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Microsoft today renamed the web version of Outlook in Office 365: Outlook Web App (OWA) will now be known as “Outlook on the web.” This useless app renaming exercise, which is sadly a typical occurrence for Microsoft, is not the big part of the news, though. The app is actually getting a massive refresh: an improved user interface and new features that “help you be more efficient, stay on top of your inbox, and better manage your calendar.”
The following updates are coming to Office 365 users today, as long as they have a plan that includes Exchange Online and have opted into Microsoft’s First Release program. Everyone else will begin receiving these updates in “the first week of September.”
First and foremost, the redesign sports a new action bar available across the Mail, Calendar, People, and Task areas in Outlook on the web. Additionally, the action bar also provides quick access to the most common commands, regardless of what you are doing in the Outlook app.
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Microsoft also made the email subject line larger and more prominent, indented messages in the reading pane for easier reading, and added more prominent buttons in Calendar to make navigation and creating a new meeting request simpler.
Next up, Microsoft has added new tools to help you manage your inbox. The first is called Pin, and as its name implies, it lets you pin any message in your inbox so that it is highlighted in yellow and kept at the top of your inbox.
Next is Sweep, which includes a simple set of actions to manage emails from specific senders (first available in Outlook.com). You can manage recurring messages, such as newsletters, digital coupons, and other email received on a regular basis, as well as choose to keep messages from a specific sender (for a specified number of days, only keep the latest message, or delete all messages from the sender).
Two new buttons have also been added: Archive, which lets you quickly move messages out of the inbox to a folder of your choice, and Undo, which lets you revert unintended actions with a single click. If you spend a lot of time in Outlook on the web, these will probably be the most useful additions for you.
The single line view has been improved: Outlook on the web now includes a preview of the message contents in-line with the subject. You can also now perform common actions in bulk, and clicking a message now displays the message in the same window — finally no pop-ups or separate windows.
Outlook on the web now provides the ability to easily resize images, add custom borders, apply shadow effects, rotate images, and so on. Oh, and the web app now supports a full set of emojis.
Outlook on the web is now better at handling recipients: When you place your cursor on the To, Cc, or Bcc lines, the app shows a list of the most common people and distribution groups you have been emailing, which is refined as you type. As you add recipients, Outlook on the web makes suggestions that you most commonly email.
The Calendar in Outlook on the web has gained a five-day weather forecast (click the icons next to each day for a more detailed view). The calendar now also supports charms, which are basically icons to help you quickly identify specific types of events (an airplane for an upcoming flight, a knife and fork for a business dinner, a music note for a piano class, and so on).
You can now also create email reminders for any Calendar event (including the recipient list, a quick message, and the day and time the email reminder should be sent). New birthday and holiday calendars can be overlaid across your work calendar, or viewed separately.
Last but certainly not least, the mobile browsing experience has received user interface and navigational improvements:
- Updates to closer resemble the UI look of Outlook apps on Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
- Improved navigation for switching between Mail, Calendar, and People.
- More prominent search command.
- Ability to switch between emails without returning to the message list.
- Time strip updated to show the full week within the calendar.
- Improved UI for creating new events and using the scheduling assistant in Calendar.
All in all, this is a massive update for Office 365 users who spend a lot of their time in Outlook. That said, we still can’t stomach the unnecessary renaming — at least the Outlook brand remains.
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