Outlook’s recall feature, which apparently offers users a way to recall emails they have sent by mistake, with wrong or inappropriate information, or in the middle of a bad time, has long existed in numerous versions.
Its use was especially common when the “press Ctrl-Enter to send” problem was well underway (this can be disabled in Options and every place I’ve recently worked has done so via criteria)… and fun too.
Why hilarious? It was not entirely reliable in the past and instead of NOT recalling the message, recipients received a new message stating that the sender attempted to recall the previous email, usually sitting right below the notification of the recall attempt .
As you can imagine, the first thing someone will do when they are told that the sender tried to retrieve the email is to immediately open the email to see what they wanted to hide or take back. An embarrassing “please permanently delete my previous email” message invariably appeared, especially if the source was an HR representative.
The Recall function has improved (you can also recall and replace a message with the updated version), and I’ve successfully tested it myself, but there are a few clauses. This only works if you have a Microsoft 365 or Exchange account in the same organization.
Microsoft does provide some guidelines on how to use it even if the guidelines are overly verbose, as they usually seem to be.
In a nutshell, if the message has not been read, your recall will most likely be successful (barring some unexpected Office glitches) and the recipient will not see the message but will be told that you have deleted it.
If they read the message, you are out of luck and the recipient will be told that you want to recall the message, which is still intact in their inbox. You will be told that the recall failed. Get one thing in your favor: If they open the recall notification first, the original message is deleted, even with a notification that you removed it.
If the recipient has rules for moving emails to another folder and your original email was actually moved and the recall message goes to a separate folder, the recall attempt will fail. Your obvious best scenario is that both messages end up in the same folder but the email rules can vary based on the subject and other criteria. However, if the recipient has opened the original message, it is still not possible to recall it.
I tested it myself in Microsoft 365. I sent myself a test message, appropriately named “test”. I have not opened this message.
I then went to the Sent Items folder and clicked the More button on the right, then chose Actions and recall this message.
As you can imagine, your chances of a successful recall depend on being as quick as possible and getting the email sent to as few recipients as possible.
Can I retrieve messages in other email applications?
What about other email applications? Some offer a similar second chance feature. Here’s what I found.
If you are using Gmail you can activate the Undo section, which gives you up to 30 seconds to resume your message.
Click the Settings gear icon in the upper right corner.
On the General tab, look for the “Undo Send” section.
Press the drop-down menu next to it and select your preferred unsubscribe period. Again, the limit is 30 seconds.
Users of default email clients on Android and iOS are out of luck, as are Yahoo Mail users; there is no option to retrieve messages.
However, the Gmail app on mobile devices allows a 10 second time window after sending mail to tap Cancel to reset it ( Figure F ).