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Office 365 'Clutter' Feature To Hit Business Users in June

Business-grade Office 365 subscribers will see Microsoft's new "Clutter" feature turned on by default starting next month, Microsoft announced on Monday.

Clutter, which works with Outlook and the Outlook Web App client, actually began rolling out to Office 365 subscribers in November, but it required being turned on first to work. On June 15, Microsoft's "standard release tenants" using Office 365 services will have the Clutter feature turned on by default, according to Microsoft's announcement. So-called "first-release" testers, however, will see it earlier on June 1.

There will be a few exceptions to the feature activation. End users that turned off Clutter won't be affected by the June push. And if administrators disabled Clutter in e-mail accounts, then Clutter will stay turned off.

Microsoft also announced two PowerShell cmdlets that IT pros can use to manage Clutter. One of them lets IT pros turn off Clutter if the user hasn't turned it on. That script could be used to stave off the coming Clutter activation in June, although end users still have local control over activating the feature. A second cmdlet will report on the use of Clutter by end users in a computing environment.

Microsoft also added the ability for IT pros to specify a "reply-to-address for Clutter notifications."

The Clutter notification system will be changing. It will deliver "alerts and summary notifications." Alerts are messages that get sent to end users when "new types of emails are moved to Clutter for the first time." End users will get a maximum of one alert per day, according to Microsoft's announcement. A summary notification, on the other hand, is a weekly report sent to end users.

IT pros can't opt out of getting Clutter notification messages at present, the announcement noted.

Clutter is based on Microsoft's Office Graph discovery technology and uses machine learning to push e-mails assumed to be of little importance to end users into a Clutter folder. Users can "train" Clutter to recognize e-mail of low importance by physically moving e-mails into the Clutter folder on the Outlook client or by right-clicking with the mouse and using a pop-up menu.

Clutter is actually "an Exchange feature" that integrates via Outlook clients, as well as with clients that support the Exchange ActiveSync protocol. That point was explained by Microsoft MVP Tony Redmond in a WindowsITPro article.

Redmond noted that the Clutter feature can work with hybrid Exchange Server and Office 365 cloud-based architectures. However, its machine learning capability only works for cloud-based e-mail accounts. Clutter works separately from spam services, and any Outlook rules set for the client will take precedence over Clutter's machine learning-based actions.

The Clutter feature is part of most Office 365 plans, including Business Essentials Business Premium and Enterprise (E1, E3, E4 and K-1), according to Microsoft's TechNet library description. It's also part of Office 365 Education and Government plans.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.