Quick Hands-On: Outlook (Pre-Release)

Posted on May 6, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Outlook.com, Microsoft 365 with 39 Comments

Well, after years of waiting, we’re finally getting our first peek at One Outlook. And … it appears to be an offline version of Outlook on the web.

I’m not sure what we were expecting. I’m also not sure what Microsoft will ultimately call this thing, but despite the proliferation of things called Outlook, it appears to be simply called, wait for it, Outlook.

Can it replace the desktop version of Outlook that Microsoft bundles with Microsoft 365? That’s hard to say. For me, since I don’t use Outlook. But I’ll put it like this: if you can use Outlook on the web and don’t miss anything from the desktop version, you’re going to be fine with this app. I’ll also add that it is very clearly a huge improvement over the terrible Mail and Calendar apps built into Windows 10 and 11.

Right now, the new Outlook only works with commercial accounts—work and education—so you can’t sign in with a consumer Microsoft account. I do have a commercial account, as it turns out, so I could get in. But it has no real data associated with it. So there’s not much to see here, sorry.

My guess is that this new Outlook is essentially the same thing as the desktop Teams app: an offline-capable app built on web technologies. It’s not clear how well it works. And some of the links in the app open in a web browser instead of the app. It’s unclear why.

Here are some more shots.

Thanks to Mary Jo Foley for the heads-up.



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Comments (39)

39 responses to “Quick Hands-On: Outlook (Pre-Release)”

  1. bluvg

    "Can it replace the desktop version of Outlook that Microsoft bundles with Microsoft 365?"

    Not for the many, many organizations that use COM add-ins. The new add-in model doesn't provide a mechanism to act on more than one item at a time, which is a huge (and I'm pretty sure intentional) limitation. Need an add-in to act on a 200 messages at once rather than one-at-a-time? Sorry, you'll need desktop Outlook for that.

    • cbruscato

      I came here expecting typical bashing of the Web version, and by extension this new desktop version. However your comment is both insightful and helpful. This is good information to know.

    • Daekar

      This. Our IT folks have rolled out a number of addins to Outlook, and I personally use the ability to power functions in VBA to handle ERP data and automatically generate personalized messages derived from the data. It would take... Lots of time, we'll just say that, to do it without.

      I daresay I would have to write a whole other application and get it attached to my AD account if we got rid of real Outlook.

    • davecober

      COM add-ins seem to be going the way of the dodo. I can't remember the last request I had to deploy one.

      I personally cannot wait for this. I've been using the PWA version of Outlook on the Web for years now. I can't imagine going back to the slow, buggy Win32 client. Much like OneNote, it feels like something from another time.

      • hrlngrv

        | COM add-ins seem to be going the way of the dodo.

        You must not support many people who use Excel more than anything else.

        IANAL, but I figure there are more than a few lawyers using Word add-ins for LexisNexis or WestLaw from whose cold dead fingers you'd need to pry those add-ins away.

      • wright_is

        All of our telephone systems use COM add-ins for dialling and for displaying the contact information of incoming calls etc.

        Likewise, our CRM system uses a COM add-in for archiving messages, campaigns etc.

    • wright_is

      Our telephone systems (we use Swyx and Alcatel systems on different sites) have add-ins that allow us to dial straight from an email or contact etc. and automatically open the contact information when a call is received.

      Likewise, we have an add-in for our CRM system that links it with Outlook, so emails can be automatically archived etc.

  2. lindhartsen

    Curious if this loads faster than Outlook (consumer) pinned from the web. For whatever reason it always seems to sit at the animating envelope for a long time on my Windows machines, if that doesn't happen here it'll be an improvement.

  3. lnorthe27

    You are not kidding saying the Mail app built into Win 10 is bad. I tried using it once and it would not even my sync folders properly. Am I expecting too much from Microsoft?

  4. Rob_Wade

    I guess each of us has different needs or important features. I love the Mail and Calendar apps. One of the MOST important features for me is being able to swipe left to delete and swipe right to go DIRECTLY to Junk. You can't get that in Outlook. Not on the PC, not on Android. I hate Outlook. There is literally nothing in that app that makes me want to go back to it. Ever. The Mail app keeps everything I have, across multiple Outlook, personal website, several Gmail accounts, sync'd up. I've never had problems with it. Same with the Calendar. Outlook is overblown and misses one of my most cherished features.

    • jwpear

      I'm with you! I love the simplicity of the Mail and Calendar apps. I made the switch with Windows 8 for both personal and work accounts. I haven't looked back since.

      The desktop Outlook app is a bloated mess. My quality of life has been better without it. The O365 Outlook web app is better, but it still feels too bloated to me.

  5. mattbg

    Speaking of looks alone, this looks surprisingly similar to how the Outlook desktop version looks since the latest UI refresh. That is good, but... why would I use it?

    Hard to imagine how they will present this singular "one Outlook" packaged web app as a decent mobile app, but I guess we will see.

  6. rpspiker

    IT might be a little feature, but I would find it hard to not be able to modify the Subject. At the present time that can only be accomplished in the Desktop version.

  7. Daekar

    I still use the full featured Outlook client at home, but I really do like Outlook on the Web. If this is like that but better, I can see it being a great solution for most folks.

    • aretzios

      I may be a minority here, but I do like the Outlook desktop client and I am not very fond of the web version. However, many who do not have the more complex setup that I have would find this easier to use, I guess.

      I think that Microsoft should stop playing around and really amplify both the features and the performance of the desktop Outlook client. The web version is good enough for those with basic requirements. Microsoft needs to advance the state of the art, not try to enhance middling software solutions which have "good enough" versions

  8. davidjhupp

    What’s that Yammer button I see there? Will the New Outlook have the same kind of built-in Yammer functionality that Teams has?

