Microsoft Continues to Modernize Outlook Everywhere but on Windows

Posted on November 4, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in, Mac and macOS, Windows 10 with 46 Comments

Microsoft is introducing a new update to the Outlook app for Mac. And it’s not just a minor update, the new experience introduces major improvements to the interface to improve the Outlook desktop experience on the Mac, bringing it more in line with the mobile counterparts.

The new design isn’t all about looks, and there are some new features behind the scenes. The new app now uses the same Microsoft sync technology uses by Outlook mobile apps, meaning the syncing experience on Outlook for Mac is now “faster and more reliable.”

Outlook for Mac is getting Microsoft Search integration that enables a faster experience and displays suggested options in the search. It also comes with a new mail composing interface. The company has added the ability to ignore emails, and the ability to tweak the toolbar/ribbon as you like with the new app, reports The Verge. 

The new Outlook for Mac even introduces an improved experience for Outlook calendar, with a new My Day view that helps you organize your day better.

All in all, this is a solid new update for Outlook on the Mac. The new app will be available as an opt-in experience for Outlook for Mac Insiders part of the Fast Ring. And although this is a really nice update for Outlook, it’s still really disappointing to see Microsoft continuing to neglect the Outlook experience on Windows 10.

Even though the Outlook desktop app is quite powerful, the experience simply isn’t modern enough and feels very out of date when compared to Outlook’s mobile counterparts. And the Mail app on Windows 10 continues to offer a limited experience with an inconsistent design that simply doesn’t make any sense, especially when you consider the rate at which Microsoft is upgrading Outlook on Android and iOS.

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Comments (46)

46 responses to “Microsoft Continues to Modernize Outlook Everywhere but on Windows”

  1. thalter

    To be fair, Outlook for the Mac has lagged behind Outlook for Windows. Many of these new features for the Mac version (My Day, customizable toolbars) have existed on the Windows version of Outlook for quite some time.

  2. dontbeevil

    So ms modernize apps on windows and people complain

    Ms modernize one app on mac and not on windows, and people complain

    Maybe you should suggest them to use the modern winforms technology :-)

    • codymesh

      In reply to dontbeevil:

      according to some of the writers on this site, the Mail app in Windows is dumbed down for a desktop OS, not modern, and not what people want. And Outlook 365 is too feature-rich, not modern, and not what people want.

      Outlook mobile, on the other hand, is modern and is all users want. And now Outlook for MacOS is also all those things and is also what people want.

    • davidblouin

      In reply to dontbeevil:

      Welcome to where Microsoft can't even breath without this site complaining about it...

  3. Stooks

    They have to dumb it down for Mac users. It looks like the web version, which is what Mac users should use.

  4. techreader

    Good to see the continued progress on Outlook for Mac. It's a great client. While I always end up using Apple Mail/Calendar/Contacts because they launch faster and include CardDAV and CalDAV sync functionality, I nevertheless appreciate Microsoft's rapid development cycle on this product.

    The most aggravating problem with Outlook Desktop on Windows in my mind is that (1) there is no unified inbox. (What on earth?) Also, no (2) CalDAV or (3) CardDAV for Google sync, and you need to keep the full client open if you want to keep fetching email since it offers (4) no integrated push notification without first launching the app and leaving it running in the background.

    Microsoft already has all of these essential features on other clients, including on their "Fisher Price" Mail app (to quote Paul's recent article), but their flagship client continues to lack these essential features. Frustrating.

    • wright_is

      In reply to techreader:

      1) is the first thing I turn off on mobile.

      and 4) is great. If I don't want to be disturbed, I just close Outlook. No fiddling around turning settings on and off.

      • bluesman57

        In reply to wright_is:

        Agreed. I just leave it open to Unread Mail, isn't that the same thing? I don't want an AI deciding which emails are important to me, that changes every day. I have mail I need to keep auto-sorting into folders.

        And I don't want it spamming me when it's shut down.

        The interface is highly customize-able for those who want a different look.

    • techreader

      In reply to techreader:

      Interesting. However, I would respond by pointing to the wide prominence of those features on more modern clients as evidence that most users—and the first-thinking designers at Microsoft who have introduced those features in their other products—view things like unified inbox, Google calendaring/contacts, and push notification as either important or very important. Most people want these features rather than finding them to be extra baggage.

      If people don’t need these options, they can always disable unified inbox and switch of notifications in the system settings (which would suit your workflow).

