How To Track Email Opens Using Read Receipts in Outlook 2013

Did you ever send an email and wonder if the person you sent it to actually opened it? If it was an important email you probably don’t want to bother the person with a follow-up asking if it went through or not. This is why Outlook 2013 has a feature called Read Receipts.

What Is a Read Receipt?

Simply put, a read receipt is sent by the email client of the person reading the email back to the sender. This lets the sender know the email was opened. Obviously there is no way to guarantee the email was actually read, but this notification tells the sender it was at least opened.

Along with Read Receipts there are also Delivery Receipts. These are very similar but instead of notifying the sender when the email is opened, delivery receipts tell the sender that the email successfully reached the intended email server. This tells you if the email address was correct and if delivery happened correctly.

In short, the recipient’s email client sends read receipts, while the email server sends delivery receipts. These both come to you looking like a regular email. Read receipts come from the person reading the email, and delivery receipts come from the server. Both are useful in their own way, and below they are explained using Outlook 2013.

Setting Up Read and Delivery Receipts

Setting up read receipts in Outlook 2013 is pretty straightforward. You can set up read and delivery receipts for every email you send, or only for specific emails sent. To set up read and delivery receipts for all emails, first click on the File tab on the Outlook 2013 Ribbon. From here, click Options.


Next, click on Mail and scroll close to the bottom of the window to find Tracking.


Check the Delivery Receipt and Read Receipt boxes to request reports for all of your emails. Click OK to continue. Now, every email you send will request a delivery receipt as well as a read receipt. If you send a high volume of emails and don’t need these receipts all the time, you can use them as needed in emails one at a time, too.

To set up read and delivery receipts on a per-email basis, first you need to open a new email message. In the new email window, click on the Options tab on the Outlook 2013 Ribbon. Check the boxes of the receipts you wish to receive.


Now when the email sends, you will get receipts for when it was delivered and when the user opened it.

The Receipts

So, now that you requested the receipts, what should you expect? Well, for delivery receipts, you should expect to get an email from the server the recipient’s email account lives on. It looks just like this:



When the recipient opens the email, he or she will be asked to send a read receipt or not.


If the recipient chooses yes, you will get a receipt showing the email was opened. Those look like this:


Notice that the email came from the recipient and not the server. This is the big difference between read and delivery receipts. If you want to make sure technical issues like server downtime, incorrect email addresses, or connection issues on your end are keeping the email from sending, then enable delivery receipts. If you want to make sure the recipient opened the email, you should enable read receipts.

Some people don’t like read receipts and view them as an invasion of privacy, so be gentle in their use. Delivery receipts happen without the recipient ever knowing, so they can be used more freely.

I Didn’t Get A Receipt!

So what if you didn’t get a receipt? Well, a few things might have happened. First, if you didn’t get a delivery receipt the server you sent the message to might not support them. In that case, you will never get a receipt. It could also meant there is an issue with the email and it was not delivered correctly.

For a read receipt, if you don’t get one, that could mean the recipient chose to not send them. In this case, you will not get one back.

Either way, this shows that both the sender and the recipient must be aware of the use of receipts and the importance the sender is applying to them. Let the person know beforehand that you intend on using read receipts and why. This will help with their adoption and make sure you are getting the receipts you need.


As you can see, read and delivery receipts are not complicated to use, but can be extremely useful. People tend to buck against sending receipts because they feel like the sender is trying to track them. Again, this is why you need to make sure everyone is on the same page and that your true intentions are known.


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