Focused Inbox not working

Copper Contributor

Finally got Focused Inbox to appear in my Windows Outlook 2016 client yesterday, after finally enabling Modern Authentication in our Exchange Online tenant. It had been present and working in my Mac Outlook 2016 client, as well as in both OWA and iOS Outlook clients, just missing from the Windows Outlook 2016 client. However, it seems to have stopped working, in all clients!


So, two things have occurred recently, which may have affected this functionality.


(1) A few days ago, I uninstalled and reinstalled the Office 2016 suite on my Macbook, and installed the latest version from our Office 2016 tenant (E3 corporate license). I only mention this because I saw someone else report a similar problem that started after installing or upgrading his Mac client.


(2) I enabled Modern Authentication in our Exchange Online tenant yesterday. I don't believe this to be the culprit because Focused Inbox is confirmed working for at least one of my co-workers, so the problem seems to be limited to my mailbox.


I've reviewed both the tenant and mailbox settings, and both show Focused Inbox as enabled. Where else can I check, or how else can I troubleshoot this issue? I'm really bummed because Clutter was so useful, and now everything is going to my inbox. I've been using "Move to Other" all day, but so far it's not getting the hint. :)  Any ideas? Thanks!


24 Replies

So, it's a week later and Focused Inbox is still enabled but not actually doing anything. No messages show up in the Other tab, in any of my clients, unless I move them manually. And I've been doing that a lot over the past week. The feature is working for my coworkers, so my mailbox seems to be the only one affected. At this point, I'm hoping that it somehow lost all the knowledge it accumulated during the Clutter training, and it's just re-learning my preferences, and one day it will just start working.


I'm in the Insider Fast ring, so I reported the problem through the Contact Support function within Outlook, but so far I've received no response from anyone at Microsoft.




Activate your Focused inbox by:

1. Access the Exchange Online environment through the powershell.
2. Set-OrganizationConfig -FocusedInboxOn $ True (applies to entire organization)
3. Check if Get-OrganizationConfig is applied.
4. Go to Exchange Central Administration - Mail Flow - Rules and create a Focused inbox rule.
Set the message header to this value Add the following header value in the entry:

[Reference contents]
How to apply per user mailbox
Set-FocusedInbox -Identity -FocusedInboxOn $ True
How to Verify That User Mailbox Units Are Applied
Get-FocusedInbox -Identity


Thanks, but Focused Inbox is already enabled at both the organization level and on my mailbox. And I fail to see the need for a transport rule, since the purpose of that header is to allow certain messages to bypass the Focused Inbox processing, which is not the case here. Everything is going to my Focused tab, and nothing goes to the Other tab unless I move it there explicitly.


Thank you for your response.
Do you see the Focused tab?

Yes, that was one of the premises of my first message - Focused Inbox is enabled at the organization and mailbox levels, and I can see the Focused and Other tabs in my mailbox, but all incoming messages are showing up in the Focused tab, and only move to the Other tab when I manually move them there.


I have a call scheduled with someone at Microsoft Support tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully we'll be able to get to the bottom of this at that time. Thanks for your advice.




Yes, I understand.

So, is it the same in OWA environment?
If it is not the same, it seems to be a specific user Outlook problem.

Check out the following screenshots for Outlook options and try it out!


Excellent idea! I had not thought to check the status of the add-ins. Unfortunately (or, fortunately) the Exchange add-in IS loading properly, so that is not causing this problem. I did take the opportunity to disable all the other add-ins and restarted Outlook, but the problem remains. I will leave them disabled for the rest of the day, just to keep my configuration as basic as possible.


I do NOT think this issue is specific to my Windows Outlook 2016 client. I also regularly use a Mac Outlook 2016 client, the iOS Outlook clients for both iPhone and iPad, as well as the OWA client. All show the Focused and Other tabs, and none show or move any messages to the Other tab unless I do it manually myself. It is as if the Focused Inbox functionality of the server-side mailbox is not enabled, although the setting clearly indicates that it is.


I'm hoping that my support call with Microsoft this afternoon will uncover more information. I will report back with any additional findings after that call.


Hi Mike--


Did you try disabling Focused Inbox in your Outlook desktop, then re-enabling it?  Or disabling it at the user level, then re-enabling it?



