Actionable Messages in Outlook

Time to read: 3 minutes

Have you been receiving emails from Cortana that have buttons to perform actions, such as scheduling some focus time or setting yourself a task reminder? If so, you have received an Actionable Message which is a subset of the Adaptive Card schema within Microsoft 365.

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What is an Actionable Message?

Actionable Messages are email messages in which we can perform predefined actions without leaving the message. This could be responding to an approval process, updating a task, or replying to a survey. Once we take an action, the contents of the Actionable Message are updated directly within the message.

For example, within this Actionable Message I can select if I want to Approve, Reject or Reassign an approval request. I have selected “Reassign” and picked my colleague Kully as the new approver, left him a comment, and finally will press “Submit” to confirm.

Initial message before submission.

Once I have clicked “Submit” the existing message content will be replaced with an updated version.

Updated message after submission.

Pretty nifty, right? We are bringing the action and resolution directly to the user without them having to navigate across applications.


Let us break down the different components at play here and what their purpose is:

  • HTML (HyperText Markup Language) for our email message body and styling.
  • JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) in the Adaptive Card schema for our buttons, actions, and formatting.
  • HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) for the transmission of information from actions within the message.
  • Your chosen flavour of automation for processing values sent via HTTP and responding to those transmissions.

What about Adaptive Cards?

It is important to highlight that Actionable Messages are built using the Adaptive Card schema but are used for email only as they have some unique actions. Responsive card content within Microsoft Teams and Windows Notifications uses the parent Adaptive Cards schema.

One of these things is not like the other.

How can we create our own custom Actionable Messages?

Microsoft have given us some excellent resources to build our own Actionable Message JSON. I would recommend making use of the Actionable Messages Designer ( as this has a Visual Tree and Property editor which can make constructing the JSON far simpler. If you want/need to you can also edit the JSON payload directly.

Actionable Message Designer.

There is also an add-in for Outlook which is invaluable for troubleshooting your custom Actionable Messages: Actionable Messages Debugger for Outlook (

Actionable Message Debugger.


Now I know this is all exciting but there are a few things we will need to prepare to use our custom Actionable Messages within our Microsoft 365 environment:

  • Firstly, we need to build our process flow within the automation product of our choice (Azure Automation, Azure Function Apps, Azure Logic Apps, Power Automate) to include the sending of HTML email messages holding our custom Actionable Message JSON, and to handle the HTTP responses from our defined actions.
  • We will also need to be using a Modern version of Outlook (Microsoft Outlook for Microsoft 365 / Office for the web / Outlook 2016 / Outlook on iOS / Outlook on Android).
  • Finally, we need to register the service within the Actionable Email Developer Dashboard  (

I am sure you can see a lot of potential use cases and if you’d like to discuss getting started or refining your Actionable Messages please reach out. Thanks for reading and I hope that has been useful for you!

If you would like to discuss how risual can help you create custom Actionable Messages to improve your business processes or have any questions about Microsoft 365 get in touch today.   |   0300 303 2044   |

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