Microsoft has announced a host of upcoming changes to the Outlook experience, both through the classic Windows app and Outlook.com. These changes aim to give users more control over their experience, as well as helping them get things done faster.
These features will be available first through a new toggle that's being added, which allows users to try out upcoming features and give feedback as they wish. Users can easily opt in and out of the experiment as needed, so you don't have to commit to using unfinished features in order to test them.
Starting with Outlook for Windows, Microsoft is introducing the simplified ribbon that was first announced all the way back in June. In addition to a new look, which adapts more easily to different window sizes while keeping its content visible, the simplified ribbon is meant to help users declutter the interface. Outlook offers a wide range of features, and they may not always be needed all that often, so you'll now easily be able to add and remove elements from the ribbon, hiding them from sight while keeping them in reach.
Other parts of the UI are also seeing smaller changes. The Folders pane will now list groups as a separate item from e-mail folders, so they remain visible when you collapse the folder list. The message list also received some adjustments to make it easier to read and understand at a glance, and the reading pane now features larger titles and a smaller header to leave more room for the message. It's also now easier to respond to messages or requests from the buttons right above the header.
Lastly, Outlook Calendar is also smarter and easier to use now. It will now be easier to add required or optional attendees to a meeting, and by adding a meeting time first, Outlook will be available to suggest meeting locations based on room availability for that time, helping users stay organized.
Outlook on the web is also getting a whole range of improvements, some of which had already been mentioned back in June as well. For example, the search box will now be smarter and surface people you've interacted with more recently or more often. You can also more easily find files in your inbox thanks to a new tab dedicated to them, rather than navigating through all of your e-mails to find one specific file.
Microsoft is also adding smart replies to Outlook, saving you the hassle of having to type out simpler responses. Smart replies will be suggested based on the message you received and you can simply click one to send it. Additionally, the Favorites section of your inbox will now let you add people and categories in addition to folders, so you can stay on top of messages from specific people or about certain topics.
The calendar feature is also getting some improvements on the web, offering the same room availability information as the Windows app. Additionally, Microsoft has redesigned the event icons so you can more quickly tell what kind of events you have on your calendar.
The company has made groups easier to manage as well, with simplified processes for creating them and some new features that make it easier to discover relevant content. Email triaging is now easier inside groups, and a new Files tab makes it easier to see which documents have been worked on more recently. Group cards can also be accessed from anywhere inside Outlook now, giving you at-a-glance information about its members and allowing group owners to take certain actions right away.
That's a pretty massive changelog, and hopefully, it makes Outlook that much better. To try out all of these changes, as mentioned above, you'll need to use the new toggles that are being added to Outlook, both on the web and the Windows app. They should be available to everyone by default after a period of testing, though it's not clear when that will happen.