Tag Archives: outlook.com

Apps for Outlook.com: Build Extensions for 400 Million Users

mail-apps-for-outlook

Microsoft has announced several developer opportunities to extend Office 365, specifically around Outlook encompassing mail, contacts and calendar. All those initiatives focus around the business side of Microsoft’s email, contacts and calendaring, until now.

On October 30, Microsoft announced a similar initiative to have developers build apps to extend the consumer side of their email, contacts and calendaring called Apps for Outlook.com. This initiative will let developers build extensions that target a potential user base of 400 million.

In a sign of Microsoft “merging” the back-end technologies across business and consumer product lines, they also said that even though this functionality will be available only in Spring 2015, developers can start now by building apps against Outlook Web App. In other words, apps built for Outlook Web App today will work seamlessly with Outlook.com too. This is good news for developers, obviously, because now developers building productivity apps don’t have to worry about enterprise vs consumer our Outlook vs Hotmail/Outlook.com.

The APIs for Office 365 are already available, and these apps will use HTML and JavaScript so as consumers, the Apps for Outlook.com will work in any modern browser without the need for plugins. Some documentation for building such apps can be obtained at this MSDN site.

Per Microsoft:

Whenever a customer reads or composes an email or calendar event, your app could be there, helping them get the job done. If you have a great idea for how our customers should interact with their email or calendar, now is the time to make it happen. Not only are these apps simple to build–they use open web technologies such as HTML and Javascript–but you can start building them today.  To learn how to get started, check out Mail apps for Outlook on MSDN and the Office Dev Center.

It should be noted, Google has already built APIs to enable developers build apps against Google Apps which include GMail, Google Contacts and Google Calendar. These APIs also allow access to several other entities in Google Apps.

An example of an Outlook map running Bing Maps contextually:

Attach and Share Files in Outlook Directly From OneDrive (Business and Consumer)

In two separate posts on the Office Blogs on October 8, Microsoft announced ways to easily share files in Outlook Web App and Outlook.com directly from OneDrive for Business and OneDrive respectively.

Advantages of sharing links vs attaching files

The advantages of attaching links as opposed to actually sending the files are:

  • Large files don’t have to move in email necessarily, thereby reducing the chances of emails bouncing off email servers which don’t accept attachments above a certain size.
  • If this is a file which can be edited online (for example, Office apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint which can be co-edited in Office Online), it does not have multiple versions floating across multiple people’s emails.
  • Permissions can be revoked at any time by the person sharing the file. This way, if a project is done and one does not want the rest of the team to have access to that file anymore, they can go to OneDrive for Business or OneDrive and remove that person’s email address from the list.

How it works: Outlook Web App

The way it works on Outlook Web App is as follows: start an email as always, and under the file attachment area, use the “attachments or OneDrive files” option. After a file is selected from OneDrive for Business, it creates a link to the file in the email as well as applies the appropriate permissions to everyone in the To and CC list. By default, everyone on To and CC get permissions to edit the file, but each file’s access can be edited after attaching, so certain people can be limited to read-only vs edit.

Insert attachments from OneDrive
Insert attachments from OneDrive

 

Insert files from OneDrive for Business
Insert files from OneDrive for Business

 

Attachment from OneDrive or local PC choice
Attachment from OneDrive or local PC choice

 

If one chooses a file on the local PC instead of from OneDrive for Business, the file is first uploaded to OneDrive for Business and then a link is generated to the file as above.

 

Outlook Web App attachment from OneDrive
Outlook Web App attachment from OneDrive
Outlook Web App attachment permission edit
Outlook Web App attachment permission edit
OneDrive attachment manage permissions
OneDrive attachment manage permissions

 

In addition, this functionality is also available on the OWA apps on iPhone, iPad and Android.

 

Outlook Web App for iPad
Outlook Web App for iPad
Outlook Web App for iPhone
Outlook Web App for iPhone

 

Co-authoring

Another feature to note here is that when someone gets an attachment in this way, and they open the file, it opens the file in co-author mode. This way, multiple people can edit the documents at the same time, keeping a single version of the file.

 

Outlook Web App attachment editing
Outlook Web App attachment editing
Outlook Web App co-authoring
Outlook Web App co-authoring
Outlook Web App Side-by-Side view
Outlook Web App Side-by-Side view

 

How it works: Outlook.com

Much like how it works with Outlook Web App, when you insert an attachment from OneDrive in the Outlook.com web app, it will send the file as a link. In both Outlook Web App and Outlook.com, the recipients will see the attachments almost the same as how they see normal attachments. The recipients will see a cloud icon on the icon of the attachment, and text which says that the file is on OneDrive.

