Android for the Windows Guy: Microsoft Outlook

Posted on March 15, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, iOS, Mobile, Office, Office 365 with 40 Comments

Android for the Windows Guy: Microsoft Outlook

While I’ve often touted Microsoft Outlook for Android (and iPhone), it’s fair to say that this mobile app, while great, has a few troubling limitations. The good news? They’re working on it.

The bad news, of course, is that in the meantime we have to live with a few limitations. But the payoffs, I think, are worth it.

So let’s start with what makes Outlook so special on mobile.

First up, Outlook for Android offers the same versatile functionality as does “full” Outlook on the PC or Mac. That is, it’s not just an email app: It also provides Calendar, Contacts, and, unique to mobile, a Files view that connects to popular cloud storage services. So like Outlook on a real computer, Outlook for Android is a one-stop shop for personal information management.

Tied to this is Outlook for Android’s ability to work with an ever-growing list of online accounts and services. This includes email (and calendar/contacts) accounts like those provided by Microsoft or Google, but interoperability with Calendar apps (Evernote, Facebook, and Wunderlist) and storage accounts (OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, Box, Dropbox, and Google).

The benefits to this integration should be obvious, but consider this one example: You want to send a cloud-based file to a contact. With other email apps, you would need to do a bit of context-shifting. You could launch the app for the cloud storage, find the file, and then share it with your email app using Android’s built-in Share functionality. Or you could download the file to your phone and then launch the email app, find the file, and then send it. With Outlook, the workflow is both logical and non-disruptive: You never leave the app.

Outlook mobile is so good, in fact, that Microsoft is using it as the basis for its other Outlook clients on Windows and Mac. The Mail app in Windows 10, for example, is slowly being made to work more like this app, and even full-blown Outlook 2016 will be simplified and made to look and work more like Outlook mobile in a future update. This is great news, in my opinion.

Looking to the core functionality, there are some pros and cons. Outlook for Android is an excellent email and calendaring solution, in particular, and it works well with a variety of account types, not just Microsoft’s. (I use it exclusively with my work-oriented Google custom domain, and the app has no trouble setting that up or using it.) Outlook for Android sports great email features like Focused Inbox (which, yes, you can turn off), customizable swipe message options (I set this to Delete to the left and Archive to the right), and the like. It’s full-featured.

Of course, there are limitations to this app. And some have been nicely documented by readers in our forums:

You can’t edit or create new contacts. As noted by SLBAILEY1 (and LPRELL, and probably others), it’s not possible to create or edit contacts in Outlook for Android. Microsoft, obviously, is aware of this issue and promises a fix. But this is a very strange omission in another otherwise solid mobile app. My workaround is to edit contacts, and create new contacts, elsewhere. You can do this from the website for your email provider or using another mobile app. I know.

You can’t adjust the text size. This is an issue I have with many mobile apps, including Mail for Windows 10: HTML-based email often displays with very small text and there’s no way to adjust this universally. Instead, you need to pinch to zoom—which can send the text off the edge of the screen—with each email message, manually.

Overall, however, Outlook for Android points to a future where mobile productivity apps are in fact quite sophisticated and not the basic, Playskool-type experiences we see so often in this space (especially in Windows).

You can download Microsoft Outlook for Android from the Google Play Store.

Note: If you have specific Outlook for Android questions, or know about other limitations, please let me know.

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