The frustration of not being able to recall a mistaken/embarrassing/unfinished email is probably a well-known feeling to many Outlook users. The absurd message: ‘X would like to recall the message, Y’ can drive everyone mad. But here comes the good news – Microsoft has finally addressed those experiences, releasing a completely redesigned message recalling feature. This time, it uses the power of the cloud.
- What’s new in the message recalling in Microsoft 365?
- What stays unchanged?
- How to set up the new email recalling feature?
- How to recall an email in Outlook for Windows?
- How to configure third-party tools to not interfere with email recalling?
What’s new in the message recalling in Microsoft 365?
With the average success rate of 40%, it’s not surprising that people weren’t too happy with how the classic Message Recall works. The promised >90% effectiveness of the revamped feature looks too good to be true, but effectiveness isn’t the only thing that’s changing. So, let’s see how the message recall works after upgrading it from a client-side to a server-side feature.
Recall read messages
In the case of the classic Message Recall, once a recipient had read your email (or marked it as read), you were doomed (to die of embarrassment). The new cloud-based feature, however, lets you recall your message, regardless of its state. This can be super helpful if you realize (not immediately but after some time) that you absolutely need to recall an email, or if your recipients automatically mark emails as read.
At the same time, it’s worth noting that admins can opt to turn that functionality off. But I’ll discuss it later on.
Recall emails from subfolders
With the new Message Recall, you can take back your email from any subfolder (like Deleted Items) or even custom mailbox folder. The classic Message Recall supported only your recipient’s Inbox. It can be extremely useful, for example, if your recipient moves your email manually or uses a rule to move it automatically.
Note that recalling is not possible (by design) in case your message is moved to Drafts or Sent Items.
No restrictions as to recipient’s email client
For message recall to work, your recipient no longer needs to use Outlook for Windows. It can be basically any email client that syncs with Exchange Online. What’s more, your recipient’s email app doesn’t have to be open for an email to be successfully recalled. This change greatly increases your chances of message recall success.
Single message recall report for all recipients
The classic Message Recall feature brought to you a separate status report for each recipient. While it wasn’t a problem when you sent a message to one or two people, you wouldn’t say the same when your unwanted email reached a group of 100 colleagues.
The new Message Recall introduces a unified, single message recall report that lists all your recipients along with the status of the recalling operation for each of them.
Before the operation fails, Exchange Online attempts to recall your email for up to 24 hours. According to Microsoft’s promises, updating the status should typically take no longer than 5 minutes. Only messages with thousands of recipients, could take more than 30 minutes to fetch recall status.
Currently, your recipients are not informed about a recalled message but Microsoft considers adding such functionality in the future.
What stays unchanged?
Still, there are certain limitations that are here to stay with the new Message Recall.
First of all, you can still recall messages using Outlook for Windows only. However, Microsoft is working on an API to make the feature available in other email clients.
Secondly, you can only recall messages sent inside your organization and to mailboxes in the Exchange Online (Microsoft 365) cloud. If you’ve got the hybrid setup, you won’t be able to recall emails sent to on-premises mailboxes (Exchange Server). Emails sent externally also cannot be recalled for privacy and legal reasons.
How to set up the new email recalling feature?
In fact, you don’t need to set it up in any way – it is rolled out centrally by Microsoft. To test if it’s currently available for your organization, try using one of the new features, e.g. recall a read message, etc. If you’re an admin, you can also sign in to the Exchange admin center (EAC), go to Settings > Mail flow, and see if the Enable cloud-based message recall checkbox is selected.
Deselecting the checkbox and clicking Save, you can disable the feature for your entire organization. Alternatively, you can disable it connecting to your Exchange Online and using the following cmdlet:
Set-OrganizationConfig -MessageRecallEnabled $false
Disabling the new Message Recall will restore the classic, client-side version for Outlook for Windows users in your tenant. Selecting the checkbox or running the cmdlet with
$true at the end will re-enable the new Message Recall organization-wide.
