drafts were driving me crazy, even without going to another message. You have given me a piece of my sanity back.

  6. Maria 7 October 2014 - 4:56 pm Reply

    thanks! I also did not like the new functionality at all and I just turned it off!

    It is wierd because I am always very positive to innovations, but in this case I was struggling to get use to it and i realize that it was giving me issues in managing my new drafts and emails.

  7. Sven 22 November 2014 - 6:23 pm Reply

    Hi there!

    For me die draft-view in my inbox was just working fine at the beginning, but just stopped working at all after updates I think?

    At the beginning I always had this “darft”-tag next to the message in my inbox, if I had already started to reply… Now its gone.

    I found something saying this is only supposed to work with exchance server 2010+ – but I used Outlook 2013 with an open exchange server & oxtender 2 and it just worked – until a few weeks or month ago…

    Any ideas?


  8. Scott Welker 7 July 2015 - 6:15 pm Reply

    I too turned this off. THANKS!
    I kept deleting the original message that was – erroneously IMHO – marked as Draft.

  9. LAprGuy 7 July 2015 - 10:51 pm Reply

    Quick note to thank you for the “open replies…” answer!

  10. Allison 21 July 2015 - 10:21 pm Reply

    Did the draft marker feature roll-out with the final release version of Outlook 2013? If so, where is it located? I remember it in the preview version, but now can’t locate it.

  11. Lynn Williams 17 September 2015 - 11:26 am Reply

    Hi, I stumbled across your article: Outlook 2013 – better visibility of draft messages by Darren · 20 August 2012
    I don’t usually post on forums but as your replies to the following posts helped me with the draft feature in Outlook 2013 I would like to ask you a question on it.
    The problem I faced on some PCs is that the draft appeared in the Inbox but then deleted the content of the original email. The email still appears in the inbox showing if it had been forwarded/replied to etc but the content is missing. This is the case if we look at OWA for the specific user as well. There is no way that I can find to get the content back. Using Exchange Server 2010 and Outlook 2013 Home & Business

    • Darren 29 September 2015 - 4:10 pm Reply

      Hi Lynn… sorry, not providing technical support here.

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