How To Change The Default Reading Pane Location In Outlook 2010 And Make Emails Easier To Read

One of my favorite things about Microsoft Outlook is being able to quickly go through all of my inbox emails while reading them simultaneously on the same screen.  But, with the default Outlook settings, this same feature is a huge burden to anyone on a laptop or screen that is less than 22 inches.  In this guide, we’ll go over just a few minor changes to the interface in Outlook 2010 to get rid of distractions and free up screen space.

Editors Note: Learn how to customize the Outlook preview pane in the latest update to this article.

By default, the Reading Pane in Outlook is located directly below your inbox contents.  As shown in the screenshot below, this doesn’t give you much room to read your emails or really anything else – it’s cramped!

outlook 2010 default email pane

How To Change The Outlook Reading Pane Location And Free Up The Screen

Step 1

In Outlook 2010, Click the View ribbon in Outlook 2010 and then Click the Reading Pane button.  A drop list will appear with 3 options.*

  • Right
  • Bottom (default)
  • Off

For this guide, we’ll assume you’re on a widescreen device, which, in that case, Choose Right.

Should you choose Off, the reading pane will disappear completely, and that is a bummer because it means that all emails will have to be opened in a completely new window by manually double-clicking each item in your inbox.

Note: *There is also an Options… item on the list that will give you access to some unrelated settings.

view email reading pane setting outlook

Step 2

At the bottom-right corner of Outlook, you will see two buttons and a zoom slider bar.  The button on the right that looks like an open book is the Reading mode button, and the other one that looks like a spreadsheet is the Normal mode button.

Click the Reading button.

normal mode vs reading mode outlook


Outlook should now be much easier to read!  The reading pane will be on the right, which, on most modern displays, takes advantage of the widescreen resolution.  The side menus and ribbon should now also be minimized.  When compared to the screenshot at the beginning of this article, the one below with these two adjusted settings allows you to read your emails much more efficiently.

When you are done reading emails, just Click the Normal mode button at the bottom to return everything to the way it was.

Outlook 2010 reading pane view emails



  1. Leon

    June 28, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Yes, but what is the shortcut keys for switching between Normal and Reading mode?

  2. Brian

    December 13, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    This did not answer the question as to how to make the right side reading pane the “default” reading pane. When I close Outlook and then reopen it, the reading pane ends up under the e-mail list as it had. I cannot find anywhere in the Outlook instructions where it allows me to actually PERMANENTLY change it to the right. When I try the section on the ‘options’, ‘customize ribbon’ and under Main Tabs expand View and then expand Layout, the Reading Pane choice is greyed out.

    • Donald

      December 14, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      Me too. When I leave Outlook and log back in the default has already reverted back to “off”.
      I deleted the two Microsoft updates for Outlook recently automatically downloaded to no avail. The default is still in the “off” position.
      There were a bunch of Microsoft updates put in about a week ago and this is approx. when Outlook changed its default for my computer.
      I wonder if there is a code setting somewhere that we don’t know about. Maybe I will try to delete all of the updates installed on that date and see where we go with that. ??

  3. Scott

    March 20, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Same here!

    • Donald

      December 11, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      Same here I made no changes to my computer it just happened

      • susan

        January 1, 2016 at 1:22 pm

        Oh my goodness, Donald!!! The same exact thing has happened to me probably the same time it did to you??? Wonder what is going on? Maybe it’s a Microsoft “issue”??? But it’s driving me crazy…..I don’t like having to go back and change it every time I open my outlook :( ……..Also the same time this happened to me, all of a sudden all of my font’s in outlook changed also! (did yours?) …..I finally fixed that issue today …..but am unable to fix the right pane issue…please let me know if you find out how! :) Thanks!

  4. Brian

    March 20, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Unfortunately this still doesn’t fix the issue with Outlook resetting to the default mode after being closed and then re-opened. I am hoping that somewhere out there in cyberspace, someone has an answer to this issue.

  5. Karen

    May 22, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I have the same exact problem, how do you save the reading pane so you don’t have to set it every time you open Outlook?

  6. Linda

    December 14, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    I am the same. With the latest update my Outlook reading pane has changed and I am not able to default it to the Right reading pane. I can change it every time I open outlook but I cannot find where to default it so as I don’t have to go through this process every time outlook is opened.

  7. Donald

    December 14, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    I think we might have it.
    I just uninstalled about five updates from Microsoft 2 minutes ago listed as OUTLOOK.
    When I logged back in, the right reading pane was there! However there are two disclaimers here.
    1. It worked for me. It MIGHT work for you.
    2. Time will tell. I will give it a little bit of time to “think about it” and maybe tomorrow it will be either “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”.

  8. Nathan

    December 15, 2015 at 4:11 am

    Hey Donald can you give some clearer instructions on how to delete these OUTLOOK files?

  9. Tom

    December 16, 2015 at 4:00 am

    Same problem but surely someone at Microsoft can give information as to what to do rather than just allowing us to uninstall updates which may contain things we need or want.

  10. Kim

    December 16, 2015 at 7:09 am

    Anyone with the reading pane problems notice that it’s in Safe mode? You need to remove the update kb3114409 (I had 2)

    Start>Control Panel>Programs/Features>View Installed updates Type KB3114409 in the Search installed updates (top right)>Uninstall them.

    • Tom

      December 16, 2015 at 8:05 am

      Kim is absolutely right.
      I did this today and Hey Presto reading pane is back.
      By the way the update KB311409 has now been pulled by Microsoft. Nice of them to tell us!!

      • M. Barrett

        January 12, 2016 at 5:05 pm

        Tom you are my HERO! Thanks for saving the day.

    • Dee

      December 18, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      Wow Kim….you are a life saver….it was driving me crazy….!! Works a treat now…!!! Thanks again…!! :-)

    • Carolyn

      December 19, 2015 at 3:09 am

      You are brilliant Kim! Thanks. It worked for me too.

    • Carolyn

      January 11, 2016 at 7:48 pm

      Thanks Kim, worked for me, was driving me nuts having to change the reading pane every time I opened outlook email!!

  11. Nathan

    December 16, 2015 at 8:15 am

    Thanks you Kim! Worked like a charm! (I only had one kb3114409 update file not 2)

  12. Patrick

    December 17, 2015 at 1:47 am

    Thank you Kim! It worked just like you said ending a week of going nuts since the automatic update screwed it up. Much mahalos and aloha from Hawaii.

  13. George

    December 17, 2015 at 5:36 am

    Kim, you are a life saver!

    • Eric

      December 17, 2015 at 10:40 am

      Kim, thanks heaps! I thought I had a corrupt Outlook profile or something. Lucky I came across your fix. Solved all my problems, including not showing pictures automatically in the Reading pane.

  14. Gooner

    December 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

    Thanks Kim. This was driving me mad and I’d spent ages trying to fiddle with settings. You came to my rescue!

  15. aaron

    December 21, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    thank you Kim!!!

  16. John

    December 25, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Awesome Kim. Worked like a charm.

  17. Sophie

    December 29, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Kim – amazing, thank you so much!
    You just saved my laptop from certain death :)

  18. susan

    January 1, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Oh my goodness, Kim!! Thank you so much!

  19. susan

    January 1, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    I found 2 in mine also, Kim…..I have just deleted them……crossing fingers that the problem is fixed :):) thanks again!!! You are the BEST! :)

  20. shaaron

    January 6, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks Kim, it also works for me too

  21. JML

    January 12, 2016 at 11:41 am

    Thank you! iT worked!

    I also got my search like it used to be.

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