There isn’t anything revolutionary in the latest refresh of Microsoft’s famous Office PIM client, although there are several feature improvements in Outlook 2010. One addition that has received a mix of praise and declarations of “it’s about time!” is the new Conversation View in mail folders.

When you install Outlook 2010, the default mail folder view is set to Conversation, sorted by date. Many people have waited a long time for this view, so I recommend giving it a try. However, that doesn’t mean it is the best view for everyone because we all use Outlook differently. I used Conversation View for a full month, and found that I prefer the linear, serial display of my mail folders. So, how do you turn off the Conversation View and how do you do it for all mail folders at once?

In Outlook 2010, you can toggle the Conversation View on and off for the current folder from one of three places. I’ve labeled these three places with red numbers in Figures 1 and 2. The primary default view options are shown in the Arrangement panel in the Office Ribbon. Select the View tab while in a mail folder and look in the Arrangement panel. Selecting an alternative view icon in the Arrangement panel removes the Conversation View. Figure 1 shows the Date (Conversations) option selected in the Arrangement panel; I’ve called it out with a red number 1.

Figure 1: Toggling Conversation View on and off from the Ribbon
Figure 1: Toggling Conversation View on and off from the Ribbon

Conversation View is significant enough that Microsoft gave it its own panel in the Ribbon labeled Conversations (this is a change in panel organization from the beta versions to the RTM version of Outlook 2010). The first item in the Conversations panel is the Show as Conversations check box. You can use this check box to toggle the Conversation View on and off, regardless of the other Conversation View options that may already be selected and in place. In Figure 1, I’ve labeled Show as Conversations with a red number 2.

You can also change the Conversation View by right-clicking the bar immediately above the messages and below the search bar on a default installation, and then using the context menu. The view options listed in the context menu mirror the small icons in the Arrangement panel of the Office ribbon. In the context menu, click Show as Conversations to toggle it on and off. In Figure 2, I’ve marked this menu item with a red number 3.

Figure 2: Toggling Conversation View on and off from the context menu
Figure 2: Toggling Conversation View on and off from the context menu

Using any of these options, you can change the view of the current folder. In the RTM version, Microsoft also added a pop-up option, shown in Figure 3. When you change to or from the Conversation View in a Mail folder, the pop-up asks if you want that change applied to all folders or just the current folder.

Figure 3: Pop-up with Conversation View change options
Figure 3: Pop-up with Conversation View change options

Microsoft also included the option of applying this change to selected folders. On the Ribbon, access this option from View tab, in the Current View panel. Open the Change View drop-down menu, and click Apply Current View to Other Mail Folders. This step, highlighted in Figure 4, opens a new window in which you can select the individual folders you want view changes applied to, including ones in other accounts within the profile.

Figure 4: Changing the view on selected folders
Figure 4: Changing the view on selected folders

I selected all of them to remove the Conversation View completely. Perhaps you may want to change only specific folders. We all use Outlook a little differently, and thankfully, Microsoft provides us with many different ways to use it.