Office 365 Clutter quietly appears in mailboxes

Microsoft announced the new feature in Outlook Web Access today, to make your Inbox more manageable. Clutter helps to keep your mailbox clear of the blah and less important, helping you focus on what matters when you’re clearing your email. Clutter differs from Junk Mail, in that the messages in your Clutter folder are still genuine but less useful and of less importance to your day to day communications.
Junk Mail on the other hand is where SPAM with a low level of confidence is delivered. Office 365 rejects obvious SPAM before its delivered to your mailbox. You will see very few messages that are obvious SPAM in your Junk Mail, compared with the huge number of SPAM messages that simply wont be delivered to you.

I wasn’t expecting to see Clutter appear till until an announcement on blogs.office.com. But Vasil Michev was first to post his observations in the Change Alerts group on the Office 365 Technical Network.

Among other useful observations, Vasil brought our attention to the changes in the Outlook Web Access Options menu. There was Clutter in all it’s quiet glory.

 

I have just had time to review Vasil’s observations in my own Office 365 tenant.

Here’s where I saw Clutter and this is how I switched Clutter on in my OWA mailbox.

Enabling Clutter

Log into https://outlook.office365.com and complete the following steps:

In Outlook Web Access, click the Settings Cog and choose Options.

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  1. Click Clutter
  2. Select “Separate items identified as Clutter”.
  3. Click Save.
  4. Return to your Inbox by clicking the back button beside Options.

It took a minute or so to appear. Initially, my Inbox showed all my oldest messages at the top. It was as if the date order had been reversed.
The Clutter folder appeared and began to show unread messages. I think these messages were received after turning Clutter on.
I refreshed the screen and my Inbox messages displayed the newest first. Strange behaviour, but maybe Clutter was working it’s way through all my messages.

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I received a welcome message, explaining more about Clutter.

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The Clutter Folder

The Clutter folder feels like an Inbox.

  1. I have four views for reading and processing messages in Clutter.
  2. This welcome balloon briefly showed me how to train Clutter, marking a message as ‘Not Clutter’.

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3. Right-clicking on the message displayed an option to mark as not clutter.

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4. The message list also displays a ‘Not Clutter’ quick action button.

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NOTE:

  • When you mark a message as ‘Not Clutter’, it is moved to you Inbox, date order. You may have to work your way through your messages to find it again.
  • If you have read the message from within your Clutter folder, then marked as ‘Not Clutter’, it will retain it’s read state, being marked as Read and then moved to your Inbox.

Clutter in the Outlook client

The Clutter folder appears now in my Outlook client. I can see messages appearing there. In fact, Clutter added itself to my Outlook clients favourite folders. That’s convenient.

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It is not immediately obvious how I should mark messages as ‘Not Clutter’ from the Outlook client. Apparently, you simply move the message from the Clutter folder, back to the Inbox. Clutter takes care of the rest.

 

Clutter respects your Inbox rules, giving them priority. If you have a rule that moves a message to another folder, Clutter wont interfere with that rule.
However, it will learn less about the messages that matter most to you because the Inbox rule has already taken action. Some of my peers are turning off our Inbox rules to give Clutter a greater opportunity to learn.
I will turn off all my Inbox rules, barring one. I have a rule that sets all my social media email notifications to delete after a week. This clears up my Inbox and reduces my message count.

 

The easiest method – Drag and Drop

The easiest way to mark as Not Clutter is to drag and drop the message back into your Inbox.

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Additionally, when you respond to a message from your Clutter folder, Clutter watches and understands that the message is important to you. It moves the message and conversation thread back into your Inbox.

 

For those of us who need a button to push or a shortcut key combo to press:

To Create the Quick Step rule

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  1. Right-Click a message from the Clutter folder.
  2. Choose Quick Steps
  3. New Quick Step
  4. Move to Folder
    Clutter-09
  5. Rename the Quick Step to “Not Clutter”
  6. Select Inbox
    Tip: In Options, you can assign a shortcut key combination to the Quick Step. i.e. Ctrl+Shift+9

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Checking Clutter from your phone

Now that your Inbox will be leaner and more focused on the messages that matter, how do you check Clutter occasionally from your phone?

