Customize MS Outlook Navigation, Reading and To-Do Panes

I love using MS Outlook and one of my favorite reasons is that it has all my emails under a single umbrella and in an organized manner. This saves me time from opening each of my email accounts separately.

Besides I can customize almost everything by what I need and how I want the behavior to be. Things like creating email filter rules and configuring desktop alerts help me stay on top of my emails. Not to forget, it also allows me to customize the entire interface for better productivity.

Outlook Interface

Counting from left (in the above image), I have the Navigation Pane, Messages Pane, Reading Pane and To-Do Bar activated. Well, you may not need all of them or all the elements within them. Worry not, we will tell you how to change the views.

Note: You can remove or disable all panes but Message Pane because the tool will have no meaning without that.

There is a quick way and a collective way (with advanced options) of customizing these panes. We will have a look at both. In the quick way you can navigate to View  and select the pane that you want to customize.

For the Navigation Pane you may minimize it or turn it off. And you can also enable/disable Current View Pane  and Favorite Folders.

Navigation Pane Options

For the To-Do Bar you have options to minimize or switch it off. Besides you can choose what elementary objects you want to keep in it.

To Do Bar Options

For the Reading pane you can select its position on the interface or have it turned off completely.

Activate Reading Pane

Let us move on to a different way of customizing the features with some more options and advanced abilities. This time navigate to Tools -> Options -> Other. Under the section for Outlook Panes  you can click on any button and select a pane to change settings.

Outlook Tools Options Other

For the Navigation Pane you will see that you can toggle the position (move up or down relatively) of elements besides being able to remove/activate them.

Customize Navigation Pane

For the To-Do Bar you will have additional options to set the number of months to be displayed and set the number of appointments that should appear.

Customize To Do Bar

For the Reading pane you can select how and when to mark a message as read. You may also enable or disable single key reading using the spacebar.

Customize Reading Pane


I generally love tools that allow me to configure things my way. And MS Outlook is a masterpiece in allowing user to set almost everything. Am I right? 🙂

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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