Microsoft's new Outlook for Mac app: 5 things to know

Microsoft Outlook for Mac users can deploy a newly refined version of the popular email client. Here are five things to know when working with the app.

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Most business professionals recognize Outlook for Mac as a standard corporate email client, but many may not be aware Microsoft has a free program called Office Insider that provides early access to new releases. In early November 2019, Microsoft introduced the new Outlook for Mac features for those who had joined the Office Insider program.

While new features are often eye candy offering an updated user interface (UI), Microsoft's November Outlook for Mac updates showed significant performance improvements and important new features--the goal is improved performance and productivity. When announcing the new Outlook version, Microsoft Tech Community author Jessica Wilczek noted the new version "brings updates across Mail, Search, and Calendar experiences that are designed for simplicity, reliability, and customization."

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Here are five things to remember when working with the "new" Outlook for Mac app.

1. Performance is improved.

The speed of mail and appointment synchronization is faster in the new Outlook for Mac program. Microsoft developers brought the macOS email client the same Microsoft cloud-based sync engine that powers the company's Outlook for iOS and Windows Mail platforms; as a result, users--whether executives, managers, or front-line staff--will notice that messages, appointments, and related information sync and display quicker.

2. Microsoft Search is baked into the app.

Searches within the new Outlook for Mac app use the cloud sync technology, and because Microsoft Search is integrated within the new email client, searches return more relevant results quicker. New advanced search filters, such as selecting specific date ranges, are another benefit. The Search bar found at the top of the screen now pulls up recent search strings and people. Anyone who has searched for email attachments or messages will appreciate these improvements on productivity.

3. The My Day view assists daily planning.

Microsoft's My Day feature, which users may recognize from using Microsoft To-Do, appears in Outlook for Mac with the new release (Figure A).

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The new Office Insider version of Outlook for Mac presents a fresh UI and improved performance, enhanced searching, and a new My Day view.

Image: Microsoft

My Day integration within the primary mail view ensures that users' messages, agenda, tasks, and calendar highlights are visible with a single glance--allowing for improved productivity. In my personal experience, the new Outlook for Mac screen is less cluttered, and the features and information that are not often used are hidden, thereby simplifying the view with fewer distractions.

4. Messages are collected within a single view.

Conversations--the practice of collecting all the messages related to a single email thread within a segmented view--became popular several years ago. I initially resisted the default setting showing the conversation view since I was accustomed to reading mail in the order it was received. But I've learned that collecting email by conversation saves time and allows for better organization within the inbox.

Microsoft's developers clearly understand, as messages in the new Office Insider version of Outlook for Mac are collated into a single view regardless of where the message is located. The first few messages of a thread can be moved into different folders, but can still be viewed and located quickly within the thread. Think about the email threads in which someone responds days or even weeks afterwards; the collation is convenient in locating related messages.

5. Groups are supported within the Calendar.

Many corporate users will be familiar with Groups, which permits collections of multiple Office 365 members. With the new Outlook for Mac, users can create and manage Group events within Outlook for personal and work calendars.

Although some components--Contacts, Tasks, Notes, Out of Office functions, and Rules--are not yet supported in the new version, other new features justify giving the new Office Insider release a try. If you need access to one of the missing features, click the radio button to switch to the previous version. My 2017 MacBook Pro takes only  six or seven seconds to switch.

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