Last week Microsoft launched Outlook for iOS, an app that includes Microsoft’s familiar email, calendar, contacts and files. Outlook for iOS is not a simple port of the Windows app – it includes features that leave the default iOS app Mail in the dust.
The app works with all major email services (including Outlook.com, Exchange Server, Office 365, Yahoo, Gmail, etc) and is free for personal use. An Office 365 subscription enables commercial use rights for businesses.
Microsoft also released Android versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint which can be downloaded from the Google Play store.
Microsoft has already released the cornerstone apps of its Office suite on Apple’s iOS platform. The apps include features designed for the respective operating systems and specific to the format of the device, whether smartphones or tablets.
Android and iOS users can create, print and perform “core editing” functions in Office documents but can’t use all editing options or save the documents to an online storage service. Subscribers to Microsoft’s cloud productivity suite, Office 365, gain access to full editing features and OneDrive or DropBox storage.
Commercial Office 365 subscribers can save their documents to commercial storage (OneDrive for Business, DropBox for Business and SharePoint), use enterprise-grade security, IT management tools like MDM for Office 365 (mobile device management), and commercial use rights.
A Big Leap in Mobile Email
Let’s get back to Outlook for iOS and take a look at what makes it special. Microsoft has addressed a bunch of common issues with mobile email apps that makes old Apple Mail look pretty lame.
The Outlook app for iOS separates email into two tabs – Focused and Other. Important emails appear in your Focused inbox. If you move email in or out of your Focused inbox, Outlook remembers in a similar way to Gmail’s tabbed sections. Outlook also has a one-click unsubscribe for newsletters to reduce unwanted mail.
Outlook shows a list of recently received email attachments, uses predictive search to find subject lines and senders’ names, and can search across cloud storage and email attachments. A search filter sorts files by type.
Outlook has adopted Apple Mail and Gmail for iOS’s swipe gestures – swipe right or left to take actions like archive, delete, move, flag, mark as read/unread or schedule. Unlike other email apps, Outlook lets you personalise these swipe gestures to match your email habits. If you want to process one email later, the ‘Schedule Email’ feature temporarily removes it from your inbox, to return at the time you choose.
The bigger news is that Outlook for iOS users can attach files from cloud storage – and not just Microsoft’s own OneDrive. You can send from competitors such as Dropbox and even Google Drive. This is truly a post-Ballmer product.
Microsoft has also done an excellent job at integrating the Outlook calendar with the iOS operating system. In Outlook, calendars are available right within the app, allowing direct interaction with email, including features like viewing meeting details, invitees and their attendance status. The ‘Quick RSVP’ feature lets you respond to meetings (Accept/Tentative/Decline) right from your inbox, without even opening the mail.
The ‘Send Availability’ feature lets you find and share available meeting times in email . Once you’ve settled on a time, you can even create a meeting invitation – all handled without leaving the app.
Outlook for iOS and the upcoming app for Android will replace the OWA (Outlook Web App) for iPhone, iPad and Android apps. Businesses who want features such as information rights management should continue to use the OWA for Devices app on phones and tablets for the near term. These advanced features will be coming to Outlook on iOS and Android in the coming months.
Here is the Microsoft post announcing the Outlook for iOS release. The company has put together an FAQ, pasted below.
Frequently asked questions
Q. Which accounts can Outlook connect to?
A. Outlook can sync mail, contacts, calendar and files from Office 365, Exchange Online, Exchange Server (2007 SP2, 2010, 2013), Outlook.com (including Hotmail, Live, and MSN), Gmail, iCloud and Yahoo! Mail.
For cloud storage, Outlook connects to OneDrive, Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive and Box. We will be updating Outlook to connect to OneDrive for Business.
Q. What markets and languages will Outlook be available in?
A. Outlook is available in all markets supported by the iOS App Store and Google Play Store. Users in any of these markets will be able to download Outlook.
The Outlook user interface is translated in 30 languages: English, Norwegian (Bokmål), Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Ukrainian and Vietnamese.
Q. What versions of iOS and Android are supported?
A. Outlook can run on iOS 8.0+ and Android 4.0 and above.
Q. Why is the app called “Outlook Preview” on Android?
A. The iOS version of Outlook is ahead of the Android version in terms of features and performance. Once we have completed sufficient work on Android to close the gap we will remove the Preview label.
Q. What happens to the current Outlook Web Access (OWA) for iPhone/iPad/Android apps?
A. The new Outlook app replaces OWA for iPhone/iPad/Android. We are leaving the OWA for iPhone/iPad/Android apps in market for the time being because there are some advanced Office 365 and Exchange Server features that are not yet available in Outlook. Customers who require these advanced features (e.g. viewing Information Rights Management protected mails, support for Apps for Outlook) can continue to use OWA for iPhone/iPad/Android until those features are available in Outlook.
Q. Does the new Outlook app work with Outlook.com?
A. Yes, we encourage Outlook.com users with iOS and Android devices to download and use the app. Outlook replaces the previous Outlook.com Android app.