Moving Email Folders in Outlook (and more!)

Recently, I decided to tidy up my Outlook email folders

Microsoft Outlook 2010 logo
Outlook 2010 logo
This entailed moving lots of sub-folders between folders. You can move a folder (or sub-folder – which simply means a folder that is within another folder) either by “cutting and pasting” it or by simply dragging it from one location to another. The latter is usually easier, but if the list of folders that you have to “drag past” is longer than the screen height available then you have to drag the folder to the bottom of screen and then hope you can keep control as the list of folders scrolls upwards in front of your eyes. Tricky to explain and even trickier to perform.

Exactly the same thing applies, of course, if you need to drag upwards past the top of the screen rather than down past the bottom. The speed at which the column scrolls down or up is, I think, a function of exactly where you stop moving the folder being dragged and also a function of just how long the column is that is being scrolled. All of this makes dragging a folder past the top or bottom of the screen a bit of a hairy process. It’s very easy to let go of the mouse button at the wrong moment – dropping the folder in the wrong place.

If this only happened when moving folders around in Outlook then I wouldn’t bother telling you all this, but it also happens in other programs, so this bit of advice will, hopefully, have wider use (in Windows Explorer, for instance).

So, is there an easier way to re-organise files and folders when the list is longer than the screen?

Well, the answer seems to be “maybe” – depending on the program you are using. If you can open two windows, side by side, with each showing the same thing, then there is probably an easier way:

  • Start in the “destination” window by displaying the part of the list where you wish to deposit the folder (or file)
  • Click on the other window and navigate to the folder (or file) to be moved
  • Drag the folder or file across the boundary between the two windows and let go at the appropriate position

2 Microsoft Outlook Windows side by side
It is easier to drag between windows than dragging off the bottom of a single window.
Using this method, the scrolling to the destination has been completely separated from the dragging of the file/folder. Much easier. It probably wouldn’t be worth setting up windows side by side if you are only intending to move one or two folders or files around, but it’s definitely worth it if you are doing some more substantial re-organising.

How do you open the second window?

  • Start by opening the first “instance” of the program in the usual way
  • Right-click on the icon of the program that is now present on the task bar (the bar at the bottom of the screen)
  • Left-click on the program name that appears in the list


  • Start by opening the first “instance” of the program in the usual way
  • Shift-click on the icon of the program that is now present on the task bar (the bar at the bottom of the screen)

Microsoft Outlook 2013 logo
Outlook 2013 logo. Why did they change it from yellow to blue?
Whether you can open the same program in two different windows at the same time seems to depend on the program. The above works for Outlook, but I couldn’t get Windows Mail to open in two different windows. Every time I tried to open a second window, the focus (ie the cursor) just moved into the existing window. I wondered if it would work in Gmail (webmail), but you can’t drag anything out of the original window.

I haven’t yet experimented to see if this tip is useful when using a Mac, but it’s my guess that it’s likely to be useful in that parallel universe also.

By the way, at the same time as playing around with multiple windows, I also had another look to see if there is any way of selecting more than one folder at once in Outlook so that they could be moved in a single action. Not only could I not find a method, but I came across a special utility that appears to be written solely to solve this problem. This suggests, of course, that there isn’t an obvious method within Outlook that I am missing. The utility can be found at It costs $29 but there’s a 30 day free trial.

One more tip when cleaning up Outlook folders

If you wish to delete a complete folder of emails in Outlook then the program gets a bit solicitous and asks whether you are sure. This can get tedious after a while so, if you are doing a major clean-up involving the deletion of lots of folders then a more efficient way is to drag those folders into a special folder (that I call “Doomed” because it sounds so wonderfully dramatic – yes, I need to get out more). When the re-organising is complete, just delete the “Doomed” folder. That way, you only need to confirm the action once. This tip would also work when cleaning up normal files and folders in Windows Explorer.