 

OneDrive attached file in other email clients
OneDrive attached file in other email clients
OneDrive attached file in Outlook Web App
OneDrive attached file in Outlook Web App


This is a neat idea and I do hope we move away from email attachment overload, it’s just that we are so used to physical attachments, it is going to be a hard change to see through. However, with more and more cloud storage being offered by the key players in the platforms space (Google, Apple and Microsoft), I do see a future where many of us will make cloud storage our primary document repository. If that happens, I am hoping the email attachment culture will reduce and we move to link-sharing.

How do you send large attachments? Let us know in the comments below!

Keep your inbox in shape with nifty new features and Advanced Rules in Outlook.com

Microsoft has announced Advanced Rules and few other features for Outlook.com to help keep your inbox in shape and make it easier to see the email that matters to you.

Outlook.com already has a number of features like Sweep for email management, and the new features rolling out today do the heavy lifting and help you save time. These improvements will be rolling out within the coming weeks, so if you don’t see them right away, check back again soon.

Advanced Rules

With Advanced Rules, you have more control over how your emails are sorted, filed, or bumped to the top of your inbox. You can create multi-condition and multi-action rules and set your inbox to organize itself automatically. Advanced rules allow you to combine your existing rules together and customize them to suit you.

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Here’s an example of an Advanced Rule – If an unread email is older than 3 days and is from one of your contacts, mark it as important and flag it. This rule brings any emails you might have missed, from real people you know, to the top of your inbox.

Undo

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Occasionally, you’ll drop an email into the wrong folder or hit Delete by accident. Now it’s easier to undo mistakes in range of commands – delete, categorize, flag, mark as junk, or move – for one email or a whole group.

In-line reply

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Outlook.com customers use the Reply button almost 8 million times a day. With in-line reply, you can directly respond to an email thread without launching a new view. In-line reply can help you save time, and track your conversations more easily.

More personal messaging

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Outlook.com allows you to find recent conversations and other contacts you can chat with in the bottom left of your inbox. One click will launch you straight into a conversation with them. You can now browse your People by filtering what service they’re using (Skype, Facebook etc.). You can even see who’s currently available–icons will now appear alongside names, so you know who’s able to Video, Call or just chat.

Use Android? Get the Latest Outlook.com App Update

Android users rejoice, especially if you also use Outlook.com. Microsoft announced on April 16 via their Outlook Blog that they have updated their Android app for Outlook.com. The update is not an incremental update by any stretch of imagination. It is a complete overhaul, and it looks beautiful.

Outlook.com Android app
Outlook.com Android app

 

As you can see above, the first thing that you notice is the overhaul of the user interface. The look is now distinctively “Metro”, looking very much like the Windows Phone and Windows 8 mail apps as also Outlook.com on the web.

Besides the visual changes, some new features were also added to the app. Conversation view for messages is now introduced in the app. In addition, there is also a “mark as junk” label which, I am surprised was left out all this time. Finally, the app now allows for viewing messages by read/unread status and provides the ability to view only flagged messages.

Outlook.com Android app contetxtual menu
Outlook.com Android app contetxtual menu

 

It is worth noting that despite Android “supporting” Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol, Microsoft were forced to build their own app for Outlook.com because, as per Microsoft, different versions of Android have different implementations of EAS. In order to provide a consistent experience across devices, it was felt necessary to build a separate app. This seems to fall in line with how Android works, given that their email client is not stellar, and how Google itself has chosen to build a GMail app for its own service.

If you use Hotmail/Outlook.com and have an Android device, this is a must-have. Download it here.

 

Images from the Office Blogs.

Outlook.com Calendar Finally Gets a Coat of Metro

If you have been using Hotmail/Outlook.com for email, you would have noticed that the email, contacts and SkyDrive interfaces are all uniform, designed along the Metro principles of letting the content stand out and moving all unnecessary chrome and controls out of the way. One service which was still bearing the old Hotmail/Live look was the Calendar.

The Calendar was left in the old format for some strange reason even after Outlook.com left preview and became “production” recently. One of the early comments made by Microsoft about Calendar was that they observed that most people use the Calendar on mobile devices or via desktop applications and not the website, and hence they prioritized the Calendar update lower.

However, for those who got used to using the Outlook.com web interface (partly because it is so beautiful and functional), started feeling the eyesore that was Calendar. Until April 2.

