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Make Outlook 2007 Mark Items as Read When Viewed in Reading Pane

One of my friends contacted me a while back asking why the default setting in Outlook 2007 is to not mark items as read until you switch to a different email, which leaves the new mail notification sitting in the system tray even though you’ve clearly read the email.

Turns out there’s a very simple setting for this, where you can mark items as read once you’ve viewed them instead of when the selection changes to a different email.

Just go to Tools \ Options and then click on the Other tab. Click the Reading Pane button to bring up the options.\

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Just select the checkbox on “Mark items as read when viewed in the Reading Pane”. You’ll notice that you can’t also select the “Mark item as read when selection changes” box, which seems a little silly, but it’s not important. You might also want to change the number of seconds in this dialog. It doesn’t usually take me 5 seconds to read an email, especially when most of them aren’t important.

Remember that you can always mark an item as read by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Q, which is really the fastest way to mark items as read.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/3/07

Comments (56)

  1. thes

    Thanks much – this is what I needed.

  2. Sudha

    Thanks. This was very helpful

  3. Naman

    thank you again! that has been annoying the **** out of me for weeks!

  4. Liam

    You took the words right out of my mouth Naman :D

  5. Chris Sherlock

    Well that’s intuitive for you.

  6. MicL

    Thanks! Very helpful!

  7. That_guy

    You know, the last time I had to do this was about a year or so ago, when first setting up my Outlook profile when OL2007 first came out. New job, new computer and whoa, how did I do that before???

    Thank you for posting the obvious for folks like me who tend to forget.

  8. Dec

    I don’t know why they made this option so difficult to find in the new version of Office.

    It used to be 1 click from the reading pane, which is why it was never an annoying issue before…

  9. Jason

    Thank you very very much! Knew I could do it but had to remember how to.

  10. Dem

    Thanks for the answer! Once again, it’s faster to Google for an answer on a Microsoft setting then battle Microsoft’s unintuitive UI with settings scattered throughout a completely bizarre labyrinth of different menus, windows, buttons, and tabs.

  11. Rob

    Thank you so much! This is exactly what I’ve been struggling to find today!

  12. Per

    Me too.. :-) I used to have this setting with Outlook 2003 but didn’t find it in Outlook 2007 – so, great, thanks!

  13. JL

    Thank you so much for this, i have been searching thru Outlook all bloody day for this.. why hide it?? THANK YOU THANK YOU

  14. Jason

    thank you thank you :-)

  15. bjorri

    Yes!!!!

  16. Rajkumar

    Thanks it’s very useful for me.

  17. marcopolo

    Thanks. That’s what I needed. I wonder why they made this the default setting and not the other way around. Annoying!!!

  18. vdogg

    thanks!

  19. PoisonIvy

    Thank you so much for this – this has really been irritating me!!! Yay… :)

  20. Matthew

    I too found this extremely helpful. Thank you!

  21. derz

    Great post! Straight to the point, exactly what I was after. The hardest part was figuring what to type in google to pinpoint this issue exactly…

  22. Erin

    I found myself ranting about how much I hated Outlook for this exact reason, and now my hatred is gone! Thank you!

  23. danny

    thanks, that was rather annoying :)

  24. deefa

    Great tip. Great website. Been getting a lot of solutions from here in the past while. Many thanks!

  25. JohnM

    Anyone have an idea what to do when all those options are ‘grayed-out’ ? When the reading pane options come up, I can’t click on any of them.

  26. Hazo

    Fantastic, simple and effective answer, easily to follow. Keep it up

  27. Luis Fernando Forero

    Gracias!!!

    Era preciso lo que necesitaba

  28. Dominic

    Thanks so much. I have Microsoft Exchange syncing my emails with my iPhone, so I was getting really annoyed when I would read my email in the preview pane, and then five minutes (or whatever) my phone would beep telling me I have new mail because it had remained bold. SO thanks, you’re a lifesaver! It is so much easier to fix this problem in Outlook Express….which until six months ago I had almost a fifteen years experience using! I am loving Outlook and the seamless integration with my phone and webmail etc. Very cool.

  29. Elle

    Thank you so much for this it was driving me insane! I knew it was there i just couldn’t find it ! :-)

  30. gth

    Rather useful indeed. If only they’d obey their own GUI rules with the settings dialog and allow both CHECKBOXES to be enabled (i.e. time-based AND selection change). Instead it behaves as though it were a radio button.

    Of course, the space bar option is totally misleading and using it to view messages is unintuitive and unpredictable to the point of being cryptic: sometimes the space bar will pagedown, other times it will skip to the next email message. How will you know which action will happen? well, that depends on the length of the email, the size of your screen and reading window, and what direction the wind blows at 4pm each Thursday in Geneva.

  31. Migara

    Thank you so much for posting this.
    As most people have said, this was so annoying until I got the answer here and rectified it.
    Keep on posting good stuff such as this :)

  32. Sachin

    This helped. Simple and quick.Thanks to the author.

  33. Sean

    Thanks. Very helpful.

  34. C

    thank you!!!!

  35. Lass

    Thank you so much, I was looking for this a while ago

  36. Jamie

    Very helpful!!

  37. Laetitia

    Brilliant thanks! Very helpful!!

  38. Prasy

    Thanks a lot !!

  39. Sangram

    Thanks a lot,

    MS forgot basic functionality.

  40. Scott

    Just wanted to post for Outlook 2010 as well. It is similar, but to get to the option, you must go File->Options->Advanced->Outlook panes->Reading Pane

  41. Martin

    thanks a lot, it helped me a lot

  42. BK

    Thanks a lot! Got here through a google search and this is exactly what I have been looking for.

  43. Ildar

    Thank you very much, but it is not really simple and “Just” as you think.
    You are not talking about 1 – 2 steps but 4 !
    Each step have multiple options and leads to hundreds options
    which almost impossible to check.

  44. Paddy

    That’s exactly what I was looking for. Thanks !

  45. SANTHOSH

    It Helped alot, THANKS!

  46. Yuvraj

    Thanks a lot!!!

  47. jimmy

    Thank you! Been driving me nuts!

  48. joe suburbs

    thanks… that resolved my issue.

  49. sunil

    This only i expected from u team Thax buddy…………….

  50. Giriprasad

    thx the resloved the issues

  51. Jake deSnake

    After 4 years, this article is still getting accolades. Well, I’ll add one more: Exactly what I was looking for and needed. My current client uses Office-2007 and we are stuck with its quirks. How like Microsoft to create a great product but sabotage it in little ways, like putting this setting in [Reading Pane] rather than the more intuitive [Preferences]->[Email]. (This shall not constitute an endorsement of the quirks in Office-2010 ;-)

  52. injineru

    perfect if you have outlook in another language you don’t know. thank you:)

  53. Wendy

    Thank you! This is the first link of about 20 that actually answered the question and worked.

  54. Wendy

    And as a side comment, I was looking to do the exact opposite, it was marking things that I had not glanced at yet, I receive over 100 emails daily and if I had arrowed up it marke the item as read so I did not realize it was one I had skipped to come bak too!

  55. Kristi

    I wanted to turn off the automatic mark-as-read also. Wasted time yesterday looking in Email Preferences (because that would make sense), and spent about five seconds today with Google search and this fantastically helpful post! Thank you!

  56. Tamara

    is there a keyboard shortcut to turn it back on? or does outlook do this itsself? i turn this off whenever i set a new employee up, but twice now someone has turned it back on – and they dont know how they did it. it must be a keyboard shortcut that toggles this on and off??

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