Here’s a tip for Windows Phone users. The same principles can be applied to iPhone and Android phones; the end result being a Live Tile or shortcut to check the Clutter folder of an Office 365 email account from your phone.

 

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  1. Open your Office 365 mailbox and click the Ellipses button.
  2. Select Folders
  3. Select show all folders
    Check-Clutter-from-Phone-02-2
  4. Open the Clutter folder
  5. Set the Clutter folder to be included in syncing
  6. The Clutter folder will now be synced, with an offline copy of messages to review and move to Inbox if necessary
    Check-Clutter-from-Phone-03
  7. Pin the Clutter folder to your Start Menu or Home screen
  8. Move the Clutter folder shortcut so that it is near the Inbox for the same Office 365 account

 

Check-Clutter-from-Phone-04Keep an eye on the messages that matter most to you.
Check your Clutter folder occasionally, throughout the day.

Now to de-clutter…

It will pay to check your Clutter folder regularly over the next week or so and less frequently after that. Clutter can be trained to recognise what is indeed clutter and what is not.
My routine for checking email now will be:

  1. Check my Inbox. Skim read messages for importance or actions required. Flag messages that need a response.
  2. Check Clutter. Skim read messages. Mark as ‘Not Clutter’ where appropriate.
  3. Check Junk Mail daily.

24 Hours after activating Clutter

After an early look at Clutter and activating it 24 hours ago, Clutter is doing a great job at keeping my Inbox lean and focused.

Clutter is capturing all my email notifications from social media platforms – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yammer, YouTube.

Clutter files anything that looks like a survey, subscription or newsletter from my various memberships (Airlines, online services, hotels).

Yesterday I dragged an email notification for a Yammer conversation into my Inbox. Yammer email notifications are useful in that they are a replacement for messages from a Distribution List. The notification from Yammer includes any replies to the Yammer posts where I am involved in the conversation.
By dragging the Yammer email notification from Clutter to my Inbox, Clutter learned that Yammer notifications are “Not Clutter” and is now delivering them into my Inbox again.

Other than that, I haven’t had the need to drag a message back to my Inbox. I was tempted to do so with Twitter messages; my next busiest social media. But I’ll leave them in Clutter and check them occasionally. After all, email notifications for social media serve one main purpose – to direct you to the richer social experience in the browser or app.

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Clutter saved me from these distractions while I worked. Quietly filed away, these messages didn’t even display the Outlook New Message “Toaster” pop-out alert.

 

Enjoy working with a more focused Inbox today, dealing with messages that matter most to you.

 

  • http://sympmarc.com/ Marc D Anderson

    Useful post; I didn’t have to think much to get Clutter running by following your instructions.

    I didn’t have the odd re-sorting behavior you saw. The only difference I see so far is the welcome email and the new Clutter folder.

    M.

    • http://webster.net.nz/ Darrell Webster

      Hi Marc. Thanks for the feedback. I expect that the welcome email might change as Clutter is turned on by more and more people. The Exchange team will receive feedback and adjust their messaging in the welcome accordingly.
      Let us know if Clutter simplifies your email experience.

      • http://sympmarc.com/ Marc D Anderson

        It’s going to be interesting to see how much this drives me to use the online version of Outlook. I’m a desktop Outlook user from way back, but it seems like this might make the browser version have more appeal.
        M.

        • http://webster.net.nz/ Darrell Webster

          Browser First, Mobile First 🙂 Clutter works well in Outlook too. To train Clutter from Outlook, drag messages that are “Not Clutter” from the Clutter folder to your Inbox folder. Done! Make sure you take a look at my phone tip too. I couldn’t create screenshots for iPhone and Android. But I’m sure you can do something similar.

          • http://sympmarc.com/ Marc D Anderson

            I’ll stick with the combined Apple inbox on iOS, thank you very much.
            M.

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