Is desktop Outlook dead?


They really haven’t updated that app in years.

Comments (23)

23 responses to “Is desktop Outlook dead?”

  1. Lauren Glenn

    They have but very subtly. I like using it for one basic reason..... it works with VPN for work where the UWP one doesn't with my VPN (through a limitation of my VPN).... it also doesn't require a work account or Airwatch equivalent for the desktop.

  2. Tony Barrett

    Enterprises don't want constant change. Consistency and reliability are key in corporations, which is one of the reasons why they're struggling with Win10. Outlook doesn't need to 'change'. It does the job, and that's fine. MS have to justify their subscription costs by delivering apps 'as a service', so they think constantly changing them and adding new features nobody asked for are the order of the day. Trust me, they're not. They just make more problems, introduce bugs and confuse users.

  3. Lordbaal

    I should have stated the mail app built into Windows 10. Not the Outlook app itself.

  4. gregsedwards

    Wow, good conversation starter. Obviously, it's not dead in the sense that it still gets a lot of incremental updates (see this thread to see mentions of many of those), but the larger question is whether it's still the best way to manage your work and/or personal email, calendar, people, and tasks. Let's break down each one:

    Email. For better or worse, desktop Outlook is still the de facto standard for corporate email. It just has a slew of specific features that enterprise users have come to rely upon to get their work done. And no other email software can really match that feature set. It's arguable that it's actually overgrown the needs of most normal users. But the minute you try to take it away and replace it with something more lightweight, those edge cases come out of the woodwork, and I'd wager a lot of them are c-suite and their support staff (EAs, coordinators, etc.). It's integration with AD to build a global address book it essential for most business users.

    I do think that the recent shift to chat-based collaboration and productivity (Teams, Slack, Workplace) may herald the eventual death of email, but even then, a lot of people simply prefer to have those services notify them of updates via, you guessed

    For personal users, desktop Outlook is obviously overkill. I actually prefer the Windows 10 Mail experience and use it for the bulk of my business and personal email management. Sure, it doesn't provide as many formatting options, its organization tools aren't as powerful, and it doesn't support features like shared mailboxes, but you know what? I've just learned to simplify my email management expectations, and it actually works well, when you don't overthink it. I'd actually like to see Windows 10 Mail just become a PWA version of OWA/ with the ability to manage email for non-Microsoft services, and there's always those options for casual users who just want flexible, lightweight web-based email.

    Calendar. Again, desktop Outlook is the enterprise calendar champ for individual scheduling. Most companies have built their entire scheduling infrastructure around Exchange/Outlook, meaning that it's the official system for booking rooms, reserving other corporate resources, checking the availability of colleagues, and tracking responses. Most groups aren't going to bother trying to spin up a competing solution just for their team to use, unless it can interface seamlessly with that framework.

    But calendar is really lacking, especially for groups. Outlook doesn't provide a really simple way to establish easily shareable calendars. Sure, you can create an O365 group with a calendar, but they're often weird to manage from Outlook, specifically the way they interface with team members' personal calendars, and that can prevent them from being embraced over other solutions. My biggest complaint with Outlook calendars is that there isn't an easy way to merge multiple calendars into one unified view for showing free/busy time. For instance, I may create multiple calendars to share activities across multiple teams, but unless I copy specific events from those calendars over to my "default" Outlook calendar, those activities don't block my time in such a way that others won't assume I'm free. And copying events between calendars just creates a lot of duplication. It's frankly an archaic solution that's in dire need of an overhaul.

    Personal users are probably safe avoiding desktop Outlook for scheduling altogether. There are far better and simpler tools available. Again, I like the Windows 10 Calendar app, because it gets the job done. I can connect it to Exchange for my work schedule and for my personal calendar. I've almost completely abandoned my personal calendar in favor of my work calendar for the reason stated above - I need my availability to be comprehensive, and the only way to do that is to manage all of my scheduled events on my work calendar. My wife uses the Yahoo Mail app to manage her email, but she just uses her iPhone Calendar app for her personal scheduling, because it's there and meets her basic needs. It doesn't matter to her that her email and calendar are being managed by two completely separate platforms, and she might be missing out on some keen integrations that could be available if she were to settle on one platform or the other.

    Yet, of all our personal information management tools, the personal calendar is probably the "stickiest." Think about how much your team or family relies on having a central place for everyone to share important events. Now, imagine everyone just kept their own calendar and had to email/message back and forth for every update. And yet, that's still how desktop Outlook does it. Attempts to create centralized calendars (O365 Groups, SharePoint) have been comparatively unsuccessful, because people see their own calendar as personal resource that cannot be completely supplanted by a group resource.

    People. I think this one depends greatly on what kind of work you do. For me, I seldom ever put contacts into Outlook. I use the company's global address book all the time, and I keep personal contacts in my account, because I don't really need to share them with anyone else at work. But other teams rely on shared contact lists a lot for clients, contractors, etc. If there's one area of desktop Outlook that really hasn't received a lot of attention in the last decade, it's People.

    I think the phone's default Contacts app is probably used by most personal users over Outlook. Again, it's just there, and most people don't really care where that data lives, as long as they can get to it for making phone calls or sending messages. I prefer to keep my contacts in for portability between different devices, but I don't think that's a selling point for most people as long they can get to them on the phone they're currently using.

