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Outlook 2016 review: A new coat of paint on the same reliable personal information manager

Nathan Alderman | Aug. 13, 2015
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The new Outlook 2016 for Mac is the same solid, dependable, occasionally cluttered app it's always been, for good or ill. If you're looking for must-have reasons to upgrade to the new Office suite in order to get the new Outlook, you won't find them here. Unless you rely heavily on Outlook's still-superb integration of mail and calendars, you can probably find nimbler, more innovative email alternatives.

Outlook 2016 also adds the long-overdue capability to create custom email signatures, although I liked its option to designate different signatures for different accounts, and for new messages or replies within those accounts. In addition, it now syncs your category names and colors across its Mac, PC, and Web versions, and lets you archive messages online to free up space in your mail account.

Déjà vu all over again

Minor adjustments aside, you'll find all of Outlook's usual strengths and shortcomings in its newest version. Its best qualities include the smart and highly usable way that the program ties together email, tasks, and calendars. New features here include side-by-side displays of multiple calendars, weather forecasts for your area, and the ability to propose a new time when invited to a meeting.

I also have nothing but praise for Outlook's account setup skills. Adding both my Office365 account from work and my personal Gmail account took mere seconds, and required nothing more than my email address and password. Outlook 2016's savvy configuration tools did the rest, and after some initial loading, all my mail popped into view.

Most of the Outlook's modest 2016 facelift is perfectly pleasant. Navigating between Outlook's different abilities--Mail, Calendar, People, Tasks, and Notes--is as simple as clicking those words at the bottom of the main window, and within each view, the information you need is laid out clearly and conveniently. I liked the calming, easy-on-the-eye interface colors, too.

However, the ribbon running across the top of the window still has yet to meet an icon it didn't like, cramming them together in inconsistent sizes and configurations. Outlook 2016 can also occasionally take its sweet time launching, or checking for new mail when it first opens.

Bottom line

It's Microsoft Outlook: You almost certainly know what to expect from it. It does its job well, but brings nothing new to the table. If you need Exchange-based mail for work, or want a desktop alternative to the very good Outlook365 web client, it won't let you down.


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