If you use a recent version of Outlook, you’ve probably noticed a Junk Email folder, a Clutter folder, and something called Focused Inbox. All of these seem to affect where your mail ends up, but it might not be obvious why or when this happens. Here’s how they work and how to turn them off if you don’t like them.

Note: These features are available in the Outlook web app, Outlook 365, Outlook 2016, and Outlook 2019. If you’re using an older version of Outlook, you won’t see them.

What’s Junk Email For?

Junk Email is the simplest to explain: It’s the folder where Outlook sends mail it thinks is spam. This works just like the spam folders in other email clients, like Gmail’s Spam category.

If you work in a corporate environment, you might not see much in here, because a lot of companies apply filters to stop spam before it ever gets to your mailbox. If you’re using Outlook to access a web account from the likes of Google or Yahoo! then you also might not see much in here, as spam isn’t normally downloaded to your client.

If you do see messages in your Junk Email folder, you should follow your company’s policies on junk email. If you’ve got junk email in your personal Outlook then follow the usual precautions: don’t open any attachments, only open the mail if you recognize the sender’s email address, and if you’re in any doubt delete the mail (Shift+Delete will delete the mail completely, bypassing your Deleted Items folder).

What’s Clutter For?

Clutter is a separate folder where Outlook sends¬†messages that it doesn’t think are spam, but also doesn’t think are important enough to clutter up your inbox. This includes things like regular newsletters, coupon emails, and so on.

Clutter aims to cut down on the “noise” in your inbox by automatically sending unimportant messages to the Clutter folder. It never sends messages from your management chain or direct reports, but it will learn over time what messages you read and respond to. If Outlook detects that you regularly ignore messages from certain senders, for example, it might start moving them to the Clutter folder for you.

What’s Focused Inbox For?

Focused Inbox is a way of viewing your inbox. Unlike Junk Email and Clutter, it’s not a new or separate folder. Instead, it split your view of your inbox into messages it thinks are important to you (the “Focused” view) and messages that it thinks aren’t that important to you (the “Other” view). You can turn Focused Inbox on by going to the View tab and toggling the “Show Focused Inbox” option on or off.

Focused Inbox is a replacement for Clutter, which wasn’t particularly popular. A lot of users didn’t like going to a different folder to find messages that Outlook thought weren’t important, especially because Clutter only got accurate if you “trained” it by manually moving messages between Inbox and Clutter. Some users assumed that Clutter was just a different way of filtering spam, so they never looked in the folder or just deleted the contents without reading anything that was there.

Microsoft recognised that Clutter wasn’t working and pretty quickly replaced it with Focused Inbox. Clutter and Focused Inbox share code, so you can only turn on one or the other, but not both at the same time.¬†Clutter is currently slated for removal from Outlook in January 2020, at which point you’ll just have Junk Email and Focused Inbox.

How Do You Turn These Off?

If you’re the kind of person who likes to have absolute control over their mail, you might want to turn all of these features off. Here’s how.

How to Turn Off Junk Email

We don’t recommend turning off Junk Email because it provides an extra layer of protection against phishing and malware attacks. But if you’re determined to do it, you’ll need to log into the Outlook web app. Once you’ve logged in, click the Settings cog at the top right of the page and scroll down to, and click, the “Mail” option.

The Options open up on the left, so scroll down to Accounts > Block and Allow, and choose the “Don’t move email to my Junk Email folder” option.

Click “Save” at the top of the page to store the setting change. You can come back at any time and turn Junk Email back on again.

How to Turn Off Clutter

If you’re on Office 365, then you’ve got both Clutter and Focused Inbox. As you can’t have both turned on, the quick way to turn off Clutter is to turn Focused Inbox on. This won’t turn Clutter off, but it will bypass it and use Focused Inbox instead.

But if you don’t want to use Focused Inbox or Clutter, you’ll need to log into the Outlook web app. Once you’ve logged in, click the Settings cog at the top right of the page. Scroll down a bit on the page and click the “Mail” option.

The Options open up on the left, so scroll down to Automatic Processing > Clutter and switch off the “Separate items identified as clutter” option.

Click “Save” at the top of the page to store the setting change. You can come back at any time and turn Clutter back on again.

How to Turn Off Focused Inbox

Focused Inbox is much easier to turn off. Switch to the View tab in Outlook and toggle the “View Focused Inbox” option off.

You can turn it back on at any time.