      I agree with the poster above, though, that there has been some welcome development on Outlook recently. Particularly important has been the account configuration and creation options with web-based authentication for Google and other vendors (supporting MFA and selective caching). However, these features are long overdue and would have been introduced a couple of years ago if Outlook Desktop were a priority.

      Outlook is an amazing product, and many more people would use it as the it primary client if it had these features, were installable without cost (e.g., iOS/Android Outlook or Apple Mail) and presented the more streamlined interface which Paul has often requested.

  5. MikeGalos

    Put very simply, if you think Outlook on mobile device operating systems or on the web are anywhere near the power of the full Windows Office Outlook then you're only using maybe 10% of what Outlook can do. Outlook for the Mac? Maybe more like 60%.

    Seriously. Full Outlook is as much above those highly simplified versions as Photoshop is to Paint.

    • wright_is

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Totally. And Outloof for Mac has been playing catch-up for nearly 2 decades (back then it was called Entourage). As you say, it still isn't anywhere near feature parity.

    • Rob_Wade

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      OR, that's the only 10% of capability you really have USE for. I grew up with the desktop Outlook. I got to where I hated it completely. I was ecstatic with the Windows 8 Mail app and I'm still much happier with the Windows 10 Mail app than I ever could be with desktop Outlook. And, sad to say, I'm forced to use desktop Outlook at work. And I despise it.

    • dontbeevil

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      I'm not surprised anymore from these articles

      P. S.

      Literallly all comments had different opinion from the article, and they were downvoted, i had to upvote all of them

  6. nerp

    All I want is unified inbox in the Windows version. That's all I want. Come ON.

    • Rob_Wade

      In reply to nerp:

      Okay, I have to ask: what does a unified inbox mean to you? I have all my mail coming to it. From multiple sources. Some accounts I have coming directly to the main Inbox, others I have coming as separate folders. So, I'm not understanding what you say is missing.

  7. jean

    there is this unique feature in Outlook for Windows that I use most: the integration of VBA - I do flag all my appointments to assign them to projects/customers and use this script to automatically create work reports and invoices - very handy.

    on the other hand I am using outlook on Android with unified Inbox but I had to turn off Organize mail by thread as it got very easy to get lost in the threads

  8. wright_is

    Given that the Mac version has always lagged well behind the Windows version, it isn't a surprise that it is getting some major improvements.

    At a previous employer, my boss switched from Windows to Mac and then complained that Outlook didn't work. He wanted some filtering and email options that only existed in the Windows version. When I told him that, I was told that I was incompetent.

    When I came back with an official statement from the Outlook team on MSDN saying that the feature he wanted wasn't implemented and they had no intention to implement it at this time, I was still incompetent and I should darned well find the solution! In the end, we put Parallels and Windows Outlook in Unity mode on the Mac.

    Maybe this change will give my successor some relief from being called incompetent.

    As to the Windows version, there have been a lot of changes over the last several months. I only have to look at our call logs to see how many users have been confused by the new features appearing in Outlook on Windows.

  9. TallGuySE

    Looks modern, nice and clean. Would keep for emails.

    But missing several features (such as Out Of Office, Contacts, Tasks, Notes, Rules) to be used with my work account.

  10. Benoit Lamarche

    One could make the case that the 'updated' experience for Outlook on Windows 10 is the Mail / Calendar / People / Microsoft To-Do and Sticky notes apps.

    • techreader

      In reply to lamarcheb:

      Yes, in some ways. But, unfortunately, the massive size of those user interfaces (especially on smaller displays) makes them more than a little irritating for people who manage the massive quantities of email that many business users must deal with each day. Plus, they are Modern poofy—you’re working along, and suddenly, *poof*, the app is gone. I use the Mail client not because I want to but because I can leave it closed and still receive mail and calendar notifications. I wish Outlook Desktop supported those features.

  11. rm

    While a suppose Outlook on the Mac needs to be kept up-to-date, it is of almost no relevance compared to the Windows version (just look at market share). I am guessing there is just still a lot more capabilities that they either need to recode or eliminate on the Windows version.

  12. Rcandelori

    I basically live in Outlook when I'm at my PC. It does everything but some of the older parts of the app need a lick of paint. I'd also like to see Rich Text/HTML signature syncing once and for all across mobile and desktop if you're on Office 365.

