Microsoft today announced it is starting to roll out Clutter, an Outlook smart filter, to its Office 365 business customers. The feature is disabled by default in your inbox, and every user can to turn it on or off in the Outlook Web App (OWA) options menu.
Announced back in March at the company’s Exchange Conference in Austin, Clutter was unveiled as the codename for the feature, but it looks like Microsoft decided to keep it as the actual name. The underlying idea is quite simple: Microsoft wants to leverage the knowledge it gains about your daily work activities to automatically filter out emails that don’t immediately need your attention.
More specifically, Microsoft uses machine learning to move lower-priority messages into a new Clutter folder. Emails remain in the Clutter folder until you have time to review them, though you can of course choose to ignore them indefinitely.
Clutter learns from your actions (not just in OWA, but in the desktop Outlook client, OWA for devices, and Exchange-connected devices) to figure out which messages you are likely to ignore. It does this by using Office Graph, the productivity suite’s social feature that keeps track of your meetings, tasks, and anything else you do. You can also proactively train Clutter by marking emails as Clutter or simply moving them to the Clutter folder, as well as moving emails out of the Clutter folder that shouldn’t be there.
As a result, Clutter should get smarter over time, as it learns from your prior actions with similar messages, and determines the type of content and even how you are addressed in the message. This also means the Clutter experience ends up being personalized to each individual, based on their actions and their preferences.
That may be a privacy worry, but Microsoft insists Clutter is kept separate. The information it learns about each user is “only applied to that user’s experience and is not shared with anyone else.”
It’s also worth noting that even after you turn it on, Clutter won’t start taking actions until it has “sufficiently learned your work style and can confidently begin working for you.” Microsoft says Clutter’s process to get caught up should take “days.”
It also won’t be very effective if you don’t get many emails, or if you use email rules that handle everything (Clutter won’t act on those messages). In short, if you don’t struggle getting to “inbox zero” then you probably don’t need this feature.
As with most Office 365 updates, this is a gradual rollout. If your company has opted into First Release, you should get Clutter today. Microsoft says everyone else will start getting it “later this month.” Those using the English locale will see it first, and other languages will follow “as localization is complete” — Microsoft didn’t give a specific timeframe.
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