We’ve all had that moment when we hit send on something only to realize that we shouldn’t have. Either there’s a glaring typo or a forgotten attachment or you attached a file you shouldn’t have. Quickly you rush up to the Actions menu to take back that errant email via Outlook Message Recall. And, much like every else on the planet, you click Recall This Message only to find out that it never works.
What is Outlook Message Recall? And why does it fail almost every time? Message recall is an Exchange feature that allows the server to reach into a connected Exchange user’s mailbox and pull out the bad message. There are a lot of rules that govern whether or not a message can be recalled. In most cases it comes down to whether or not the user is connected to your Exchange server and whether or not the message has been read.
The first condition is easy. You can’t recall a message you sent to a Gmail address. You can’t recall messages from a POP or IMAP mail store. You can’t recall a message if the user you sent it to isn’t a user on your Exchange server. The server only has authority to delete the original message if both users are on the same mail system. There’s no point in recalling a message sent outside your organization. In fact, attempting to do so usually results in the recall request calling attention to the original message.
The other condition seems to be whether or not the message was read. If the user has read the message it will not be recalled. Instead, the user will be notified that you want to recall the message and keep the original in their mailbox. If you’re using a caching mailbox like I tend to do on my laptop, the original recalled message can’t be pulled out due to the nature of the mailbox.
I think the viewing status of the email is a pretty dumb conditional. I habitually read all the email that comes into my inbox, even if I don’t intend to do something with it right away. I need to glance at things to see how critical they are. That means message recall would never work for messages in my inbox. In fact, I’m pretty sure that message recall has never worked based on an informal poll I conducted with people.
I’ve gotten used to doing other things to ensure that my messages don’t escape before they’re ready. I don’t put the recipients in until the text has been edited. I don’t put a subject line in until the penultimate step so that I’ll be prompted to add it in. I essentially write my emails backwards on purpose.
The best way to avoid using a broken, non-functional feature is to not need it in the first place. Attention to detail will save you much more often than the recall button. Taking a few moments to cool off before you ship out that burning missive will also protect you a whole lot better than a ham-handed attempt to pull back something that shouldn’t have been sent in the first place.