Office Clutter

The definition of clutter is: “a confused or disordered state or collection; a jumble”. Clutter is most often a symptom of collector’s mania. If we apply this to our modern-day use of email, we can certainly discern traces of an obsession for hanging onto things. Just think of how many times a conversation ends with: “Can you send me the details in an email?”

Taking this into account, there are two types of people:

  • The organised collectors: emails are grouped in a clear file structure at regular intervals and all unimportant email is discarded;
  • The chaotic collectors: all email is equally important and preferably left in the inbox forever.

Coming to the rescue of the latter category, Microsoft developed the “Clutter” function: a feature that every user of Office 365 can activate personally in his or her mailbox:


All the end user needs to do is decide whether to switch this function on or off. What you see above, for example, is a message showing that Outlook has classified 20 email messages as clutter in the past week.

The function will create a “Clutter” file, which will then be used to transfer less important email from your inbox to a clutter folder.
Of course, Outlook doesn’t just randomly transfer email from one file to another; it first makes an assessment of your mailbox behaviour. Which email do you tend to read immediately, which email do you delete, and which don’t you even open? Based on this information, Outlook will help ensure that genuinely important email remains in your mailbox, while low-priority email is moved to the clutter file.

There are two possible actions you can take to coordinate the clutter filter to your email behaviour.

  • You can designate email as clutter, simply by marking it as such. Of course, it also works the other way around: you can designate email that Outlook has placed in your clutter file as “not clutter”.
  • If you prefer not to spend time clicking, you can simple drag email from your inbox to your clutter file (to be designated as clutter), or vice-versa to inform Outlook that specific email moved to your clutter file is, after all, important.


Learning process

The clutter function will, however, not function flawlessly from the moment you start using it. It may take several days - or even weeks - before it is completely attuned to your profile. As no two people approach their email inbox in exactly the same way, there is a universal solution.

Emails sent by the user and those sent by a user’s superior are never considered clutter. Other characteristics that mark email as important are the sender’s name, whether or not the user has participated in the email thread, or if the user is the sole addressee. All of this is based on a powerful engine developed by Microsoft: Office Graph.

Centralised management

What we wanted to point out above is that the end user has full control over the clutter functionality; all he or she has to do is make use of it. However, it is not so that an email administrator cannot adjust centralised settings to the system. Email administrators can use “transport rules” to bypass email from the clutter filter (or not). Based on specific words, senders, or whether the email is for internal office use or not, end users can add the attribute “X-MS-Exchange-Organization-BypassClutter” to an email header to bypass the clutter filter. Or, in other words, the administrator can make sure that specific mails will always reach a user’s inbox and not inadvertently be designated as clutter.


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Op 23/06/2015 door Vincent

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