Microsoft Touts AI Advances in Outlook

Posted on November 10, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft 365, Mobile, Office, Office 365 with 28 Comments

This week, Microsoft posted an overview of how AI has improved its Outlook clients on the desktop, mobile, and web.

“Valuing people’s time is behind everything we’re doing with AI in Outlook today,” Microsoft corporate vice president Gaurav Sareen explains. “We want to help you spend more time focusing on what matters to you—family, friends, hobbies, fitness, or whatever it may be, and less on routine tasks that can be easily taken care of by AI and machine learning behind the scenes. To do this, we are using AI technologies from across the company: Microsoft Research, Bing, Cortana, as well as data and insights powered by the Microsoft Graph.”

Some of the AI innovations in Outlook touted by Sareen include:

  • Time-to-leave notifications. These “help people make sure they leave on time to get where they’re going.”
  • At-a-glance visual cues that allow for quick actions straight from the inbox. These include “the ability to check in for a flight by tapping a flight summary card.”
  • Search. This has always been core to Outlook, but it’s been improved in recent years with Top Results, which ranks the top three search results, and suggested searches that anticipate what you’ll need. On Outlook Mobile, search has become central to the user experience. And Microsoft says it is working toward “zero query” search results, “surfacing relevant people, files, and activities based on your connections, contacts, documents, and calendar events—before you even ask a question.”
  • Spam and phishing protection. Microsoft says it has “significantly improved the quality of the email experience by detecting and filtering [malicious] mails so they stay out of your inbox” using AI-based techniques. This year alone, the firm has scanned and analyzed over 18 billion links and attachments and has caught more than 5 billion phishing and suspicious emails.
  • Meeting preparation. Outlook now suggests event locations and meeting rooms, which is particularly nice on mobile. It also learns which conference rooms you use most often and will suggest them when you book a new meeting.
  • And more. Other features like @mentions, swipes, and gestures are all designed to help you get more done and stay on top of things, Sareen says.


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Comments (28)

28 responses to “Microsoft Touts AI Advances in Outlook”

  1. jcbeckman

    SPAM detection remains awful. It seems no matter how many times I mark an address "never mark as junk" it just ignores me. I have tried the address and the domain, and it still sends real email to junk. It never catches the *actual* spam, though.

    Searching is very good, though, and very fast, even though I have tens of thousands of items in my inbox (I am *required* to by company policy).

    I don't use the other stuff so I can't say how well it works.

  2. software counter

    Thanks for this information

  3. waethorn

    Search and skip logic is NOT AI!!

  4. Rob_Wade

    Oh, please. The spam filtering is weak at best. The amount of spam I continue to see in my Inbox any given day is well over 100.

  5. tuzem_2

    I have an issue with the so called spam protection... while it works most of the time for actual spam there are so many false positives it’s frustrating. But fine, that’s part the system “learning”, the only problem is it doesn’t seem to sync with what I mark as spam/not spam on on the web or the app. On top of that once I move something out of the spam folder to my inbox from the app, the next time I receive an email from the same sender it goes back to spam.

  6. txag spam filtering is terrible. No matter how many times I respond to the query that I really do want to subscribe to a newsletter or similar posts, it keeps asking me if they are spam. Multiple times for the same source.

    Then, it occasionally just dumps email from a subscription into the spam folder. So I have to look at everything in spam in case it's nuking email I want.

    It does a slightly better job of filtering obvious spam, but allows some stuff through that looks like, and is, spam/phishing.

  7. Lewk

    U.S only? Because I don't see any of these features.

    • wright_is

      In reply to Lewk:

      The search is certainly showing up here (Office 365 Home and Office 365 Business E5, Germany). When typing in the search bar, it now suggests search results and lists 3 "pertinent" results in the drop down as you type, before it updates the search list.

      I don't currently have any flights, or meetings planned, just birthdays etc. which have no location.

  8. ponsaelius

    I am currently using Nine email client on Android. The reason is Outlook, for a long time, couldn't create a contact. It also doesn't sync properly with contact information in the phone. It's been like that for a long time.

    The AI stuff I can take or leave. It's the basic stuff I would like them to finish.

  9. m_p_w_84

    "Search. This has always been core to Outlook, but it’s been improved in recent years with Top Results" the iOS outlook app, i think, is brilliant. But the search is terrible, there are the 'top results' and that's it. If their algorithm doesn't consider what your actually looking for to be a 'top result' you are screwed as there is no other option. This is a terrible 'feature'.

  10. Oasis

    The online( is just Junk. My sister complained that she got pushed from Hotmail to and was having all kinds of issues, getting on the site sending emails, replying to existing emails. So, I opened an account and while I have seen most of those issues and OFTEN I don't get all of them. If this was Gmail which I have used for many years via Thunderbird Client I would have thrown it is the dumpster. My most like outcome is to not be able to login or it says it won't display the messages, try later. Just another MS product that makes us want to come back for more. I had a Hotmail account a long time ago and it never used to do any of this. Nice improvement MS, keep up the good work. /s Well, at least it hsn't deleted anything. /s

  11. BoItmanLives

    Microsoft slopping a new buzzword over everything like a five year old that just learned the F word.

  12. UbelhorJ

    I don't remember if it was some Cortana thing or Google, but I remember my phone at points in the past giving me time to leave notifications with travel time before meetings. Problem was, our conference rooms at work are named after lakes, so it would tell me to leave for a meeting 4 hours before it started with directions to the actual lake. Maybe Outlook will actually be smart enough to know that they're just resources setup in Exchange.

  13. dcdevito

    None of this appears to be AI, just programming. Nothing wrong with it, just not AI to me

    • wright_is

      In reply to dcdevito:

      Yes, this is at best machine learning, but AI is a very misrepresented term these days. Anything that can run on rules and gets more accurate with more data being pumped through it is suddenly "AI".

      Real AI researchers are probably pretty miffed these days.

      • christian.hvid

        In reply to wright_is:

        To make matters worse, clever but static algorithms, with no learning capabilities whatsoever, are suddenly "AI" too. It appears that AI has become a term to describe perceived system behaviour - if the software makes smarter choices than we would expect, it's AI - rather than the underlying technology and architecture.

        Ultimately, AI researchers will probably be forced to come up with a new name for their field (and preferably keep it secret).

    • SvenJ

      In reply to dcdevito: Isn't it all just programming?

    • christian.hvid

      In reply to dcdevito:

      The state of the art appears to be that in most cases, successful AI is actually HI, or Human Intelligence, whereas actual AI could generally be described as AS, or Artificial Stupidity. But we're getting there...

  14. mahmud1628

    Many thanks for this information. This article helps me very much...


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