Microsoft has revealed a suite of changes to its Outlook email client, both the Office application and Outlook.com webmail service, with the aim of making it easier and more intuitive to use.
The Outlook application for Windows, which comes as part of Microsoft Office, will soon feature a more streamlined Ribbon interface. For anyone who's used Outlook and been frustrated by the cluttered Ribbon bar that often hides useful tools and features when you need them (we’re talking from experience here), this will be a welcome move.
The Folders pane has also been rejigged so that folders are easily accessible while you’re working, which is good news for people who like to keep their inboxes organized. New messages will also be easier to spot and read, with the reading pane getting larger titles and smaller headers, leaving more room to display the email content. Responding to emails should be easier and quicker as well.
The calendar in Outlook is also getting improvements, making it easier to add attendees to a meeting, and Outlook will also be able to check availability of meeting rooms in your organization.
The Outlook.com website is also getting improvements, with the search box becoming more useful by highlighting people you regularly interact with. A new tab has also been added which lets you find files quickly and easily, rather than trawling through emails to find a specific attachment.
Outlook.com is also getting 'smart replies', suggesting a selection of quick responses to emails based on their content, which you can send with one click – Gmail has had a similar feature for a while now.
The calendar in Outlook.com is also getting similar features to the Windows Outlook app in the form of meeting room availability, and new icons that give you quick and easy-to-digest information about upcoming events.
These are some worthwhile enhancements for both versions of Outlook, and it shows that Microsoft is keen to keep its services competitive in the face of popular alternatives such as Thunderbird and Gmail.