Microsoft's forthcoming Outlook for Mac should boost WFH

October's release of Microsoft Outlook for Mac adds new tools and features for Mac users in Outlook-based enterprises.

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Microsoft has been watching what remote workers need and seems to have introduced some of these necessary features in the planned October release of Microsoft Outlook for Mac, which adds new tools, customizations and more for Mac users working in Outlook-based enterprises.

Feels like a Mac app

Microsoft moved fast to support Apple’s new operating systems this year, including the recent addition of support for use of Outlook (or Edge) as the default email client/browser on iOS and iPadOS 14.

Its apps (including OneDrive) now offer iOS 14 Home screen widgets; there are new complications for Apple Watch; and Apple Pencil support on iPads.

Turning to the Mac, Microsoft promises the October release will feel even more like a native application. In the case of Big Sur, that means elements such as rounder corners and pane-based views.

“We wanted you to feel at home while using Outlook for Mac without sacrificing what makes Outlook, well, Outlook,” said Microsoft marketing program manager Jessica Wilczek in a blog post.

Rules, swipes and snooze

Beyond design, Microsoft seems focused on making Outlook/Mac a more productive space for enterprise workers.

  • This extends to revamped custom rules and swipe settings that should help you more effectively navigate high volume accounts alongside use of Microsoft’s own sync technologies, which it says boosts performance and means email will load faster.
  • Search has been improved. You can filter searches by the importance status of messages, keywords, and attachments, or use natural language search.
  • The application also introduces a message-snoozing function. When a message you need to respond to that you don’t currently have the opportunity to address comes in, you can use a swipe gesture to snooze that communication. You’ll be able to select a more convenient time for it to appear again in your email as unread. This should help remote workers carve more sense out of their busy email existences.

People and MyDay

Trying to stay organized, particularly in lockdown, is a challenge for every knowledge worker. Microsoft seems to want to make it possible for users to do much more of this work from inside Outlook.

So, for example, Outlook’s “People” feature will gather key contacts into one space within the application. The feature is designed to be a central place to “manage and explore those you collaborate with often."

You’ll be able to use this space as a hub for collaboration. There’s also a new MyDay pane within the main mail screen and a two-week calendar that sits beside the inbox.

Zoom from inside Outlook

Microsoft has made many of Outlook’s features customizable, at least in the message list, calendar, and main mail canvas. These are Mac-like features, including drag-&-drop arrangement of accounts and folders, and the capacity to mark some contacts as Favorites.

You can also customize the toolbar to help ensure the controls you need are easy to find. This also extends to third-party apps. Outlook lets you install toolbar commands to access features such as Microsoft Forms, DocuSign, Salesforce, and Zoom.

Calendars and meetings

Calendars are now grouped by calendars you own, calendars that are shared with you, and Microsoft 365 Group Calendars. You can set up events from within the calendar grid, use a Teams toggle to invite people, and Outlook will attempt to suggest a useful time. If you have a scheduled meeting, you can click it for more information and any relevant emails or files.

iCloud Mail support? ‘It’s coming’

Of course, every silver lining is shrouded by grey clouds, and in this case that flaw is that Outlook for Mac doesn’t yet support iCloud or IMAP accounts.

To be fair, the company says such support is “coming soon," and the application does bring in mail from Office 365, Outlook and Google accounts. This lack of iCloud support will be a friction point for knowledge workers with a Mac, who will inevitably also have an iCloud address.

All told, this looks like a solid release that seems should be of great use to Mac users working at enterprises that have coalesced around use of Outlook across all supported platforms.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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