Outlook for iOS overhaul makes scheduling easier

Outlook for iOS

Operating under CEO Satya Nadella's "cloud first, mobile first" strategy, Microsoft isn't afraid to get its hands dirty in rival platforms. The company overhauled its Outlook app for iOS, which is available as a free download for iPhone and iPad, with a cleaner interface and improved calendaring features. The changes are available immediately for iOS users, but Android owners will have to wait until November.

Outlook's last major upgrade occurred last year when Microsoft acquired Acompli for $200 (£130, AU$282) million and re-branded the company's app, providing an easy entry into the mobile space. Microsoft also acquired calendar-maker Sunrise for an undisclosed sum earlier this year that's reported to be north of $100 (£65, AU$141) million. Now, Sunrise's calendaring features will begin appearing in Outlook.

"All of this means Outlook will eventually replace the current Sunrise app. We will leave Sunrise in market until its features are fully integrated into Outlook, the exact timing of which we will communicate in advance," said Javier Soltero, creator of Acompli who joined the Outlook team as vice president.

A new Sunrise in Outlook

The Outlook app has been updated with a cleaner user interface "that puts your email, calendar, people and files front and center," Mr. Soltero said in a blog post. This should help make navigation around the app more intuitive. And with fewer clicks required to perform tasks, the result should help users save time.

Inside the email view, for example, Outlook now identifies events and flags them, so you can quickly identify which message contains appointments.

Outlook for iOS

On the calendar side, the Today button dynamically moves as you scroll through your list of calendar events. In the individual event, details are presented in a cleaner fashion, and attendees have a green, red or grey button next to their name indicating if they've accepted, declined or haven't yet responded to the event invitation.

"Over the coming months, you'll see richer calendar experiences come to Outlook from Sunrise – including Interesting Calendars and connections to your favorite apps and services," Mr. Soltero said.

Microsoft's changes

In addition to integration with third-party apps, Microsoft is working hard to make email remain relevant in the world of instant messaging services, social media and chat.

A few of these changes include bringing likes, borrowed from Facebook, and @mentions, borrowed from Twitter, into email.

Microsoft is also integrating Outlook mail data into Cortana to give its digital assistant more predictive intelligence. Cortana can scan your Outlook inbox to surface important emails and deliver package tracking information and travel times for purchased airline tickets. With Microsoft pushing Outlook on a variety of mobile platforms, including Windows 10 Mobile, this intelligence will be more important to smartphone users once Cortana becomes available on iOS and Android.