Stop outgoing messages and delete stuck items from Outlook for Mac’s Outbox

Service Pack 1 (SP1) for Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 removed access to Outlook’s Outbox and effectively removed a user’s ability to stop messages from sending at the last second and sometimes remove problem messages that were too large to send. Outgoing messages stuck in Outlook’s Outbox could then block further messages from sending.

How can problematic messages be removed from the Outbox? Try these three solutions.

Use the Progress window to stop a message

Displaying the Outbox while sending messages made stopping an outgoing message easy for someone with a last second change of heart. An Outlook user could click the Outbox and stop the message during the few seconds between clicking the Send button and the time the message was transferred to the mail server.

However, even with the Outbox missing he can still stop a message if he’s quick enough. Assume he’s just clicked Send and now wants to stop the message.

  1. Hit the keyboard shortcut Command + 7 to open the Progress window. This is the same as selecting Window menu –> Progress but the keyboard shortcut is much faster.
  2. Click the Cancel button (gray “X”) to the right of the outgoing message to stop the transfer. If the progress bar completes and the message disappears from the Progress window then stopping it was too late.
    Progress window Cancel button
  3. Quickly, select Outlook menu –> Work Offline. This stops any Send & Receive schedules from running.
  4. The Outbox now appears at the bottom of the Navigation pane on the left just above the buttons for changing Outlook views.
    Outbox
  5. Click the Outbox to display pending outgoing messages. Open it to make last minute edits, move it or delete it.
  6. Select Outlook menu –> Work Offline again to re-enable Outlook’s schedules.

Set Outlook to Work Offline

If a message is stuck in the Outbox and preventing other messages from sending then setting Outlook to Work Offline may display the Outbox.

  1. Select Outlook menu –> Work Offline. This stops any Send & Receive schedules from running.
  2. The Outbox now appears at the bottom of the Navigation pane on the left just above the buttons for changing Outlook views.
  3. Click the Outbox to display pending outgoing messages. Edit or delete the message causing the problem. More than likely the problem message contains an attachment that’s too large to send through the outgoing mail server.
  4. Select Outlook menu –> Work Offline again to re-enable Outlook’s schedules.

Use AppleScript to delete Outbox items

Finally, if the Outbox won’t appear even when Outlook is set to Work Offline then AppleScript can still access the messages and delete them.

  1. Open the AppleScript Editor application found in /Applications/Utilities.
  2. Copy the following three-line script to the Clipboard:
    tell application "Microsoft Outlook"
    	 delete every message of outbox
    end tell
  3. Click the Run button at the top of the AppleScript Editor window. This should instantly clear any stuck messages.
    Delete AppleScript

Why did Microsoft change the Outbox behavior? Only they know. Customers who’d like to see the Outbox restored should be sure to let Microsoft know  by using the Help –> Send Feedback mechanism in any Office application.

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11 comments to Stop outgoing messages and delete stuck items from Outlook for Mac’s Outbox

  • Jason

    I had a message that was too large to send and tried these solutions but they didn’t work. After some messing around, I simply opened the message in the outbox, deleted the attachements, and send the e-mail to myself. Voila, the message is gone. Might be an easy solution to share with people.

    Thanks

  • Becky

    Thank you so very much. These steps worked, and the file that was preventing outgoing messages is now gone.

    • Marion

      Thank you for sharing this, Becky! None of these steps worked for me, either, but your solution did. Finally! I’ve been dealing with this for hours. :)

  • Ruth

    Thank you. This worked perfectly and solved something that has been making me nuts (though not really keeping me from working) for many many weeks. Appreciate those who take the time to share good information well.

  • Dan Haas

    Genius! I have been having problems with Outlook for about a year. Since you taught me how to open the outbox and delete stuck e-mails it works great! Thanks so much

  • Jacinta

    Thank you all for your tips. I have just switched from PC to Mac which includes using MS Office 2011 and what a dog of a program. No one around me believed me when I said “there is no outbox and I need to put a stop to this massive email.” Thankfully, your comments helped me (I cancelled the large outgoing files) so I only wasted about ten minutes trying to solve the problem. I have now bookmarked this website as – from what you are saying – I shall continue to encounter problems with Microsoft for the Mac. Sigh.

  • Walt Jorgenson

    Thank you very much for this work around via Apple Script- why they have made the Outbox not available , is beyond me but I will send them feedback and hopefully they will put access back in to the Outbox. This shit always happens in the middle of a deadline.
    Ciao
    Walt

  • I had an interesting one today. I had a user with one email stuck in the Outbox. I tried all of the above and to my surprise, even the AppleScript didn’t do the trick. We could open the email, but the attachment was greyed out and we couldn’t delete it from the email or delete the email itself from the Outbox. It turns out that the email was a reply to email with an embedded picture. Outlook 2011 shows pictures embedded in the email and also shows them as a traditional attachment. The picture itself had been lost or corrupted and was represented by a very small blue question mark icon. I finally right clicked on this icon for the heck of it and it let me remove the attachment (embedded picture) and therefore finally delete the email.

    Just one more weird quirk.

  • Lana

    3rd Option worked! Thanks! Need outbox back!

  • Have spent hours trying to fix this and the Applescript Editor worked instantly! I would never have found the Editor in a million years. Thank you so much. I have bookmarked your website for future use.