Software

New Microsoft Garage project aims to eliminate email search frustrations

The new project, called Email Insights, was developed to make searching for emails easier--as long as you use Outlook or Gmail.

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Image: Microsoft

Searching through a full email inbox can be frustrating. There are numerous variables to consider when searching, such as the sender, send date, topic, recipients, even spelling variations in names.

No one, not even the search engine masters at Google, have managed to come up with a good way to address the shortcomings of email searches.

The Microsoft Garage, Microsoft's catch-all website for experimental projects, thinks it has solved the problem in its latest release: Email Insights, an app for Windows 10 Anniversary Edition that indexes emails from Outlook and Gmail and tries to make searching them simple.

How Microsoft plans to make email searches a bit more insightful

Microsoft senior research director Suresh Parthasarathy sums up the team's strategy very simply: It wants to duplicate the reliability of a search engine.

SEE: Microsoft wants to make conversing with your computer the new normal (TechRepublic)

"It is not just about the algorithms, but about the user experience. We present a novel browser-like email experience that feels lightweight and works just like web search." The web search backbone is even more apparent with the inclusion of auto complete, spell checking, and even the inclusion of an "intent pane" that looks a lot like a Google featured snippet.

Email Insights is also programmed with "fuzzy" name recognition, which will suggest appropriate spellings based on your email history and the contents of your inbox.

It can also reportedly abstract more than just names, according to Parthasarathy. "A user need not remember all the exact keywords or spellings for their queries," he said. "The idea is to remove the cognitive load of a user while searching," essentially fulfilling the same role as a traditional search engine.

The app also provides an optional taskbar-pinnable search field, further separating it from the typical email client.

Who can benefit from Email Insights?

Email may have been a convenience 15 years ago, but now it's a hassle most of us want to ignore whenever possible. Email Insights is designed to separate the user from the email inbox, so if you find yourself frustrated at Gmail or Outlook you're right in the app's target audience.

SEE: Windows 10 makeover: Microsoft teases its new look (TechRepublic)

To be clear, Email Insights isn't a full-featured email client replacement for Outlook or Gmail: It's designed as a companion to make using both of them simpler. If Email Insights' new search algorithm is as good as the developers claim it may well make its way into future versions of Outlook, but for now it's a separate app with one specific purpose: Indexing and simplifying email searches.

Email Insights is currently a Windows 10 Anniversary Edition exclusive, and it only supports Gmail and Outlook accounts. If you meet those criteria you can download it here to start experiencing the feeling of liberation from an untidy inbox.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. A new Microsoft Garage project, called Email Insights, was released yesterday. It's an inbox indexing app designed to make searching for emails better and more intuitive.
  2. The development team based its search algorithm on modern-day search engines, which are adept at learning from their users and drawing correct conclusions from abstract search terms.
  3. Email Insights is available now, but only for Windows 10 Anniversary Edition. It only supports Outlook and Gmail accounts.

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About Brandon Vigliarolo

Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.

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