One more thing that you can currently do as an administrator is globally disabling/enabling recalling of read messages. To do it, either access the Mail flow settings as outlined above, deselect/select the Allow users to recall messages read by the recipient checkbox, and click Save:
Or run the following script. The
$true value at the end enables recalling read emails, while
$false disables the feature:
Set-OrganizationConfig -RecallReadMessagesEnabled $false
How to recall an email in Outlook for Windows?
It’s done similar to the classic Message Recall:
- Go to the Sent Items folder in Outlook for Windows.
- Open the message you want to recall by double clicking it.
- Click the Actions icon (in the Move group) on the ribbon and choose Recall This Message.
- Choose the option that best suits you. Note that the messages in this popup window might be a little confusing, as they apply to the classic Message Recall. But don’t get distracted and click OK – Microsoft has promised to fix the outdated texts in the future.
- (Optional) If you’ve chosen to recall and replace your message, make the edits and send the corrected version.
- That’s it. Your message should be recalled in a few moments – it will disappear from your recipient’s mailbox. You’ll also get the Message Recall Report with all the details. If you completed step 5, your recipient will receive your updated message.
At the moment, there is no time limit for recalling a message. However, Microsoft is considering adding an option that allows IT administrators to specify organization-wide recall time limit.
How new message recalling works in less typical scenarios?
Emails send from a shared mailbox or as a delegate can be recalled as well. However, currently, it’s impossible to access the Message Recall Report for messages recalled in those scenarios.
Messages forwarded from recipient’s mailbox to another one using Exchange mail flow rules will be recalled as usual. The recalling won’t work if forwarding is done manually or by means of a local (Inbox) rule.
Finally, an important note for admins using the eDiscovery feature: Yes, emails recalled by users (mailboxes) subject to a litigation hold will be listed in eDiscovery.
How to configure third-party tools to not interfere with email recalling?
As I mentioned above, you cannot recall a message that leaves your organization. Surprisingly, there might be situations where emails sent internally technically exit your tenant without leaving Microsoft data centers.
That’s the case when you use 3rd party solutions (often called ‘smart hosts’) to do something to your emails in transit between sender and recipient, e.g. scan them for threats, insert email signatures, etc. As a result, Exchange Online treats them as external ones, preventing senders from recalling them.
Fortunately, there’re workarounds that let you fix it.
Fixing message recalling
When emails leave your organization, Exchange Online by default converts their format to ensure compatibility with external email systems. Using the workaround below, you force Exchange Online to keep the original message format that’s compatible with the Message Recall feature.
- Sign in to the Exchange admin center (EAC) as a Global Administrator or Exchange Administrator.
- Go to Mail flow > Remote domains > Add a remote domain – a new remote domain wizard will launch.
- In the first wizard’s step, name your domain the way you want. In the Remote domain textbox, enter your organization’s email domain, e.g. example.com (if your email looks something like this: [email protected]). You need to be very accurate, as the textbox is also case-sensitive.
- Click Next several times to go to the Text and character set step. Under the Use rich-text format section, select Always, as shown below.
- Complete the wizard and wait some time for the changes to propagate.
Fixing Message Recall Reports
When you use a smart host, Message Recall Reports might show incorrect status of recall operation (because email sent externally cannot be recalled). You can fix in two ways, using mail flow rules (transport rules):
- By modifying your smart host rule:
- In the Exchange admin center, go to Mail flow > Rules, locate your smart host’s transport rule, and open it for editing.
- Add the exception with the following condition: The message headers >includes any of these words.
- Use x-ms-exchange-recallreportgenerated as the header name and true and false as header’s values (words/phrases).
- Save the rule to apply your changes.
- By creating a new rule for recalled messages:
- Go to Mail flow > Rules and create a new mail flow rule.
- In the Apply this rule if section, add the same condition that was used as an exception in the solution above.
- In the Do the following section, select Modify the message properties > set a message header, and provide the message header characteristic of / assigned by your smart host together with its value.
- Complete the new rule creation wizard using the default settings, enable your rule, and move it above your smart host’s rule, so that it’s processed first.