How to read a long mail trail in reverse order

Long mail trails are the unnecessary evils of modern world! Unfortunately, we often need to read, understand and imbibe a long mail trail quickly – by reading it in reverse order.

how to read a long mail trail in reverse order by Dr. Nitin Paranjape

Read on to find out how to make this frustrating experience much more tolerable and effective…

The Need

Long mails are difficult to read. There may be many rounds of replies, more people added to the mail, parallel replies and so on.

There are two situations in which you can get involved in a long mail trail.

  1. You were part of the mail trail from the beginning
    This is when you are a part of either TO or CC of the original mail. If you were on BCC, you will not get replies to the original mail. This way, you keep receiving the mail trail in your Inbox. If it is relevant to you and it attracts your attention, you may look at it. Otherwise, it may just keep cluttering your inbox over time.
  2. You were added to the mail trail after it became lengthy
    In this situation, you were not involved in the original mail trail. The mail trail grows over time and then you are added to this mail trail. It could be that there is an unresolved conflict and you are expected to solve it… or it could be that there is a problem which only you can solve … or it may be that there is some decision which requires your approval.

In either of these cases, you have no clue as to what has happened since the original mail trail started. You have to quickly grasp the long to and fro message exchange and summarize it and come to a conclusion or perform the desired action.

I  suggest that you open an existing long mail trail and follow along this article.

This means you have to read the mail in reverse order. Go to the bottom  by pressing CTRL END. If you are lucky you will find it in the first screen itself at the bottom. If you are unlucky (which is more likely), you have to waste time pressing Page Up key multiple times till you find the beginning of the first mail.

Now you read the first mail and get the sense of what it all started with. What next?

You have to press Page Up even more number of times to go to the beginning of the first mail and find the reply to the first mail… you get the idea. This is extremely cumbersome and frustrating.

Here is a better way.

The solution

Open a long mail trail. DO NOT press Page Down or any other navigational key. Just hover the mouse somewhere in the top of the first line of the mail. Somewhere in the region shown in red box below.


Now, miraculously, two buttons will appear – First and Previous.

If you just want to see the penultimate response, click previous. If you want to read the whole mail trail from the beginning, click on First. It will scroll automatically to the beginning of the first mail. You can read it by scrolling down.

Now the next step is not very convenient. But that’s all we have. You have to scroll up to the beginning of the first mail. You will see a horizontal line which separate this mail from the reply which is above it. Again hover the mouse somewhere on that line and you will see two buttons appearing Last and Next.

Remember that you are already at the end of the whole mail trail. So the word Last  may be confusing. In this case last means the last reply to the mail trail. And similarly Next means the next reply to the mail which you are currently on.

Click on the next button to read the mail trail upwards. Repeat this process till you reach the beginning.

Benefits of this approach

This method works best if there are short replies. If the replies are long, then we have to spend additional time in finding the beginning of current message.

In any case, it simplifies the process of reading a long mail trail.

It helps you focus on the content and eliminates the distraction of unnecessary navigational effort.

What next?

Remember to use this for long mail trails. Just to practice this method, open any existing long mail and try it out.

There is another problem with long mail trails which we will cover in the next article.


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