Microsoft is promising a major improvement to Outlook for Windows that it hopes people won’t even notice. Aimed at Outlook users who work with shared calendars, the new feature is designed to enhance the speed and reliability in the way updates to a shared calendar are synced for all users. As such, the goal is to eliminate those syncing problems people encountered in the past due to limitations in the software.
In a blog post first seen by “The Verge,” Microsoft explained the background behind this latest development, calling it the “biggest change to Outlook for Windows since its initial release in 1997.”
First surfacing in a preview build of Outlook for Windows in July 2019, the shared calendar improvements had been opt-in only to allow interested parties to test it. With Version 2103 of Outlook (March 2021 update), Microsoft removed the preview label for the calendar improvements, feeling that sufficient time had been spent testing and polishing the changes.
At this point, around 10% of Outlook for Windows users with version 2103 have received the improvements, with the rest expected to see them in the spring and summer. With the changes already released for Outlook on the web, Outlook for the Mac and Outlook for mobile, this means that all versions of Microsoft’s email client should deliver better results with shared calendars.
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People in an organization whom you choose to manage your calendar and appointments are known as “delegates,” and Microsoft is promoting the new changes as a boon to them. Answering the question of what delegates will notice with the improvements, Microsoft said it hopes they don’t notice that anything has changed.
“This is one of those improvements that should be invisible because it eliminates issues, but doesn’t change the core product functionality,” Microsoft said. “Calendars will sync faster, and we have eliminated any reliability issues when managing a calendar. Delegates might only notice that things are smoother, but no specific, obvious changes.”
As you shouldn’t notice any differences in Outlook, knowing whether or not you’ve received the latest updates may be difficult, but there are a couple of clues.
First, check your version of Outlook to see if you’re running 2103 or higher. To do this, click the File menu and select the setting for Office Account. The About Outlook section under Product Information shows the current version (Figure A).
Second, check the status of the shared calendar update. To do this, click the File menu, click the Account Settings button, and then select Account Settings. Double-click the name of your email account. Click the button for More Settings. At the next screen, select the Advanced tab. If you see an option that says Turn On Shared Calendar Improvements (Preview), then the updates have not yet rolled out to you or been enabled (Figure B). However, you can take this opportunity to check the box for this option if you’d like to test this promising new feature before it reaches all Outlook users.