How to Customize Outlook Mail for Mac

Microsoft recently made Outlook for Mac free, a move that is sure to encourage adoption. If you use Outlook for Mac or are thinking about making the switch, see how you can customize the app’s email views.

Image: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Microsoft Outlook has long been the de facto standard business email client application, and for good reason. The program is reliable, offers easy account setup, and usually eliminates many formatting and other potential issues that Microsoft-centric IT staff or others might occasionally be tempted to blame on the Mac’s native Mail app.

In early March 2023, Microsoft made the Outlook app for Mac free. Previously a Microsoft 365 subscription or standalone license was required.

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How to get Outlook for Mac

Microsoft Outlook for Mac is easy to get. Just go to the Mac App Store and download the program.

Once installed, associate your email account with the app. To add an email account to Outlook for Mac, open the program, click Tools on the menu bar, then choose Accounts. In the Accounts window that appears, click the + icon (Figure A).

Figure A

This image shows the accounts window of Outlook for Mac.
Image: Erik Eckel

Add email accounts to Outlook for Mac using the Accounts window.

Ever flexible, Outlook for Mac allows linking a variety of email accounts, including those supported by Microsoft Exchange, IMAP, Google and Apple iCloud. A wizard for adding accounts (Figure B) is included to aid the process.

Figure B

This figure shows the Welcome to Outlook message.
Image: Erik Eckel.

Outlook for Mac includes an Add Account Wizard to help connect email accounts.

After you enter the email address and specify any necessary account settings, Outlook for Mac adds the email account. Then the corresponding messages should appear in the application.

How to customize Outlook for Mac

Microsoft’s Mac email client allows for easy customization to view combos. Figure C Shows an option where both folders and My Day sidebars are hidden so the reader can focus on the messages.

Figure C

This figure shows the Outlook for Mac Inbox.
Image: Erik Eckel

Multiple view configurations and modifications are available using Outlook for Mac. Here, the sidebars are hidden so you can focus on the messages.

One of the best methods for navigating Outlook for Mac view configurations is to pause while hovering over various icons. After a while, as usual, the app will show the corresponding pop-up explanations. Using this method, you can do the following:

  • Toggle the folder sidebar in the left navigation pane on and off.
  • Hide and show the Notifications window on the right side.
  • See more items hidden within the displayed list of icons, which allow you to delete, reply to, and forward messages.
  • Share items using Teams.
  • Send information to OneNote.
  • Report suspected phishing emails.

You can access additional Outlook for Mac screen configurations by clicking View on the menu bar. Options include hiding or turning off message previews and converting messages to a conversation view, to which Outlook moves messages.

You can arrange the reading pane — the window where the message content is displayed — on the right side of the screen. Some professionals prefer to place this window at the bottom of the application. To change the position, click View, then Reading Pane, and specify Right, Bottom, or Hidden (to remove the Reading Pane entirely).

Outlook for Mac also offers a focused inbox. This feature, when enabled, separates emails between two tabs: one for Focused and another titled, perhaps inspiredly, Other.

Messages deemed important are placed in the Focused tab, while information suspected of being less relevant is moved to the Other tab. To enable Focused Inbox, click View and select Enable Focused Inbox. To disable the feature, click Enable Focused Inbox, which will remove the checkmark indicating that the feature is actively processing messages in the Inbox and return the configuration to the traditional view.

Message preview is another element that is easily added or removed from the app’s mail view. The image shown earlier in Figure C featured previews, which appear as a glimpse of a one-line message in each corresponding email, directly below the corresponding subject line.

While the default Outlook for Mac toolbar works well, customizations are easy and take only a moment to provide time-saving convenience throughout each workday. To customize the toolbar, click View, then select Customize Toolbar. The toolbar customization window will appear (Figure D). Simply drag and drop the corresponding icon to add, remove and change its locations in your email client.

Figure D

This figure shows a list of toolbar customization options.
Image: Erik Eckel.

When the Customize toolbar is selected in Outlook for Mac, the icons that appear in the Customize window will wave gently to indicate that the application is in customization mode. Delete, Archive, Pin/Unpin, Undo and Block are among the many options available for customization.

A few quick tweaks pay constant dividends

Outlook for Mac is a powerful, reliable and capable email client. Now that it’s free, even more Mac users can use the app for most any email account or service. Taking the time to make a few tweaks or adjustments first helps ensure the tool matches personal preferences and aids productivity throughout each workday, so the corresponding investment in quick time is well worth it. In the worst case scenario, if you find that a view adjustment you’ve entered isn’t working as it should, you can always go back.

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