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Options for Taming Unruly Mailboxes

As Cornell continues to transition toward a standard Office 365 implementation for faculty/staff email and calendar, some of Microsoft’s mail management features are generating questions, confusion, and concern.

Here's what you need to know about Clutter, Rules, Focused Inbox, and Junk Email to decide what will work best for you and how to help others decide.


Status: Being phased out by Microsoft, with Focused Inbox (see below) as the replacement. Expected to be fully removed by early 2018.

What it does: Clutter looks at your Inbox and learns what messages you typically read and respond to quickly. It moves messages that don’t get your attention to a separate Clutter folder. You can train it by moving messages to/from Clutter. It’s not perfect, and sometimes messages from your Cornell colleagues may end up in Clutter. Cornell doesn’t have any way to stop that, so you may choose to either check your Clutter folder daily, or turn off Clutter.


Status: Stable; no changes recently or upcoming

What it does: Lets you define actions that will be automatically taken on messages when they’re delivered or sent. For example, you can have all messages from a certain person marked as high priority. Or you can say to delete all messages with "foursquare" in the subject line.

Set up rules:
The fastest and simplest way is through Outlook on the web. See these step-by-step instructions for setting up rules

Focused Inbox

Status: Being slowly added by Microsoft. Available now for Outlook on the web and the iOS and Android Microsoft Outlook apps. Expected for Windows/Mac Outlook by early spring 2018.

What it does: Separates your Inbox into two tabs: Focused and Other. It learns to identify your more important messages and puts them in Focused. You can train it by moving messages between the Focused and Other tabs. It’s not perfect, and sometimes messages from Cornell may end up in the Other tab. Cornell doesn’t have any way to stop that, so some people may choose to turn off Focused Inbox.

Turn Focused Inbox on or off. (Caution: Focused Inbox is not available yet for Windows/Mac Outlook.)

Junk Email

Status: Recent change for Cornell faculty/staff email, which used to go through a non-Microsoft spam filtering tool

What it does: Automatically puts messages into the Junk Email folder, based on Microsoft’s spam detection systems. It’s not perfect, and sometimes legitimate messages end up in the Junk Email folder. You can mark them as “not spam”, which automatically moves the messages to your Inbox. Taking that step also helps improve Microsoft’s systems.

Turn it off:
Microsoft’s spam filtering systems are extremely accurate. Turning off junk filtering is *not* recommended. If you decide to do this, you can use these instructions for turning ON junk mail filtering as a guide.

Questions? Need a Little Help?

The IT Service Desk can assist you with any of these features, or other questions you might have about Office 365 for faculty and staff. You can call, chat, email, or stop by in person -- see all your options.

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