How to keep emails as read in Outlook 2019, 365 & 2016?

Last update: December 2019.

Here’s a question from a reader:

I am using Microsoft Office 365. I have noticed that after i click on a specific email entry in the Outlook Mail tab and open it for reading, it shows as read. What’s annoying is that i have noticed that items that i view in the Reading Pane are shown as being read as well… This makes it difficult for me to follow up on my email and take the required action. Now the question is the following: is there a way to modify the read / unread settings to keep my messages marked as unread in Outlook unless i explicitly set them as read (by making a right click and selecting Mark as Read). Thanks in advance for any tips.

Thanks for the question. In our answer, we’ll be covering both Windows and macOS unread settings for Outlook. Here we go:

Don’t make as read on Outlook for Windows

You can follow this procedure to turn off the single click read feature, so that Outlook doesn’t mark messages as read:

  1. First off, go ahead an open Microsoft Outlook.
  2. Next, go ahead and hit File, then select Options.
  3. Select the Mail tab.
  4. Now, navigate to the Outlook panes section.
  5. Now, go ahead and  hit the Reading Panes button.
  6. In the opened dialog , go ahead and uncheck the first box as shown below.


  1. When done, hit the OK button.
  2. That’s it – auto-read is now turned off.

Note: There is another interesting setting in the Reading Pane, which allows you to mark items as read when selecting different items in your Inbox. The setting is not checked by default, and probably for a good reason.

Stop marking as auto read on macOS

To configure Outlook to stop “opening” your email automatically and keep your previewed email as unread kindly follow these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Outlook for macOS.
  2. From the top menu, select Outlook.
  3. Now hit Preferences and select Reading.
  4. In the Mark Email as Read section, select “Only when opened in separate window”
  5. Hit OK and that’s pretty much it.

Additional questions:

Outlook not marking emails as read?

Couple of readers asked about the opposite use case. You want to preview your email and mark it as read afterwards. Setting the time stamp in the Reading Panes dialog (which control the unread settings) to 2-3 seconds, will most likely do the trick and ensure your emails became read, even if you just previewed them for a short time.

Marking as read when deleting emails

One reader pointed out the fact that by default, that Office doesn’t set deleted mails as read, which becomes visible in the Deleted Items folder.

To ensure deleted items are marked as read, navigate to the Other section bottom of the Outlook Settings dialog at:  File>>Options>>Mail, and mark the “Mark messages as read when deleted”.

Using Shortcuts

Readers asked whether they could use shortcuts to quickly mark  an email as read or unread.

Ctrl + Q : Will set to read

Ctrl + U: Will mark as unread.

Kindly leave us a quick comment in case of any questions.

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