PCWorld (USA)

Microsoft unveils the future of Outlook, and you can try it now

A new Loop interface, easier document attachment­s, a more integrated To Do— these are all part and parcel of the new Outlook.

- BY MARK HACHMAN

The future of Outlook is here, albeit with some caveats. Microsoft has officially released the new Outlook for Windows, with features that integrate Microsoft’s futuristic Loop interface as well as more practical innovation­s such as quick document attachment­s, a My Day summary, and reminders to respond to important email. For now, though, the new features are only available to members of the Office Insiders program ( fave.co/3zntbvv), specifical­ly the Beta Channel.

We’ve seen the “future of Outlook” many times over the years, from 2015’s simple, effective Outlook apps for IOS and Android, to 2017’s more cohesive approach toward unifying Outlook ( fave.co/3y0lmux) across various platforms. We’re also seeing the first fruits of Project Cortex ( fave.co/3mwsofh)

in how Microsoft (and its rival Google) are blurring the lines between various applicatio­ns. But Microsoft has also been working to clean up the various versions (the Web, Office 365, Web apps and so on) and provide a unified version of Outlook for the PC. That leaked out earlier ( fave. CO/3MWSOFH), and it’s here now.

Microsoft designed Outlook to look familiar, and it does—especially if you’re used to the Outlook web app. Unfortunat­ely, it’s not available to many users. To be a member of the Office Insider program, you must either be subscribed to Microsoft 365’s consumer edition or ask your corporate administra­tor to enable it. Consumers can easily switch to the Insider program (from any Office app on Windows, click File > Account > Office Insider > Join Office Insider, then agree to the checkbox next to “Sign me up for early access to new releases of Office”). But you’ll need to also use a paid commercial or education account as your primary email to try the new Outlook, which can complicate the process.

Here are the new Outlook features that Microsoft says you’ll want:

“Namechecki­ng” documents:

Within Outlook, you can quickly type an at symbol (@) and then the name of a person, and it will be called out in their email. You can quickly “call out” files by using the same @ symbol in front of file and document names. They need to be stored in the cloud, however. Unfortunat­ely, to attach a file in this way, that probably means you’ll need to search the full name of, say, Salesprese­ntationmar­ch2022fina­l3really.

Respond to requests: We’ve seen Microsoft’s AI in Cortana and the like “sniff” your inbox for what it considers important messages, such as a request to respond to a customer. If Outlook thinks it has found such an email, that message will be pinned to the top of your inbox until dismissed. You can also manually pin an email message to the top of your inbox by clicking the pin icon.

My Day and To Do: You should start seeing a more visible To Do column, also referred to as My Day, to the right of your inbox. You’ll be able to use this space as a location to drag emails into, which will become tasks that you can check off.

An updated Calendar:

It appears that while the Calendar will remain largely unchanged, a new Board view will essentiall­y turn your Calendar into a bulletin board, where you can add your work calendar as a card alongside tasks, important documents, and tips. You’ll also be able to reserve space on your calendar and let people know that you’ll attend their meeting either in person or virtually.

Sweep up the clutter: Microsoft is also encouragin­g you to use tools we’ve described before, such as Rules, to automatica­lly manage and control email messages as they flow into your inbox. Microsoft calls this Sweep.

Loop and the future: Microsoft thinks the most important addition to the new Outlook client is Loop, which Microsoft described ( fave.co/39xnah6) as making your document a sort of widget. It blurs the line between a document and a shared workspace—which for some users will be anathema and for others a natural extension of a close-knit team. We’ll have to see how Loop evolves over the coming years and months.

For now, the new Outlook is in the hands of just a few, as Microsoft fixes bugs and adds features. Unfortunat­ely, some of the basic capabiliti­es you’d expect aren’t there ( fave.co/3hzs8qo): offline support, multiple accounts, and so on. Expect Microsoft to widen Outlook’s audience as it improves the new Outlook client.

 ?? IMAGE: MICROSOFT ??
IMAGE: MICROSOFT
 ?? ?? The new features are currently only available to members of Microsoft’s Office Insiders Program.
The new features are currently only available to members of Microsoft’s Office Insiders Program.
 ?? ?? Note the list of files that pops up when you begin typing an @ in Outlook.
Note the list of files that pops up when you begin typing an @ in Outlook.
 ?? ?? Important messages will be pinned to your Outlook inbox by default.
Important messages will be pinned to your Outlook inbox by default.
 ?? ?? Expect more prominent placement of the To Do section of Outlook.
Expect more prominent placement of the To Do section of Outlook.
 ?? ?? Microsoft will use tiles and cards as the new way of organizing your Calendar in Outlook’s Board view.
Microsoft will use tiles and cards as the new way of organizing your Calendar in Outlook’s Board view.

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