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Public folders in Outlook give you a great place to collect, organize, and share information about particular topics or projects within an organization. "Public" in this case means viewable by everyone within the organization, not the world at large. When you post a message to a public folder, you're not emailing it to anyone, so no one's Inbox gets cluttered. Instead, people can check the folder whenever they want to look for interesting posts.

Important: You need a Microsoft Exchange Server and an Exchange email account to use public folders with Outlook. Most home and personal email accounts don't use Exchange.

Step 1: Check with your Exchange administrator

Your organization might not allow public folders or might have policies on how to use them. Check with your administrator so you'll be on the right track. If your organization allows and supports the use of public folders but a top level public folder doesn’t exist yet, ask your Exchange administrator to create one.

When the top level folder is available, simply press Ctrl + 6 to view it and its content in the Outlook Folder pane.

Step 2: Create and name your folder

  1. Press Ctrl+6 to see Public Folders in the Folder Pane.

    Important: If you don't see a Public Folders section in the Folder Pane, see your local Exchange email administrator. They must set it up for you.

  2. Right-click Public Folders, and click New Folder.

    Public Folders

  3. Name the folder, and click OK.


  • You can add a public folder to your Favorites folders. Then in Outlook Web App, you can perform certain functions within those same public folders, such as create, update or delete items. These actions can be done in Calendar, Contact, Mail and Post public folders.

  • To add a public folder to your Favorites, right-click the folder, then select Add to Favorites....

  • For information on how to use Favorite folders in Outlook Web App, see Working with message folders in Outlook Web App.

Step 3: Set folder permissions for users and groups

By default, Outlook grants permissions only to you, as the creator of the public folder, so you then need to specifically grant permissions to people so they can read and post content in the folder. Learn how to Change permissions for a public folder.

Get started using public folders

Here are some typical ways to use public folders in an organization:

Online discussions

Store each discussion topic in its own subfolder. As needed, set permissions for each subfolder (you may want to restrict access to folders that contain confidential or sensitive information). A topic can have its own moderator to control whether an item is posted, and to delete posts that don't meet organizational standards or violate policy.

Share calendars, contact lists, and task lists

Attach calendars, contacts, and tasks or task lists to posts to share information with people who have access to the folder. This type of centralized location facilitates communication and collaboration on team projects.

Differences between mail folders and public folders

  • When you switch from an email folder to a public folder, the New Post button above the Folder Pane changes to New Email – because you typically post items instead of send email messages in a public folder.

  • When you reply to a post in a public folder, there's no Reply All button. Anyone who views the contents of the folder can see your post.

More about Outlook folders

Switch between Outlook folders

Change permissions for a public folder

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