How to Enable Users to Receive Copies of Email They Send to Microsoft 365 Groups

Outlook Groups Still Popular

When Microsoft launched Office 365 Groups in November 2014, the plan was to use these objects to replace distribution groups. Like all plans, events took over and forced change. Distribution groups remain intact (and Microsoft is updating their functionality) and the role of Office 365 Groups (renamed Microsoft 365 Groups in April 2020) has evolved to become a membership and identity service for apps like Teams, Power BI, and Yammer. However, devotees of Outlook can still use Microsoft 365 Groups in Outlook and OWA (where they have the moniker “Outlook Groups”), complete with a dedicated menu bar, presence in Outlook favorites, and section in Outlook resources. Outlook mobile also supports Outlook Groups.

An Outlook group has the following characteristics:

Like other Microsoft 365 Groups, an Outlook group has a SharePoint Online team site, shared OneNote notebook, and can connect to Planner.

Subscribers and Copies

An Outlook groups distribute copies of messages sent to the group based on its subscriber list. The AutoSubscribeNewMembers group setting controls if Exchange adds new group members to the subscriber list automatically. Another setting called AlwaysSubscribeMembersToCalendarEvents controls if group members receive copies of calendar events (sometimes it’s necessary to update the groups used by Teams to change these settings).

Users can control if they want to be on a group’s subscriber list with the Follow in Inbox feature. Figure 1 shows the Outlook desktop settings; OWA presents the settings differently, but the same effect applies. In this instance, I am not a subscriber to the group because I don’t receive all email and events. However, I do receive copies of any replies posted to messages I send to the group.

Group settings in Outlook for Windows
Figure 1: Group settings in Outlook for Windows

Senders and Copies

In 2017, Microsoft changed the way Groups processed email when it delivered copies to subscribers to stop delivering a copy to the message sender for new messages and replies. On the surface, the change was reasonable because senders have copies of messages in their Sent Items folder and senders can always add themselves as a CC or BCC recipient if they want Exchange to deliver a copy of a specific message to their inbox. Well-intentioned as the change was, it upset many people who liked receiving a copy of anything they posted to groups.

InA few months ago, Microsoft introduced a way to allow users to receive copies of their messages posted to Outlook groups. The requirements are:

  • The user or an Exchange administrator must update their mailbox settings to set EchoGroupMessageBackToSubscribedSender to True. As the name implies, the setting controls if the Exchange transport service echoes messages sent to a group by a subscribed sender. By default, this setting is False.
  • The user must subscribe to each group for which they wish to receive copies of their posted messages.

I can’t find any message center notification covering the use of the EchoGroupMessageBackToSubscribedSender setting (it’s entirely possible that I missed it). However, from the “common tasks to manage Microsoft 365 groups” page, I can’t find any other Microsoft reference to the cmdlet except in an October 29 change in GitHub to a page covering Hybrid deployment. Other references exist elsewhere, such as this August 31 Stack Overflow discussion. It’s curious that Microsoft doesn’t document this capability more thoroughly.

User Updates

User can update their mailbox settings through OWA options. Go to the Groups section and set the Send me a copy of email I send to a group option (Figure 2).

OWA setting controlling if users receive copies of messages they post to Outlook groups
Figure 2: OWA setting controlling if users receive copies of messages they post to Outlook groups

Administrators can do the same by running the Set-MailboxMessageConfiguration cmdlet.

Set-MailboxMessageConfiguration -Identity Kim.Akers -EchoGroupMessageBackToSubscribedSender $True

In either case, the setting covers all Outlook groups and can take up to an hour before the change is effective and Exchange will deliver a copy of any message posted by the user to the groups they subscribe to.

Users can choose if they want to subscribe to group and now have control over if they receive copies of their own messages. I am loathe to recommend that administrators should step in to update subscriber settings on a group-wide basis because it means that you would overwrite the settings for people who have opted out of receiving copies of group email and events. However, a need might arise to make everyone a subscriber and update their mailbox settings to allow them to receive copies of their own messages. If so, this PowerShell works.

# Update group subscriber list with all members and set their mailboxes to receive copies of messages posted to Outlook groups
$Group = Read-Host "What group do you want to update?"
Write-Host "Checking" $Group "..."
$GroupId = (Get-UnifiedGroup -Identity $Group -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue).ExternalDirectoryObjectId
If (!($GroupId)) { Write-Host "Sorry... we can't find" $Group "... exiting" ; break}
[array]$GroupMembers = Get-UnifiedGroupLinks -Identity $GroupId -LinkType Member
Write-Host "Adding group members as subscribers to" $Group
Add-UnifiedGroupLinks -Identity $GroupId -LinkType Subscriber -Links $GroupMembers.PrimarySmtpAddress
Write-Host "Updating mailbox settings for group members to allow them to receive copies of their messages posted to the group"
$GroupMembers | ForEach-Object { Set-MailboxMessageConfiguration -Identity $_.ExternalDirectoryObjectId -EchoGroupMessageBackToSubscribedSender $True }

One interesting thing about this code is that you do not need to call Add-UnifiedGroupLinks to add each group member to the subscriber list. If you have an array of members, which we do after calling Get-UnifiedGroupLinks to fetch the member list, you can use that as the input and Add-UnifiedGroupLinks will multiple members with one call.

More Updates for Groups

In closing, let me note two other changes coming soon to Outlook Groups. First, MC302487 (December 8) says that users assigned the Send As permission for a group will no longer have to select the group name when sending messages from the group. This change applies to OWA only and roll-out begins in mid-January. Second, MC303512 (December 10) brings equally important news that instead of displaying a folder icon for an Outlook group, OWA will use the Groups icon from mid-December (this change hasn’t turned up in my targeted release tenant yet). I’m sure the new icon will make all the difference.

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