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Microsoft today announced that its massive Outlook.com update first unveiled in May 2015 is now out of preview. There are a ton of new features in this release, and a big change on the back end: Outlook.com is now powered by Office 365.
Although Microsoft is removing the preview label today, the company isn’t rolling out the new Outlook.com to all users worldwide at once (“millions of users each week” are getting upgraded). The new version will arrive in North America first, “and soon in other parts of the world,” Microsoft said.
Upgrading the Outlook.com infrastructure to Office 365 helps Microsoft manage its various email offerings. Users meanwhile get a slew of new features and improvements even if they don’t have an Office 365 subscription (Microsoft in particular emphasized the security benefits of having your email and calendar data behind the same protections as “millions of businesses, governments and schools”).
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The video does a good job summarizing most of what’s new. But if you prefer the full rundown, read on.
Moving to Office 365 also means gaining new features such as automatically adding flight confirmations to your calendar and a smarter address book that understands who you talk to the most. If you connect Outlook.com to the Outlook apps for Windows or Mac, you’ll also get features like setting Automatic Replies, toggling flags, syncing categories, and inbox rules.
Side-by-side editing has been built right in: You can now edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents and photos while simultaneously replying to the original message. This is particularly useful for attachments like to-do lists, travel itineraries, or monthly budgets. When you add someone new to a conversation, you will get a prompt asking if you want to reattach the most recent photo or file.
Next up, Microsoft is highlighting Outlook.com’s add-ins. In addition to Uber, PayPal, Evernote, and Boomerang, new partners include Giphy, Yelp, and Wunderlist. All these add-ins are live in the Office Store and are available to Outlook.com users, as well as to Office 365 customers using Outlook 2013, Outlook 2016, or Outlook on the Web.
Outlook.com has also received improved Skype integration: Chat and video and audio calls are built in, so you can move easily between Skype and email without ever leaving your inbox. You will soon also be able to schedule a Skype Call using your Outlook calendar.
Outlook.com now includes inline replies, which are useful for answering quickly with short messages embedded in the flow of an email conversation. The drop-down window in the reading pane expands as needed, and you can easily switch to use the larger reply surface area should you need it. You can also use @Mentions when typing in the body of an email (or a calendar invitation) to quickly add someone to an email conversation by name and help them know they need to respond to specific things in your message. The @Mentions functionality works in both email and in calendar invitations.
It’s now easier to find and insert emojis into your emails (type a colon at the beginning of a word such as “:happy” or “:cake”). You can also edit pictures more easily: Copy and paste images directly into the body of your message and get access to a range of formatting options to edit it right there.
Last but not least, pins let you keep important emails at the top of your inbox or folder (unlike flags, which help you mark for follow-up). Search suggestions and refiners have also been improved to no longer require advanced syntax.
This is a long list, but it doesn’t end there. Microsoft is already promising “more improvements and enhancements over the coming months.”
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