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What you need to know about Outlook.com as Microsoft brings it out of preview

Mark Hachman | Feb. 18, 2016
Running your email as a web app can give you access to Microsoft's latest and greatest features for Outlook.

Since May 2015, Microsoft’s revamped Outlook.com has remained in preview. That’s over as of Wednesday, and Microsoft has added some new plugin capabilities to go along with it. 

Once known as Hotmail, Microsoft’s new Outlook.com is now built upon Office 365 technology, and the company has begun adding useful plugins on top of it—plus some fun, if impractical, GIFs from Giphy.com. These same plugins are also available to some users of the Outlook desktop apps, though you’ll need to download them as separate plugin apps from Microsoft’s online store.

If you’ve already participated in the preview of Microsoft Outlook.com, you probably won’t find much that’s new. For millions of others, though, things will change. In a blog post, Microsoft said that the new look and feel is going live for users in North America. Users in other geographies will be transitioned over the next few weeks. One note for users of the Mac version of Outlook 2016: you’ll need to delete your Outlook.com account, then re-add it, to see the changes.

Why this matters: While it’s sort of a pain to load up a dedicated browser tab for email and other Microsoft online apps, it can be worth it. Sure, your data is "trapped" in the cloud, but it's also saved constantly, minimizing the traditional risks from PC crashes or hard drive failures. Microsoft often pushes some of its new features online before it migrates them to its dedicated apps.  

A walk through the new Outlook.com

If you’re seeing the Outlook.com service for the first time, however, be aware that Microsoft has made a number of changes over time. Windows 10’s Mail app is a fairly basic way to send and receive email. The new Outlook.com, by contrast, is even more sophisticated, in some ways, than Microsoft’s dedicated Outlook apps.

For one thing, Outlook.com now pays attention to the people you email with most, so expect to see a list of the your most frequently accessed contacts. We haven’t seen Microsoft add Facebook-style Likes in yet, but the complementary Mentions (an “@” character, then a person’s name) will flag that email as important for a particular user. You can also set your own flags, and pin email to the top of your inbox.

Outlook.com also supports one of the niftier features Microsoft offers, Clutter, sort of a second-level spam filter. (Interestingly, Outlook.com users have another option, too—if you like the way Google’s Gmail organizes its inbox, a new service makes that available for Outlook.com users.)

As you write an email, Outlook now supports emoji and can also make any embedded pictures pop a bit more with some image creation tools.

Email as a hub

 

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