Preview messages

In Microsoft Outlook you can scan your mail folders and preview their content without opening the messages.

What do you want to do?


Turn the Reading Pane on or off

Do one of the following:

    Turn off the Reading Pane

    • On the View menu, point to Reading Pane, and then click Off.

    Turn on the Reading Pane

    • On the View menu, point to Reading Pane, and then click Right or Bottom.

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Preview a message in the Reading Pane

In the Reading Pane (Reading Pane: A window in Outlook where you can preview an item without opening it. To display the item in the Reading Pane, click the item.), you can read the content of a message, preview and open attachments, follow a hyperlink, use voting buttons, view the follow-up information in the InfoBar (InfoBar: Banner near the top of an open e-mail message, appointment, contact, or task. Tells you if a message has been replied to or forwarded, along with the online status of a contact who is using Instant Messaging, and so on.), and respond to meeting requests.

The Reading Pane to the right of the Inbox

Use the Reading Pane, highlighted in red, to preview your messages without opening them.

Security  You can view messages safely in the Reading Pane. Potentially malicious scripts or attachments are not activated or opened automatically in the Reading Pane. Although most malicious attachment types are blocked by Outlook, messages and attachments from unknown or unsolicited senders should always be treated with caution.

  • On the View menu, point to Reading Pane, and then click Right or Bottom.

 Notes 

  • By default, Outlook is configured to block external content, such as links to pictures or sounds, in HTML messages that you receive. These links are references in the HTML source code to an external location on the Internet. When you open or preview the message, your computer downloads the external content so that the picture can be displayed or the sound played. Sometimes, junk e-mail senders use the downloading of external content by your computer to verify your e-mail address as valid so they can add it to their spam list. For more information, see Blocked attachments in Outlook.
  • When you are viewing a message in the Reading Pane, you can view e-mail properties about a name in the From, To, or Cc field by double-clicking it.

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Preview the first three lines of messages in the main Outlook window

For a way to quickly scan your Inbox, try AutoPreview, where the first three lines of each message are displayed in the message list, along with the sender's name and the subject line.

You can apply AutoPreview to any of your mail folders, like Sent Items and Drafts, but you have to turn AutoPreview on for each folder.

AutoPreview shows the first 3 lines of a message


  • On the View menu, click AutoPreview.

 Note   To preview the first three lines of unread messages only, on the View menu, point to Current View, and then click Customize Current View. Click Other Settings, and then click Preview unread items.

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Preview an attachment in the Reading Pane

When you receive an attachment in a message, and want to quickly see what the attachment contains without opening it, you can preview the attachment in the Reading Pane (Reading Pane: A window in Outlook where you can preview an item without opening it. To display the item in the Reading Pane, click the item.).

 Note   To preview an attached file created in an 2007 Microsoft Office system application, you must have that 2007 Office application installed on your computer. For example to preview a Word attachment, you must have Word installed. To preview an Excel attachment, you must have Excel installed.

Attachment Preview is supported for messages that are formatted as HTML and plain text but not for messages that are formatted as Rich Text Format (RTF). Also, Attachment Preview is only available when you are looking at received messages and not when you are composing new messages.

ShowView 2007 Microsoft Office system applications that support Attachment Preview by default

  • Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 items.
  • Microsoft Office Word 2007 documents.
  • Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007 presentations.
  • Microsoft Office Excel 2007 worksheets.
  • Microsoft Office Visio 2007 drawings.
  • Images and text files.

Third-party software vendors may provide their own previewers as add-ins.

 Important   To help protect you from malicious code, active content embedded in attachments (including scripts, macros, and ActiveX controls) is disabled during a preview. You should preview or open attachments from trustworthy sources only.

Preview an attachment

  1. In the message list, select the message that has the attachment that you want to preview.
  2. In the Reading Pane, click the attachment. If there are multiple attachments, you may need to scroll horizontally to find the attachment that you want.

 Note   A preview might not show the most up-to-date content in the file. To see the most complete, up-to-date content, open the file. For example, you can double-click a .docx attachment to open it in Microsoft Word.

  1. To return to the message body, click the Message button.

Preview attachment

Callout 1 Click to view the message
Callout 2 Click to preview the attachment
Callout 3 Attachment preview
Callout 4 Click the PowerPoint slide to view the next slide in the presentation

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Applies to:
Outlook 2007