How-To Geek

How to Mark Messages as Read as Soon as You Click on Them in Outlook

Do you ever feel annoyed that Outlook doesn’t mark messages as read as soon as you click and view them in the Reading Pane?  Here we show you how to make Outlook mark them as read as soon as they’re opened.

By default, Outlook will not mark a message as read until you select another message. This can be annoying, because if you read a message and then immediately delete the message, it shows up as an unread message in your Deleted Items folder.

Let’s change this to make Outlook mark messages as read as soon as we view them in the Reading Pane. Open Outlook and click the “File” tab.

On the backstage screen, click “Options” in the list of items on the left.

On the Options dialog box, click on “Mail” in the list of items on the left.

In the Outlook panes section, click the “Reading Pane” button.

Check the “Mark items as read when viewed in the Reading Pane” box to make Outlook mark your messages as read when you view them in the Reading Pane. By default, Outlook will only mark a message read after you’ve been reading it for 5 seconds, though you can change this. We entered 0 (zero) in the “Wait X seconds before marking item as read” box so our messages would be marked as read as soon as we select them.

Note that the “Mark item as read when selection changes” box is automatically unchecked when you check the “Mark items as read when viewed in the Reading Pane” box. Only one of those two check boxes can be selected at once. Click “OK” to accept your changes and close the dialog box.

Click “OK” on the Options dialog box. Now your messages will be marked as read as soon as you select them in the reading pane, or soon after, depending on how many seconds you told Outlook to wait before marking the item as read.

Outlook is a great email client, but like most programs, it has its quirks. This quick tip can help you get rid of one of Outlook’s annoying features, and make it work like you want it to. You can also disable the Reading Pane if you don’t want messages automatically opened when you select them.

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 05/27/10

Comments (11)

  1. geordie

    Thank you

    when i am down to the last item in the Unread Mail. and i delete it, it remains in the Reading Pane. Any ideas how to make this not happen

    Thank you in advance

  2. Radu

    Thanks, that s**t really was annoying.

  3. Katia

    My Outlook 2010 all of a sudden stopped marking messages in my inbox as read as soon as I opened them up. This started happening yesterday morning. It had been working fine since I loaded Office 2010 it last August. I followed the instructions above and they didn’t work. Oddly, items in my junk box and my deleted box respond just fine (text “unbolds” as soon as messages are opened.) Please advise, and thanks!

  4. Theresa

    Thanks! Very straightforward instructions…hope it works!

  5. mike

    I don’t use the reading pane. Lately when I open an email and then click delete (either from within the email or from the email list using the delete key, it moves to the deleted folder but stays marked as unread. Never used to do this, and it’s really annoying. I tried adjusting the reading pane setting but it had no effect (whether using the reading pane or not). Any ideas?; thanks

  6. Jason

    I like the options to mark as read automatically but since i have both a personal mailbox (where this would be awesome) and a shared mailbox (that would be bad to have enabled), I have to disable it. It would be cool if you could choose each mailbox reading separately.

  7. Mary Ellen Fulton

    I can see how my mail is marked as read but I would like to know when the person I am emailing opens it. I don’t know where to look. Is it easy?

  8. samson

    its important that all the messages in the inbox re marked read 4 easy identification

  9. geo

    Thanks! great help!

  10. Brigette

    OMG, Thank you!

  11. Karen

    Thanks for the info….fixed my problem perfectly!!!

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