Over on Office Blogs, David Dennis announced the new Outlook.com Calendar was finally available at http://calendar.live.com. Some of the salient features of the new Calendar are:

  • The fresh/modern/Metro design. Finally in line with the email, contacts and storage services.
  • Easier navigation and usage. The web app works much like a desktop application with drag across time periods to create an event, incorporating tasks within the same page as calendar, clicking to add/edit events, etc.
  • If you connect your Microsoft account to Skype, LinkedIn and Facebook, you will automatically see birthdays (and other events) from those services in your calendar.
  • Granular (but easy to use) privacy controls for sharing calendars and parts of calendars.
  • Shared calendars with change notifications, enabling scenarios where parents share calendars and get notified when one or the other changes/adds events.
Outlook.com Metro Calendar
Outlook.com Metro Calendar

Overall, this is a much-needed and highly delayed change which finally makes the “Windows Services” consisting of Outlook.com email, Outlook.com Calendar, People and SkyDrive appear like a suite of services made by the same company.

There are still some features available in other services like Google Calendar that are missing from Outlook.com Calendar, but here’s hoping that with this “big” update out of the way, the Calendar team will get more resources to focus on adding functionality to the Calendar, and enhancing how it interacts with the rest of the products in the Microsoft portfolio like Bing.

Do you use Hotmail Calendar? Have you been upgraded to the new version? What are your thoughts?

 

Image courtesy Office Blogs.

Outlook.com is out of Preview, Said to Have 60 Million Users

In a blog post (and in interviews), Microsoft announced on February 18th that their new webmail service Outlook.com is coming out of preview. Microsoft claims Outlook.com has 60 million users, which makes it the fastest growing service.

In an interview with The Verge, Dharmesh Mehta, Senior Director of Outlook.com said that about a third of Outlook.com users came from GMail. While this number does not include true switchers, it does show that the service did pique the interest of many GMail users. The real success of the service will be determined by how it is able to retain those users who came from GMail, as well as of course attracting users from other services.

Another point made by Mehta was that all the time while Outlook.com was in preview, they were focused on scaling and tuning the performance so that they can handle the loads which would inevitably come when they start migrating existing Hotmail users over to the new service. This is going to start from the 19th and after sending emails and alerting the users, at some point the migration will happen automatically. Microsoft expects this process to complete by the end of summer.

Now that they are out of preview, Mehta said that they will focus on enhancing the features of the service. I look forward to some of the missing pieces in the service like:

  • Calendar: The beautiful interface (inspired by Metro design principles, and made for touch-friendly devices) extends from email, to contacts (People) to SkyDrive. The one service which has not seen the new coat of paint is Calendar and boy does it stick out like a sore thumb. The calendar needs to be updated quickly.
  • 2-factor authentication: When Outlook.com launched in preview mode, the team did some interviews and even a Reddit Ask Me Anything. When asked about 2-factor authentication like GMail and many other services use, the Outlook team said they don’t have it because most normal users don’t use 2-factor authentication because it makes sign in too complex. Instead, they claimed, they have a one-time password that gets sent via SMS, to use when accessing the service at an unknown PC. I don’t think that is a great substitute for 2-factor authentication. If Microsoft feels it is too complex, they should have an equivalent solution so that hackers cannot easily hack into email accounts.
  • Logged in activity: Continuing with the security trend, GMail also offers a nice snippet of IP addresses which are logged in to the GMail account at any given time, with the feature to remotely log any of those connections out. There is no such feature in Outlook.com. Another very nice feature available in GMail is a notification upon login that there was activity from places like China on the GMail account, potentially signalling an impending hacking attack. These days, it is better to have such measures in place than regret a hacking later, so it would be very nice if Outlook.com can adopt some of these security features in the service.
  • Spam filtering: While Outlook.com’s spam filter is great, I am not a big fan of blocking senders to mark an email as spam. This is especially true when there is a limit on how many senders can be in the blocked sender list. Instead, a message should be marked as spam and the anti-spam engine can then make an intelligent guess about the sender *and* the content of the message for future use. Similarly, moving a message to the Junk folder should trigger the same action as marking a message as Junk does, and that is not happening today.
  • Mobile apps – “Send email as”: What I love about Outlook.com among many other things, is the ability to collect emails from multiple accounts and use it as the only email service. On the web, I am able to decide which of the email addresses I want to use to send messages from, but that is not true with mobile apps. Even on Windows Phone, the email app is unable to send a message from a sender which is different from my Outlook.com/Hotmail account. Hence, when I want to send a message from my GMail address via my phone, I am unable to. I know part of this problem lies with the Windows Phone team, but since Outlook.com and Windows Phone are both from the same “team”, I as a user of both those services should expect things to just work. They don’t.

