Javalot Jive

May 15, 2010

Outlook 2010: Subject line more important than ever

Subject lines, their misuse and disuse, and constant changing, can be a serious bone of contention among serious email users. With the changes in Outlook 2010, specifically 'threaded conversations', subject lines in email are more important than ever.

Tracking a conversation through email can become a tedious task when the subject doesn't exist or doesn't relate to the actual body of an email received. Outlook 2010 has adapted the threaded messaging much like that of Google's Gmail or popular discussion forums, which relies much on the consistency of related email subject lines.

Outlook 2010 will zero in on subject lines, grouping emails with the same subject lines into one conversation thread. In a perfect world, where everyone uses the subject line as they should, and never sends two different and unrelated people emails that happen to have the same subject line, this conversation threading would be... perfect. Unfortunately, the world and Outlook are still imperfect.

Microsoft states that Outlook is smarter than this and takes into account the 'Globally Unique Identifier' of an email (GUID). The GUID is an exceptionally long and unique number that can be found in the detail area of an email (right click on an email, choose 'Options').

Viewing the email headers of Outlook 2007, you may also see something labeled "Thread-Index", which Microsoft simply explains as:

Thread-Index: AcON3CInEwkfLOQsQGeK8VCv3M+ipA==

This header is used to associate multiple messages with a similar thread. For example, in Outlook, the conversation view uses this information to find messages from the same conversation thread.

Threading should work, it works beautifully in Gmail, and appears to work in Outlook 2010, but it's success is really dependent on the user and their email etiquette. Sloppy, funny and lazy subject lines aren't going to cut it:

The Vague:
"Subject: Meeting", "Subject: Help", "Subject: Need report"
These are the subject lines that will likely result in threads consisting of multiple emails from numerous senders, that may or may not be related. They may all have unique identifiers, but the subject lines are virtually identical.

How to avoid this? Make the subject line unique. You're emailing someone about a meeting, state briefly in the subject line which meeting, what day or date, or time. "Subject: Sales Meeting, Thurs, May 6"

What if you do this, but the sender didn't use a good subject line? Then correct the subject line when replying to them, you do have a certain amount of control over your email. "Subject: Sales Report 05/06/10 (Was: Need that report now)

The Cliffhanger
"Subject: Did you... ", "Subject: So..."
Starting a sentence in an email subject line is coy, and will probably get someone's attention, but more than likely, this sort of email will get lost and forgotten, or even deleted. Too bad if it had anything of true value in it.

The Void
"Subject: " , "Subject: ?????!!!!!"
I think these may speak on their own. Everyone has gotten one of these emails, and even sent them. It's a rush email, can't be helped in some cases. But just keep in mind, if it's something important, something the receiver might need to reference or keep... You might want to change that subject line to something relevant.

If Microsoft really comes through on this flattery of Gmail tech, and the threaded conversations truly work, then the only headache to conquer will be sloppy emailers. Don't hold back, a good scolding via "Reply all" may do the trick, or just make you look like an anal jerk. However it turns out, you'll be the anal jerk with an organized Outlook Inbox.

By Perri Lamanna


Alex said...

Just today I have opened my MS Outlook and was awfully frightened because of I didn't see any emails inside. I use the Google and successfully found out there one of the most good solutions for this and my situation in my humble opinion - how can i view my email form ost file in outlook?.

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