A new version of Microsoft Outlook is now available both as a standalone product and also as a part of the new office package. Whether we like it or not, most of us upgrade to newer versions of software products due to security and support issues.
Very often, a new software version contains features that we don’t really care about, but they unnecessarily complicate the application or make it more bulky and sluggish. However, with Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft has made the popular email client more efficient, faster, easier to use and has thrown in some useful new features as well. What’s more, it can coexist with earlier versions, thus allowing you to try it without leaving your comfort zone. Here are the major enhancements.
New features and usability enhancements of Microsoft Outlook
Microsoft Outlook comes with a set of new features and enhancements that will be useful to most users.
1: View unread mail with just a single click:
In the new Microsoft Outlook version, Microsoft has added a few buttons prominently on the top bar of the inbox for one-click access to commonly used filters. Clicking ‘Unread’ will show only the unread items. To switch back to the regular view, just click the ‘All’ button. This is a time saving improvement over the older versions where to achieve the same thing, you had to choose ‘Unread’ from your list of filters.
2: Tiny message preview right in the inbox:
To preview a message without opening it, you had to switch-on the preview pane in earlier versions. This reduced the space available for the inbox and each message had to be selected by clicking it to display it in the preview pane.
One of the neat features of Microsoft Outlook is that the inbox now shows the first few lines of every message. This makes it much easier to scan the inbox and knock off junk mail which gets past the spam filter. You can also avoid opening messages that you want to respond to later. Besides saving time, this also retains the unread status of the mail. In earlier versions, you had to open the message, which changed its status to read. You had to mark the message again as unread or risk forgetting about it in case you wanted to act on it later.
The best part of the new inbox is that you can reply or forward the email right from the inbox rather than selecting the message and then clicking the appropriate button on the ribbon menu on top.
3: Slide control for temporary zooming:
With the version, you don’t have to struggle with messages that come in tiny or extra large fonts. There is a handy slide control with which you can adjust the zoom easily while reading the message. The setting is temporary and lasts only until you close the message. So it does not affect you default reading font size. It is also a handy tool when you want to read the fine print that usually comes with special offers. It’s a pity that Microsoft Outlook does not remember your zoom setting for each message. So if you reopen it, you have to adjust the zoom again.
4: Reminder to attach files:
Most of us have done it at some point. We send a message and a split second later realize that we forgot to attach the required files. What is worse, sometimes we notice the problem only when the recipient points it out. Borrowing a leaf from Gmail and Thunderbird, Microsoft Outlook reminds us to attach the file if it finds that we have mentioned about an attachment in the message body, but there are no files attached.
5: People hub with social media connector:
The People Hub in Microsoft Outlook is much more than a contact folder and consolidates all information about contacts including their social media activity from popular networks like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Although similar functionality was possible in earlier versions, the social media connector is integrated in the version. In previous versions you had to install an add-in for this functionality. Microsoft Outlook will keep the information automatically updated as people change their contact information or profile pictures in their social media accounts.
6: Weather update:
Microsoft Outlook has a weather bar which displays the weather information for the next three days in the calendar. The default location may not be correct, in which case, you can change it.
Look and feel enhancements
As usual, with a new version, the look and feel of the application changes and Microsoft Outlook has its share of cosmetic enhancements.
1: Skin enhancements:
The new version comes with three themes to choose from, light gray, dark gray and white. You can also choose from 12 backgrounds to go with your choice of color scheme.
2: A cleaner interface that is easier to use:
a) Ribbon: The icons and text in the ribbon are larger and are easier to find and read.
b) Better use of window space: Shortcuts for commonly used functionality like contacts, schedule and calendar have been moved from the folder pane to the bottom of the inbox, where they are displayed horizontally. This allows more space in the folder pane. Now you can take a quick look at the contacts, calendar, etc. without leaving the inbox by just hovering the mouse over their shortcuts.
Under the hood performance enhancements
Unlike the usual scenario where a new version requires more resources, Microsoft Outlook is slimmer, faster and more efficient than its predecessors.
1: Turns off problematic add-ins:
Add-ins are often responsible for crashing or making a software sluggish or less secure. Microsoft Outlook detects these problems and turns off add-ins which cause them. This keeps the software stable and efficient. You can always view disabled add-ins and manually re-enable them.
2: Smaller data files:
Outlook uses a new version of its data file (.ost) which is compressed and is about 40% smaller than the one used by the previous version.
3: Faster than older versions:
Outlook starts up and shuts down faster than earlier versions. The overall application speed is also better than its predecessors.
The version of Microsoft Outlook is definitely a cut above the 2010 and 2007 versions. Besides better speed, efficiency and stability, there are quite a few useful features and enhancements. If you are running the 2007 or 2010 versions, you can check out the new version without removing your current software. There is a click-to-run version of Outlook that can coexist with the 2007 or 2010 version. Both will work, but you cannot run them simultaneously. To login to to Microsoft Outlook online visit https://account.microsoft.com/
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