Editing the Subject line in Outlook

Last reviewed on January 7, 2014   —  10 comments

As many users know, you can edit the subject line in a message. This makes it easier to find messages especially when they don't include a subject.

If you are new to editing the subject, simply open the message, type in the subject field and save. We have more information and a video tutorial at Change the Subject of an Incoming Message

In older versions of Outlook the Message list shows the edited subject:

Subject line and message list in older versions of Outlook

In Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2013, when you use the default view with the Date (Conversation) setting, you'll see the original subject in the message list:

Subject line and message list in Outlook 2010

As you can see, the edited subject shows in the preview pane but not in the message list, because you are only changing the subject, not the conversation title, and the new Conversation view uses the Conversation field.

When you turn off the Show messages in conversation view, Outlook will display the edited subject, just as it does in older versions of Outlook.

Edit Subject and Disable Conversation View Tutorial

Show in Conversation menu in Outlook 2010 SP1To turn off Show messages in conversation either:

Switch to the View ribbon and deselect the Show in Conversation option
Right click on the row of field names above the message list and click Show message in conversation to deselect it.

Changes can't be Saved error message

When you edit a subject field of a message that contains an attachment and the attachment is open, you'll receive an error message:

Your changes cannot be saved because you don't have permission to modify some or all of the items in this folder. Do you want to save a copy of this item in the default folder for the item?

Changes can't be saved warning dialog

To avoid this, you need to close the attachment first, then save and close the message with the edited subject field.

Edit the Subject Line and Turn off Show in Conversations Video Tutorial

About Diane Poremsky

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlook forums by Slipstick.com.

10 responses to “Editing the Subject line in Outlook”

  1. Kevin

    This is a real step backward by Microsoft. I want to change the subject *and* I want to use conversation view. In older version of Outlook, you could have a conversation properly categorized (and viewed) as a conversation, but you could *also* change the subject line of specific messages.

    This was handy because you could still tell that the message was part of the conversation, even though the subject was different.

    So, did MS goof, or is there a setting somewhere so that I can get that old behavior back?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      The conversation view in older versions worked differently - and unfortunately there is not a setting to change it, other paying attention to the reading pane header. (I'd also probably add a category for Edited so I'd know it was edited.)

  2. Cara

    I can't seem to change the subject using Outlook 365. Is it possible? How?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      It works the same as in Outlook 2010. Open the message, type in the subject field then Save. If you use conversation view, the change is only visible in the reading pane and open messages.

  3. Cara

    Diane, Thanks for your quick response. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to work. I eliminated the conversation view, but Outlook 365 won't let me change the subject. Any thoughts? Thanks.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      What type of email account? Did you open the message ? (it won't work in the reading pane or message list.)

  4. Vitaliy

    Good solution, i had the problem before and now problem solved. Thanks a lot.

  5. Colin

    Hi Gang,
    Another solution would be to send it to yourself, and change text in the subject line.

  6. ChrisP

    I like to put an asterisk in front of any changes I make to the original subject. That allows me to see that i have added the change.

    Also, if you need to change several subjects you can right click on the 'Subject' column header then select 'Other Settings' and then 'Allow In-Cell Editing' Save and exit.

    That allows you to edit the subject without opening the email by single clicking, twice. ) Like how you would rename a file)

  7. Simao Campos

    There are two behaviors, at least with Outlook 2010 - whether you are connected to the Exchange server in cached mode or not.

    In order for the modified subject line to appear in the Outlook client (when in Conversation mode), you need to edit the subject line text when connected directly to the server, not in cached mode. For some reason, when in cached mode, the Conversation will stick to the original subject text, even if the actual subject line is changed when you edit and save the changes.

    How you change from cached to non-cached mode will depend on your installation; the following page may help you: http://office.microsoft.com/en-001/outlook-help/turn-on-or-off-cached-exchange-mode-HP001022343.aspx. One simple approach could be to have two profiles, one using cached mode and another connected online to the Exchange server.

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