Let’s see how quickly these (and other) features get included in the service. I am looking forward to the massive marketing campaign for the service that is about the start soon. Unlike the negative Scroogled campaign, this one seems to target all the things that are great about Outlook.com, which is always a nice way to get your message out. See some of the upcoming ads below.

This one talks about Sweep feature:

This one is “Get Going”:

Outlook.com Puts Productivity at Your Fingertips

Microsoft Outlook.com is the modern approach to email. This new service combines all the elements one would expect from a first rate email service and so much more. It connects you to your social networks like Twitter and Facebook. You can also work smarter with online versions of Office web apps and SkyDrive storage for your documents. Outlook.com is so much more than an email client. It literally puts the power of Microsoft Office in your web browser anywhere you can access the web.

Outlook.com Menu

Let’s say you’re at a friend’s house and you decide to jump on their computer to check your email. You get an email from your study partner reminding you of a PowerPoint presentation that the two of you are collaborating on. It’s one of those moments where you smack your forehead because you realize you totally forgot about the assignment. Fortunately for you, Outlook.com gives you all the power of Microsoft Office right there in your browser. In the image below, you can see an example of the PowerPoint presentation that was sent. Notice the large PowerPoint icon in the middle of the screen. You have several options here. If you click the PowerPoint icon title, it will automatically download the presentation down to your computer. What if you don’t have Microsoft Office on that computer? That’s where the handy “View online” button will help. You see, with Outlook.com, you don’t have to Microsoft Office to be able to edit presentations. It comes with Office Web Apps which allows you to edit your presentation right there in your browser.

attachment

Notice in the image below, how viewing the presentation online looks very similar to what you would see in desktop application of PowerPoint. This is the view you see when you choose to edit the presentation online. You will notice the standard ribbon toolbar that you are used to seeing in PowerPoint. You also have many of the same elements of the desktop application of PowerPoint like the slide thumbnails and the toolbar buttons.

powerpoint

If you click the “New Slide” button, you will get the dialog box pictured below. Choosing the “Picture with Caption” option will allow you to upload a picture onto the slide. You also can add titles and text just like the full version of PowerPoint.

slide-templates

Below, you can see an example of the picture slide with a caption and title. However, that is not where the Office Web Apps’ capabilities end. If you click on the picture, you get the contextual “Format” tab at the top of the ribbon toolbar. Notice all the frame options in the image below.

frames

Once you have completed your presentation, there’s no need to worry about saving. Outlook.com automatically saves the presentation as you go. Another fantastic feature is versioning. You can literally revert back to an earlier version of the document if you mess something up. When you close the presentation, Outlook.com automatically asks you whether you want to send the updated presentation back to the sender. It shows how well the Outlook.com team thought out its features–and this is just PowerPoint.  The other Office Web apps work similarly with the features you’ve used for years.

This is just one example of how Outlook.com is truly a modern approach to email. I could literally write dozens of tutorials based on the new features built in to Outlook.com. No other service I know of integrates so well with social networks like Facebook and Twitter. You can literally write posts on your Facebook friends’ walls directly from Outlook.com. Email storage is virtually limitless as well. As long as you’re not spamming the world or abusing the service, Outlook.com does not put quotas on your account. This barely scratches the surface of the new capabilities built-in to the new Outlook.com. I highly recommend taking a moment to visit their preview website at Outlookpreview.com and learn more about this great service.

Outlook.com is a preview of modern email from Microsoft. It has a fresh and intuitive design, connects your email to useful information from Facebook and Twitter, and gives you a smarter inbox with the power of Office and SkyDrive. Visit Outlookpreview.com to learn more and connect with us at @Outlook on Twitter.

Full Disclosure: This was a paid review of Outlook.com and its services. More information can be found about Outlook.com via http://outlookpreview.com

Declutter Your Email Experience with Outlook.com

Microsoft is currently previewing its new modern approach to email called Microsoft Outlook.com. This new service combines all the elements one would expect from a first rate email service. Outlook.com connects you to your social networks like Twitter and Facebook. You can work smarter with online versions of Office web apps and SkyDrive storage for your documents. This does not require you to have a local version of Microsoft Office, by the way. It also sports the fresh Windows 8 tiled design which is very clean and intuitive to use. Outlook.com is a great way to declutter your email experience.