    Tasks. Of all the features in desktop Outlook, I think tasks are the most misunderstood and underused. I've complained about this before...most people simply don't understand how to use tasks, either to manage personal work or to make requests of others in their organization. They'd rather put an event on the calendar to remind them to do something or send a colleague an email asking them to please complete work by such-and-such date, both of which really could be handled more efficiently by using tasks. Tasks can have a specific due date, provide persistent reminders, provide tools for tracking and updating status, and most importantly, can rollover automatically when incomplete. Desktop Outlook has excellent email/task integration through follow-up flags. It's just a shame that more people don't use them, preferring instead to create spreadsheets with due dates and status codes that people quickly forget about and ultimately ignore until the boss sends a nasty email reminding them to provide an update.

    Lately, Microsoft have been championing tools like Planner and To-Do, and I feel like these may ultimately replace tasks in desktop Outlook. Look at the mobile apps for a evidence; Outlook mobile doesn't provide any real task management tools. The best you get there is the ability to flag messages and schedule email for later review. While both of these are excellent for creating quick reminders, they're just not on par with proper planning and task management tools.

    For personal users, I definitely feel like To-Do is the future. It's lightweight, it's available everywhere, lists can be shared easily, and it's getting much better at integrating with Outlook email for automating the creation and updating of tasks. I switched to To-Do, and use it almost exclusively for managing my work and personal tasks. Thanks to the Exchange integration, I can flag an email in desktop Outlook, and it shows up as a task in To-Do; when I mark it as complete, it syncs back with Outlook.

    So is Outlook dead? No, and I don't feel like it will be for a long time, because most enterprises are slow to embrace large-scale changes to their core productivity tools. I do feel like it will continue to evolve and possibly be slowly replaced piecemeal by other, better tools over time. Look at Notes, which still technically exists as part of desktop Outlook, but is used by almost no one anymore. That functionality has been completely replaced by OneNote and Sticky Notes. I expect that to happen with tasks next, and eventually maybe email and calendar.

  5. wunderbar

    As someone who manages an exchange server and outlook in a business, Outlook has changed a lot over the last 10 years. Just because the UI might look pretty similar doesn't mean there haven't been a lot of changes to how it works.

    Outlook is not a consumer facing product. It is not meant to be used by the average home user anymore.

  6. rob_segal

    Outlook is still used a lot with businesses that use Office 365 or Exchange. Microsoft recently introduced the simplified ribbon to the app. They still haven't introduced Google contacts, calendar, and tasks integration and I don't expect that to happen any time soon at this point.

  7. MarkPow

    Can't change perfection...................

  8. BigM72

    It's not true that it's not updated in years. It works well with

    They've introduced a simplified ribbon for Outlook too

    Do you have Office 365

    • yoshi

      In reply to BigM72:

      I wouldn't recommend connecting to it unless you want Conversation History and RSS Subscriptions to become permanent folders even on the web. No matter what I do, I can't delete them now. It also reorganized the order of my calendars which I can't change on the web now.

      • infloop

        In reply to yoshi:

        So that explains why they showed up and why I can't delete them. I had used Outlook to move old emails to so I could close accounts that I no longer needed.

        Thanks for the info.

  9. VancouverNinja

    Uh I think they have been updating it subtly over the last few years. We all have a coming soon switch on ours as well to play with newer features as they are updating them.

    From my perspective I would not use any other client and I definetly am not down with the web interface vs the desktop client.

  10. wright_is

    There have been lots of minor changes, some for good, some for bad, some features added, others removed.

    But, on the other hand, why does it need constant big updates? It is a tool that millions rely on every day as the backbone of their workload. Big changes are the last thing most users want. They want stability of their workflow.

    We moved from Office 2010 to Office 365 this year and most questions were about why things had changed so much in Outlook and why things had suddenly stopped working.

    • MarkPow

      In reply to wright_is:

      We've just gone through the same migration - my feeling is that Outlook 365 was actually a regression. I'm not normally negative about newer software but the UI design on 2010 was clearer, and, why can I no longer get a whole months view, in advance, on the "Calendar Peak"? It's annoying.

  11. Bats

    For personal/consumer use? Yes,...probably. For corporate use? No.

  12. yaddamaster

    not dead for me. Email and calendaring are two tasks not well served by web applications. At least none that I've found.

  13. xperiencewindows

    It doesn't really make sense to use it if you're not using it part of an organization. Meeting invites, distribution groups, read receipts, all work really well when everyone uses it together.

    It doesn't really make sense to use it by yourself on a personal machine.

  14. hrlngrv

    Until a very large majority of MSFT's enterprise customers are using Windows 10, those customers would need desktop Outlook or a non-MSFT email and perhaps groupware client. I really can't see MSFT giving its core customers any reason to look elsewhere for such software.

    • wright_is

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      We are on Windows 10 and haven't found an alternative to Outlook yet.

      • gregsedwards

        In reply to wright_is:

        I'm running Windows 10 in a corporate environment, and I get by just fine with the Mail and Calendar apps. I'm not saying any company out there would choose to go this route over Outlook for their workforce at-large, but it is very doable and provides sufficient feature parity for most average Outlook users.

        • wright_is

          In reply to gregsedwards:

          We us a lot of linked accounts (you log on with your main account and you get 4 or 5 other accounts loaded automatically, e.g. my account, IT support account, IT purchasing etc.) and we do a lot of public folders.

  15. minke

    They have been making many little changes over the years, but I still dislike it as much as I did 10 years ago! Unfortunately, it is the default at most companies so I have been burdened with using it since it existed. I actually rather like the interface for personal use, and at work I often use it when doing some quick work in email. I suspect in 5-10 years every app we use will be a web interface and that's where the development seems to be focused.