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How to use Email Tracking in Outlook

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Microsoft Outlook allows you to assign two email tracking options within an email message. The options include a delivery receipt and/or a read receipt. It is useful to know the difference between these two options and any limitations in how they work. Once you know the specifics you can select the option which best suits your needs.

  • Delivery Receipts provide a response when an email message has been delivered to the recipient’s email server. It is important to be aware that not all email servers are compatible with this function. A delivery receipt does not mean that the recipient has actually read your email message.
  • Read Receipt provides a response when an email message has been opened and/or viewed. It is important to be aware that recipients can choose to not send a receipt in response to your request, so even if you do not receive a receipt, this does not mean your email has not been viewed.

Email, along with other areas of IT has moved along by leaps and bounds in the past few decades and as such so has email infrastructure. Although Delivery Receipts are available within Microsoft Outlook it is important to understand that many email servers are now configured NOT to send back delivery receipts. Generally, I will gauge whether an email has reached the recipient’s email server based on the lack of an undeliverable email message being received. If I don’t receive an undeliverable or bounce error, I can generally assume that the email has been delivered.

To track or not to track

It is possible to enable email tracking on all outgoing email messages; however, I have found that this can present two main disadvantages:

  1. One is the increase in time required to manage email messages. For users with low email usage, this is not a problem, however, if you are sending 50+ emails a day and you enable tracking on all emails, you are essentially adding an additional 50+ incoming email to your inbox in the form of a delivery or read receipt.
  2. The second disadvantage is that read receipts can be found by some users to be an annoyance. Depending on the setting your recipients have for dealing with a read-receipt request, it may give them cause to simply turn off the function and not participate in any future requests.

This feature is available across all the recent versions of Outlook including Outlook 365, Outlook 2019, Outlook 2016, Outlook 2013 and Outlook 365.

Enable Email Tracking

If you wish to enable tracking on all your outgoing email, follow these steps:

  1. Open Microsoft Outlook.
  2. Select File > Options.
  3. Click the Mail category from the left-hand sidebar.
  4. Scroll down the window till you find the Tracking heading:
  1. Tick the option for Delivery receipt confirming the message was delivered to the recipient’s email server and/or Read receipt confirming the recipient viewed the message.
  2. Click OK.
  3. The tracking option will now be applied to all new email messages.

Track individual email messages

If you wish to enable email tracking on an individual email message, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new blank email message (Shortcut key Ctrl + N):
  1. Select the Options tab from the Ribbon.
  2. Now select the checkbox within the Tracking group you wish to use: Request a Delivery Receipt and/or Request a Read Receipt
  1. Complete the rest of your email as normal and send the email.

Read Receipt

A copy of the read receipt is received once the recipient opens the email message to view it. Remember to keep in mind that recipients can choose not to send a read receipt. If the email is not opened and simply deleted, you will receive a Not Read message.

  1. When the recipient receives your email and opens it, they will receive a notification as shown below when opening the email:
  1. If the recipient selects Yes, you will then receive a reply such as below:

That’s it for email tracking within Outlook. Be sure to check out other great posts relating to Microsft Outlook here.


2 Responses

  1. If you only view an email in Outlook through the edit, and not actually open it, can it still be tracked as having been opened?

    1. Hi Jay,

      If you select an email to display in the Reading pane (preview) and then you click off that email, you will be asked if you wish to send a read receipt (if one was requested). You can then click Yes or No. You will only be prompted to choose if you have this configured. You can choose to always send or never send read receipts.

      To check your current configuration, or change the setting, go to the File tab and select Options. Select Mail from the left side menu. Scroll down the screen and locate the Tracking section.

      You will see an option for “For any messages received that includes a read receipt request”:

      • Always send a read receipt;
      • Never send a read receipt, or
      • Ask each time whether to send a read receipt.

      Choose your preferred option and click OK.
      Hope that helps.

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