inbox

Pictured in the image above, you will notice the new Outlook.com interface. If you look across the top of the image, you will probably notice what isn’t there. As you can see, there is only a small icon labeled “New” with a plus sign beside it. One of the first things the Outlook.com team set out to do was declutter the user interface. The bar at the top is contextual, meaning it doesn’t show you unnecessary options. However, if you click on an email you will be given a set of options at that time. An example of these options is pictured below. You will also notice how nicely all the menu items and individual emails are spaced. This really makes the visual experience of using Outlook.com much easier on the eyes.

sweep

Organizing messages in the new Outlook.com is extremely easy. If you look at the picture above, you will notice one of my favorite Outlook.com tools – “Sweep”. The “Sweep” tool has incredible inbox cleaning capabilities. Let’ say for instance, you select a message from a newsletter subscription. Using “Sweep” you can automatically select and delete all similar messages from your inbox. You can also use it to move these messages to a particular folder, or delete all of the old messages and keep only the current one.

ads

One last feature I am totally impressed with is the way Outlook.com handles ads. I know that may be the last thing one would consider, but I consider it a great feature for two reasons. First of all, the ads are very low key and blend in nicely with the rest of the Outlook.com theme. This is truly a “customer’s first” approach to advertising if you ask me. Look at the area highlighted in red in the picture above and you will see what I mean. This is the one of only two places you will see ads in your email. The other is when you view an email that is not a personal contact. They don’t splash pictures everywhere and try to force you into accidental clicks to look at their ads. There is no doubt in my mind that this will affect ad revenue for Microsoft which is why I say this is a “customer’s first” approach.

The second thing that impresses me about Outlook.com’s ads is the way they go about contextualizing the ads for their users. “Why is this so important?” you ask. You may not realize that many online email providers actually read every word of your emails to gather specific information about you. They use this information to target ads toward you. While this is largely done in an automated way, if you’re like me, you have to be concerned about privacy and security. Outlook.com has taken the approach that it will only use the information you give it. As much, or as little, information that you are willing to put on your Outlook.com profile is what is used to generate the context for ads. Outlook.com does not read your emails to gather information about you. This, to me, is a huge benefit for the end user, especially if they are security conscious.

As you can see, there are some great benefits to switching to the new Outlook.com. Take a moment to visit their website and take advantage of their preview.

Outlook.com is a preview of modern email from Microsoft. It has a fresh and intuitive design, connects your email to useful information from Facebook and Twitter, and gives you a smarter inbox with the power of Office and SkyDrive. Visit Outlookpreview.com to learn more and connect with us at @Outlook on Twitter.

Full Disclosure: This was a paid review of Outlook.com and its services. More information can be found about Outlook.com via http://outlookpreview.com.

Tips and Tricks: Clear Up the Clutter With Outlook.com

Microsoft has been touting its new take on an old service, Outlook.com. Basically, they are offering a preview of what will eventually take the place of Hotmail.com. Most of the changes so far are cosmetic however, there are a few features worth noting. Today, I want to show you how you can keep your inbox clutter free using some of Outlook.com’s cleanup features.

If you’re like me, you like to subscribe to blogs and newsletters in the hopes that *someday* you’ll get to read all of them. For me, that someday usually never comes. I usually end up with a cluttered mess in my inbox. Outlook.com has a really simple way to help you manage the newsletters. In the screenshot below, you can see where I’ve highlighted a couple of options that Outlook.com adds to your messages. Outlook.com can help you unsubscribe to unwanted mailings or it can schedule an automatic cleanup.

Cleanup Options

If you click on “unsubscribe” you will get something similar to the screenshot pictured below.

Block Message

In this particular instance, Outlook.com doesn’t recognize any unsubscribe information from the sender so it offers to block everything from this sender. Outlook.com will also delete everything from this sender to help you clean up space in your inbox. In my case, this seemed a little extreme so I clicked out of this box and chose the other option which is “schedule automatic cleanup”.

Pictured below, you can see the “Schedule Cleanup” window. You have a few options here. In my case, I really only needed to see the most recent message so I chose to “only keep the latest message from this sender”. Notice though, that you can choose to delete messages that are a certain amount of days old or you can move messages that are a certain amount of days old into a folder. Be careful with the last box on the bottom. It says “Do this for everything in the Newsletters category”. This means any message that Outlook.com recognizes as a newsletter, it will perform this same action from here on out. Use this with caution.

Schedule Automatic Cleanup

I hope this tip will help you keep your inbox clutter free and help you focus on the messages that are the most important to you. Keep coming back as we will certainly be doing more tips as Outlook.com rolls out new features.