Microsoft is finally bringing Outlook.com into the 21st century

Business users who rely on Microsoft Corp.’s Outlook platform for their electronic communication needs can now enjoy some of the features offered by rivals such as Slack and Gmail.

This week the Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant announced the launch of Outlook.com beta, which invites users to try a series of new features for the venerable email platform including a more advanced search, automated suggestions, and new GIFs and emojis.

“Recent advances in programming, design, and artificial intelligence have enabled our engineers and designers to improve the Outlook.com web experience in several areas — and we’re eager to get your feedback,” Microsoft’s Outlook team wrote in an Aug. 8 blog post, noting that if users are less than taken by the new features they can switch back at any time.

First and foremost, the Outlook.com beta utilizes what the team calls “a more responsive web development framework” to produce upgraded search results and provide users with a new interface that lets them see, read, and attach files and photos more quickly than before.

Echoing a feature recently introduced to Gmail, the upgraded Outlook.com inbox also provides users with suggestions as they compose messages, including information about restaurants, flights, events, or even photos from their library that match the subject being mentioned.

The new Outlook.com also allows users to personalize their inbox by highlighting their favourite people and folders, or personalize conversations, Slack-like, by adding emojis and GIFs.

Microsoft has said it plans to roll out additional enhancements over the next few months, including updates to Calendar and People, and that it will be listening to feedback to determine which features it adds, refines, or discards next, before ultimately adding the best innovations to Outlook.com.

“We read every piece of feedback that we receive, so please send us your thoughts through UserVoice,” the team writes.

To opt into the beta, Outlook.com users need only click on the “Try the beta” toggle to the right of their inbox (below).

Microsoft has not set an end-date for the beta, saying only that its team will “try new things, get your feedback, and keep iterating” until the project has served its purpose, at which point it will be wound down.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former editor of ITBusiness.ca turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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