I recently got a query from a Mac-using coworker:
When looking at my email account, I see an extra folder called Conversation Action Settings. Is this something I can safely dispose of?
If you’re used to using Outlook on Windows, you may never have seen this folder. In fact, you might not have seen it if you are a WIn Outlook user, because it’s only present on Exchange 2010 mailboxes. Outlook 2007 doesn’t display it, but Outlook 2011 for Mac OS X does, as does Apple’s Mail.app. This has engendered a lot of discussion about what the folder is and whether it’s safe to get rid of it.
So let me answer those points in reverse order. Yes, it’s safe to remove the folder… but if you do so, it’s just going to come back again. I expect that Apple will update Mail.app in Mac OS X “Lion” to hide the folder; they’ve done similar work to hide other Exchange/Outlook-specific folders in the past.
It’s arguably more interesting to talk about what’s in the folder in the first place. The Conversation Actions folder holds (drum roll)… conversation actions. These actions tell Exchange 2010 (and compatible clients, which for now means “OWA 2010” and “Outlook 2010”) what to do with message items under specific circumstances.
One action is the now-famous “ignore” button (see Clint Boessen’s description if you’re not hip to this very useful feature.) When you hit the mute button, Outlook creates a conversation action that automatically moves messages in the target thread to your Deleted Items folder. It can do this because Exchange 2010 automatically tags incoming messages with a conversation ID. Related messages (like replies or forwards of an existing message) get the same conversation ID. It uses a variety of heuristics to do this, and in general they work well to keep related messages together even when people do things like change the subject line mid-thread.
The other data items stored in this folder are Outlook 2010 Quick Steps. I love this feature and use it heavily; in fact, it’s one of the things I miss most when I’m using OWA 2010 and Outlook 2011.
If you’re not using a client that supports these features, then there won’t be anything in the Conversation Action Settings folder. However, just as nature abhors a vacuum, so does Exchange, so if you delete the folder expect to see it come back.
There’s more on conversation actions, and some other interesting Exchange 2010 and Outlook 2010 features, in this article.