Microsoft says it is expanding the availability of its Focused Inbox functionality across the many confusing versions of Outlook it supports on Windows, Mac, mobile, and the web. Understanding how and when you get this feature, however, will require a bit of black magic.
So let’s see if we can sort through this mess.
Starting with: What is Focused Inbox? This is a feature that debuted in an Android and iOS app called Accompli, which was then purchased by Microsoft and turned into Outlook for Android and iOS. It splits your email inbox into two views: Focused and Other, the idea being that the important stuff you should address first will be in the default Focused view. And then you can get to Other—mailing lists, and the like—whenever you feel like it.
I always thought that Focused Inbox was a great idea. But what I didn’t know until recently was that it required the app to route your email through a cloud service—previously hosted on Amazon AWS, but more recently migrated to Microsoft Azure—a fact that makes this functionality less than ideal for many companies. But assuming you’re OK with the cloud-based processing that lets the magic happen, Focused Inbox is a cool idea. And it works really well, learning as you correct its auto placements of emails.
When Microsoft purchased Accompli, it made a great decision: It put this team in charge of Outlook across all platforms and has since been working to bring all Outlook clients in line. So the end game here is a more consistent experience across all Outlook versions. And that includes bringing each up to date with the same functionality, where appropriate, as well. So bringing Focused Inbox to other Outlook clients is obviously part of that work.
Back in July, Microsoft said that it would bring Focused Inbox to Outlook 2016 for Windows and Mac, Outlook on the Web, and the new Outlook.com. In doing so, however, it would also decrement and then remove a similar feature, called Clutter, that Microsoft had previously developed in-house. So as Focused Inbox is rolled out, Outlook (whatever version) will stop moving email into the Clutter folder you may be currently using.
Earlier this month, Microsoft provided a new timeline for this rollout, which looks like so:
- Outlook for Mac, iOS, Android, and Web (for customers on Office 365 First Release). Starts in late October, but the rollout will take 4-6 weeks.
- Outlook 2016 for Windows. November 2016.
- Outlook (Mail) for Windows 10 Mobile. November 2016.
- Outlook for Mac, iOS, Android, and Web (for customers on Office 365 Standard Release). Starts in late November, but the rollout will take 6-8 weeks.
- Outlook.com. Available now, requires the Outlook.com.
- Outlook Android and iOS (for non-Office 365 accounts). Available now.
What about Outlook (Mail) for Windows 10? Since Outlook (Mail) for Windows 10 Mobile is getting Focused Inbox, you’d assume the Windows 10 (for PCs) version of the app is too. But I’m not sure when/how/if that happens. Microsoft’s updated post never mentions it.
Anyway, I hope that clarifies things. And I know that it does not. 🙂