Hands-On with Outlook Mobile Add-Ins for iOS

Posted on February 8, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, iOS, Mobile, Office, Office 365 with 5 Comments

Hands-On with Outlook Mobile Add-Ins for iOS

Microsoft recently upgraded Outlook Mobile for iOS with add-in capabilities for email. Here’s how it works.

As you may recall, Microsoft announced that add-ins were coming to Outlook Mobile for iOS last week. To be clear, this isn’t the only form of extensibility supported by this versatile mobile app: Outlook Mobile has long supported cloud storage service integration and it supports Calendar app integration from services such as Evernote, Facebook, and Wunderlist too.

The new add-ins integration brings extensibility to your inbox. That is, these new add-ins are for email, and they attempt to help Outlook Mobile users accomplish more while they are composing or responding to emails, without the need to “whack a mole” over into another mobile app. As I noted last week, these add-ins—like the other integration features—help Outlook Mobile work and behave more like a traditional desktop application. It’s a very interesting blurring of the lines between the functionality we’ve long expected on the PC and what we expect on mobile.

But how well does it work?

You configure Outlook Mobile add-ins in the app in Settings, under a new section called Integration and Add-ins: Just select Add-ins to see which add-ins are available.

From the resulting list, just select the add-in(s) you wish to enable. Note that add-ins are enabled per-account, so if you want Evernote integration with all of your email, you will need to select it for each account individually.

Add-ins are accessed via a new blocks icon you’ll see while reading an email message.

When you tap this icon, a list of available add-ins appears. This list, again, is based on which add-ins you’ve configured for the given account.

Then, you just choose the add-in you want. They work as expected. In my case, the Evernote add-ins lets you save the email to the notebook of your choice. And the Microsoft Translator add-in can translate emails written in another language to English.

(I found the latter to be a bit dodgy in that emails I sent to myself in French didn’t work. But when I received an external email in French, that worked fine.)

In case it’s not obvious why this is so excellent, consider what you’d have to do to achieve the same functionality without add-ins. For Evernote, you would have to copy and paste the content you wanted, leave Outlook Mobile, find Evernote on your home screen(s), navigate to the right place, open an existing note or start a new one, and then paste it in. For the translation, you would likewise need to copy and paste, find the right app, do the translation, and then figure out how to proceed from there.

It will be interesting to see how Outlook Mobile add-ins evolve going forward. But the fact that this mobile app is already stepping it up in this way is interesting in its own right. Microsoft may very well have found a way to bring Outlook forward into the mobile first, cloud first age. And the way it did so was to make Outlook Mobile as versatile as Outlook was on Windows PCs. I don’t think anyone saw that coming.

 

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