Let’s look at the good or at least interesting parts of the New Outlook that Microsoft are calling ‘new’. As we’ll explain, Loop Components, fast @document links, My Day, Board views, RSVP options, pinned messages and Sweep aren’t really new.
We’ve already noted the severe limitations in New Outlook, core technologies that should not be AWOL from a public beta release. Like any company Microsoft is “putting its best foot forward” in promoting the New Outlook. That’s understandable but hard to accept when the “other foot” is missing essential parts!
A very narrow, almost legalistic definition of ‘new’.
All these supposedly ‘new’ features may be familiar because they are already available in other types of Outlook or Teams. They are ‘new’ only compared to Outlook desktop for Windows and even then, only for Microsoft 365 hosted mailboxes.
To Microsoft, the highlight is the addition of “Loop Components”. These are small modules of text, lists etc that can be shared in chats and messages.
New Outlook supports Loop Components in Outlook messages. A Loop component can appear in both Teams chats and an email showing the same live and updated content in both.
Here’s a Loop list inside an email. Anyone with access to the list (in Teams or an email) can change the list (e.g. the Add item option). Those changes will appear for everyone with access to the Loop Component.
In other words, with Loop, the contents of an email might not be as fixed and unchanging as we’re used to.
@file and @document
You’ve probably already heard of @mentions for people in an organization. People can be tagged in chats and emails with @ followed by their username. Someone @mentioned will be alerted.
A similar thing is possible with files and documents. Instead of hunting down a file/document in Teams or SharePoint, just type @ followed by the file name. Outlook will match your typing to existing file names and people. Click a file to insert a link to the document you choose.
“Intelligent” reminders of important messages
New Outlook will remind you of important messages based on their content. The reminder is pinned to Outlook until you either respond or dismiss it.
We put “intelligent” in quotes because whenever Microsoft talks about automation or AI as “intelligent”, experience has taught customers to lower their expectations.
Another feature already in the browser based Outlook for Microsoft mailboxes is “My Day”. A side-pane view of the To Do app.
Emails can be dragged to the pane to be added as either a To Do task or a Calendar item.
Dragging an email to the calendar to make a new event, appointment or Task has been in Outlook desktop for at least ten years. Drag and drop to the new To Do app has only been in the web Outlook until now.
Ever wonder what happened to “Project Moca”? Moca was an interesting way to bring different elements into a single view. It’s been reborn with the most boring and unimaginative name Microsoft could think of – Boards <yawn>.
A calendar board can contain a variety of different elements; Calendar, Notes, Task list, Files, Links and more. Elements can be grouped together into Collections within a board.
Again, this isn’t truly new. Boards are already in the web interface for Microsoft mailboxes.
RSVP options – in person or virtual
A small but much overhyped change in meeting management is the new options for RSVPing to a meeting request.
Instead of just being able to reply ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Maybe’ to an invitation. In Outlook for web you can reply either ‘Yes’ or ‘Yes, In Person’ or ‘Yes, Virtually’.
There’s always been the risk that an important message might drop down the Inbox list, out of sight and out of mind.
Outlook web and now New Outlook let you ‘pin’ a message so it sticks to the top of your Inbox. There are similar pin options already in Office app document lists.
It’s not possible to filter by pinned items, probably because they should always be in view.
Sweep to manage an Inbox
Yet another so-called ‘new’ feature is Sweep. It’s been available to Microsoft hosted mailboxes for some time.
Sweep has options to automatically delete or move all incoming email from a particular sender, to keep only the latest email, or to delete/move email older than 10 days.