  9. brettscoast

    Thanks, Paul it would have to be said that it's been a long time coming waiting for a replacement for the truly awful mail app in Windows 10/11 but at least it's a start. Pity you need a commercial account to set it up, hopefully that changes over time.

  10. james_makumbi

    You can only add one account at a time, and it rejected my Hotmail m365 account.

    I will try it out at work next week though. I have 50 m365 users who are inept at microsoft office and yet seem to be equally inept at outlook.office.com this might be the compromise I need.

  11. SherlockHolmes

    Im just testing it on Windows 10. So far so good. But when its really only an offline version of Outlook on the web, the question is: What took so long?

    • will


      While it is nice to have an offline version, there is not much here. PWA+ is what I would call this and maybe more Office apps will follow. It’s the same type of solution used for Teams, just Edge based and not Electron.

  12. hal9000

    Why am I reminded of what happened to Skype from Windows 8 onwards?

  13. spiderman2

    slow and heavy web app... no thanks

  14. Fredboulanger

    Using it daily since early last week. Working out ok. No major issues so far. 1)I would like to see a Gmail shortcuts mapping. 2)And more importantly to have a unified inbox for all my email addresses.

    Anyone know if the above are going to happen before this thing ships?

  15. Jordan_Meyer

    There's a beta feature in the latest office 365 desktop outlook that changes the navigation bar on the left from horizontal to vertical. Combined with the minimal ribbon it, the desktop version starts to look like this web version.

  16. bluvg

    "it appears to be an offline version of Outlook on the web"

    This is not surprising--lately they've been adding quite a number of features only to the web version.

    "very clearly a huge improvement over the terrible Mail and Calendar"

    You mean the ones that just randomly close, all the time? The bar is so high. ?

  17. fourbadcats

    bleh. Well, it's better than the old Mail. I guess this is consumer-facing and it may be fine for most. But, it probably won't get me to switch from the desktop Outlook unless it can support things like dragging attachments onto other running apps to pass the attachment as a local file. I also use previewers for some proprietary file types sent as attachments. Guessing those are unsupported. Can it be launched via MAPI apis from apps with a feature like File > Send Mail.. to send a msg preformatted by the app w/ custom attachments. Probably not.

    • mattbg

      Paul said it only works for commercial accounts currently, and it looks a lot like the commercial Office 365 / Exchange Online front-end, so not convinced about the consumer-first part.

  18. jheredia

    Are you consistently getting the "Add account" text at the bottom of the left plane? It doesn't show up on mine and I can't find a way to add other accounts. Without that functionality it's a non-starter for me unfortunately.

  19. Daninbusiness

    How different is this from a PWA "pinned" to one's desktop or taskbar?

    • buzza24

      Likely some small offline feature that don't matter.

    • rob_segal

      I haven't used it, but I hope it has better native notifications, better multi-window support, and good offline support.

    • hlbuck

      Loading times and animations are far more fluid. Seems like it's leveraging some local system resources.

  20. mmcpher

    An improvement over the bundled Mail, which I'm still using for my personal Outlook mail, and will have to for the foreseeable future. Some improvement over the Outlook OWA that I sometimes use as an alternate access for my work account. A cleaner, more modern look, than the old OWA, but as with a lot of Microsoft's recent tweaking, it results in so much white-wasted-screen space, that it almost hurts the eyes to look at. Everything is spread out and bathed in white, which, when you are looking at a work-oriented, high-volume inbox, is just a thoughtless thing to do with the widescreen opportunity. It's like I am trying to light up the room from the spilled glow of the empty spaces in Outlook, rather than find some more intelligent and efficient way to utilize the space to show important data and elements. Maybe it's more customizable?

    We have on-prem, and remote access to an exchange server running a version of the 365 Desktop version, with a lot of add-ons, density and complexity, and then the OWA version for other access and then various phone and tablet versions, and we all speak in terms of our "Outlook" inbox and there is perpetual confusion about it, so this new, shocking Microsoft naming convention of calling this BIG NEW THING . . . . wait for it . . . . "OUTLOOK!" Slot right in there nicely.

  21. feek

    I stopped using the desktop outlook client at work and switched to outlook web a few years ago. It’s been great.

    I pretty much expected this new version to be outlook on the web, except for the fact that it’s been teased and in development for 2-4 years? I’d kind of figure there must be more to it. What’s with the hold up??

  22. OldITPro2000

    Looks a lot like the "new Outlook" for macOS which is to say very different from the current Outlook for Windows. I'm not sure I could ever use it full time; I actually rely on features like Quick Steps and Quick Parts in Outlook for Windows as well as the customization options that give me the ability to have one click or keyboard shortcut to look at message headers, etc.

    • vadalus

      long time user of the 'new' MAC BETA client deskotp. I find it a lot simpler, less clutter, they've wasted a bit of space which they need to fix but the simplcity (and handling multiple email accounts) is just great.

      Going back occasionally and seeing the full windows version, it's just awful...

      • rob_segal

        Outlook for Mac is my favorite version. It's a great blend of features and simplicity. Windows needs a version of Outlook that's like it and this could be it.

        • will

          They seems to have stopped the idea of getting everything into Outlook as was promised a few years ago when this beta was announced. I think they will focus on this new web wrapper version going forward once there is EdgeView for macOS later this year.

  23. hlbuck

    Looks like the Outlook preview app has been updated. There's now an "Add account" button in the lefthand pane, but it's grayed out. Mousing over it shows text that support is coming soon for Microsoft 365, Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud and more accounts.