Microsoft Outlook is the standard desktop email client for many computer users, but until recently, the Redmond company didn’t have a top-notch, cross-platform Outlook app for accessing email on the go.
The new Outlook for iOS and Android changes that. It’s a new app from Microsoft that brings professional-grade email management to smartphones and tablets. Outlook is the next evolution of Acompli, an email app that Microsoft acquired in December for a reported $200 million, and it looks like money well spent by the company.
For people who get a lot of email, the killer feature in Outlook is the app’s built in message filtering. Outlook only displays push notifications for messages that it deems important, rather than inundating people with the full firehose of all the email they receive. Inside the app, messages are put into one of two categories: a “Focused” inbox for important missives and an “Other” inbox for everything else. That way, it’s easy to open up Outlook and stay focused on what’s important without getting distracted by an avalanche of unimportant emails.
The app also supports a wide variety of email services, including Exchange, Outlook.com, Gmail, Yahoo and iCloud. (It unfortunately doesn’t support a generic IMAP server, so people who run their own email servers are out of luck.)
The end result of that functionality is that Microsoft currently owns one of the best Gmail clients on the market today.
People who have to manage a lot of attachments will appreciate Outlook’s “Files” tab, which gives users access to their storage from Google Drive, Box, Dropbox and OneDrive, along with recent attachments from their email accounts.
Users can schedule email to bounce back into their inbox after a set amount of time, so that it’s easy to clear out emails you can’t handle right away and then act on them at a later date. That does come at a cost: in order to serve push notifications and schedule email, you have to give Outlook’s servers full access to your email, which might run afoul of corporate security policies.
Much like Outlook on the desktop, the mobile version of Outlook also allows people to view and manage calendars from all of their different email accounts. The app has a “People” tab that allows you to easily pull up all of the recent messages someone sent you, but it’s only based on recent correspondence, and doesn’t display other contact information.
That brings me to my biggest frustration with the app: it doesn’t integrate at all with iOS’s built-in contacts and calendars databases. Outlook could ask for access to my contacts and calendars, but it instead requires people to log in with their iCloud account in order to sync calendar data.
It’s also missing a few features that I’ve come to rely on from Mailbox, my current client of choice. First and foremost, it’s not possible to re-order messages in the inbox, which is something I’ve come to rely on. Outlook, like Mailbox, allows users to easily handle messages by swiping them left and right, but users can only perform two actions when swiping messages in Outlook compared to Mailbox’s four.
Minor annoyances aside, Outlook is a killer email app that is worth a look for anyone who wants to manage their electronic correspondence on the go. It’ll be interesting to see what the combined resources of Acompli and Microsoft can do with it going forward.