Yes, I tried that, Steve, both on the mailbox from powershell using Set-FocusedInbox, and also by toggling the view in Outlook on both the Mac and Windows versions. And I believe that only toggles the view, not the underlying mailbox functionality that flags those messages so the client knows which view to put them in. But I could be wrong, it may do more than that. Thanks!

Update: So far, working with Microsoft support has not produced a reason for the behavior described above. However, they directed me to start flagging every non-importnt message with "Always Move to Other", and it seems to be slowly working - some new messages are starting to appear in the Other tab, but only the ones I've already previously flagged. It doesn't seem to be very intelligent, at least not yet. I'm disappointed that it seems to have lost all of the knowledge it acquired during the Clutter phase and the previous Focused Inbox phase. I have suggested to Support that the client needs to have a button or setting to force the mailbox to clear all Focused Inbox "rules" (or whatever it is that keeps track of what I like and don't like), sort of a "reset learning" flag, because I still think there's something in my mailbox that is confusing the learning engine and causing this behavior. The case is still open with Support, so if they (or I) come up with anything else that's useful, I will share it here.


Update: On Friday, Microsoft had me disable all of my inbox rules, just to make sure that none of those were interfering with Focused Inbox processing. They're also suspicious of our Ironport appliances and how they may be altering incoming mail, but that doesn't really make sense to me, since Focused Inbox is working normally for a co-worker and his mail goes through the same appliance. It will modify the Subject line to flag certain messages as "Marketing" or "Potential Spam", but it's been doing that all along, including back when Focused Inbox processing was working properly for me. The latest word is that I sent them a few sample emails that went to the Focused tab but should have gone to the Other tab, and I'm waiting for their feedback. As of this morning, I'd say it's half-working. Of the two dozen emails I've received that are not important (spam or bulk emails that got past the Ironport's filters), about half have gone to the Other tab and the rest showed up in the Focused tab. I even went so far as to clear out my safe senders and safe recipients lists (did that on Monday, actually).


In my opinion (which I may have mentioned before) the Focused Inbox "learning" process needs to have a reset switch that clears out everything and let's it start learning from scratch again. I don't want to have to do this sort of troubleshooting for any of our end users. I was very impressed with how well Clutter worked, but my transition to Focused Inbox has not been a pleasant experience. And I really miss my inbox rules, many of which moved messages into custom folders and kept my inbox pretty clean. I guess that's the price of being an early adopter.

Thank you for your feedback on the progress.
I will refer you.

Our focused inbox works perfectly since turning on modern authentication.  NEW related question:

This has been a very collaborative group on this thread so I am asking the question here.


Can I create a rule on mail that is flagged as Other?  I cannot figure this out but my VIP would like to have all mail in the Other view be marked as read so that the unread mark does not include it on the Inbox folder.  Anyone have an idea for this?




I think can do it in two steps.

1. Use Outlook rules to filter by "Inbox" first.
2. If you need to fine-tune your Focused Inbox, Move to Focused and Move to Other options are available to do that.

Thanks for the response but that is not our issue.  My VIP wants messages that go to Other to be automatically marked as READ.  I have not been able to figure this out.

Mike - wondering if the 'training messages' method is working over time.  I used Clutter for a few years and Focused Inbox worked flawlessly for me the first month or so of release.  As of last week, it just stopped working, all messages go to Inbox as you've noted.  I have covered all settings/suggestions and nothing.  What I find odd, Focused Inbox has been part of the iOS Outlook app for a long time and it always worked with zero training required.  I have colleagues who are not experiencing my issues at all.  Makes no sense.

Hello David,



Messages go into the Other tab automatically, yes, but it's more of a filter for marketing messages and spam. No false positives, so that's a plus. I still get quite a bit in Focused, so it's a regular routine to move them to Other or report them as Junk. I still feel that it worked better before it stopped working suddenly, but I can't back that up with any proof.


As the Exchange admin, I really hope this doesn't happen to any of my users. Telling them that their only option is to retrain the filter is a lousy solution.




I am having the exact situations you mentioned... its as if all learning was lost and I need to manually retrain my Focused inbox.  I am using and this just occured last week.  I had been using Focused inbox (nearly flawlessly) for months.  


Suddendly last week it stopped working on all clients and devices.  Very frustrating.  You explained and documented this very well!!!  Thank you for posting this problem. 




I thought that Exchange Online had modern authentication on as default? Still i read that you turn it on?