  13. djross95

    "Better on Windows" has morphed into "all but on Windows"... Since I'm on a Mac at the moment this is good news, but it's just amazing to see MS neglect their core historical product.

  14. Paul Avvento

    I’m not surprised... The version I use on my Mac offers a unified inbox for all accounts. Somehow the Windows version doesn’t...

  15. tmikolaj

    I suppose it is because Outlook on PC is so bloated and old that changing that code might be near impossible

  16. warren

    "It’s still really disappointing to see Microsoft continuing to neglect the Outlook experience on Windows 10."

    I'm sorry, Paul, but... what?

    Just in the last few months Outlook in Office 365 has added a new "simplified ribbon" (i.e. a single-line version that's more like a toolbar), a bunch of decent layout changes in the message pane (like making the subject larger), and they just rolled out the new "dark message background" mode, which means all of us using Dark Mode won't get blinded whenever it's time to read an email.

    There's also the "location suggestions" feature, which is basically autocomplete for the Location field when creating a meeting. It sounds like a small thing but it's actually really nice for people who make lots of meetings.

    And they fixed the bug where you couldn't have more than 500 folders in a shared mailbox. Man, I needed this for a project, like, 15 years ago.... nice to see it's finally done.

    if you're pining for that "Day View" pictured in the screenshot.... Outlook on Windows already has that. Layout -> To-Do Bar -> Calendar.

    • wright_is

      In reply to warren:

      And those changes had users calling by the dozen, because things had changed/broken (i.e. didn't look the same).

      Probably the biggest "upset" was changing the background colour of flagged messages to yellow in the list! I think we had a dozen calls in the first hour, before we sent out a bulletin to all users about the change.

    • techreader

      In reply to warren:

      (Just a note--Paul didn't write this one.)

  17. truerock2

    I keep up with hundreds of emails from hundreds of people on 11 email accounts everyday. I use Outlook on Windows 10.

    I use "single line" with "tighter spacing" for each email in my inbox. I use the ribbon quite a bit. I don't have room for the calendar or tasks to be displayed because I need as much room as possible for the preview pane. I also use the folder pane quite a bit.

    I use various email clients on my iPhone to keep up with this when I am away from my desk. There is absolutely no way I could use the Outlook iPhone client on my 32" desktop monitor. That would be insane.

    Modern like the incredibly crappy modern Windows 10 Mail App?! Are you f**king crazy?

  18. bart

    This app is for Mac. I fully expect Outlook for Windows to look exactly the same. May come as PWA?

    • wright_is

      In reply to Bart:

      I hope not. Then we'll have to look for a new mail client to work with our Exchange servers. If you want a web client, Exchange already offers OWA. The desktop Outlook is much better, especially if you have access to multiple mailboxes - we have our own accounts + department and function accounts, which are linked in. That doesn't work properly over OWA with Exchange 2010.

  19. ZeroPageX

    Seeing as how "modernizing" typically means removing all useful functionality, I'm fine with the bloated Outlook client. Oh my God. I can't believe I just said that. :-/

  20. Kudupa

    I understand the rant people are having with supposed inability of Microsoft to update Outlook Mail client on Windows. But, at work, I receive at least 20 email everyday which is separate from 100 or more emails my team receives and as a member of team I need to keep my eyes on. So, I don't think any modern email client is capable of handling all of it including calendar reminders which are critical to my company's work.

    Yes for personal use Modern outlook app might be interesting but for commercial use, heck no.

    • rob_segal

      In reply to Kudupa:

      If you're using GSuite, Outlook on Windows is a non-starter. A PWA could be perfect.

      • wright_is

        In reply to rob_segal:

        If you are using GSuite, you already have a PWA, why would you use Outlook for Windows? The whole point of GSuite is that you don't need MS Office...

        • spullum

          In reply to wright_is:

          There are places that use both. The Office apps are better in some ways, but hard to beat the ease of collaborating on a Google doc together while still using the amazing (and still kicking!) OneNote 2016 client.

        • rob_segal

          In reply to wright_is:

          It's not just GSuite. No Google Contacts and Calendar support in Outlook affects many users. There are more consumers using those Google services than Microsoft found it important enough to include in their other clients, but strangely, not Outlook on Windows. If a Google user wanted to use an app more robust than the Gmail web app, Outlook is out of the question. A modern-day email and calendar app must fully support Gmail, Google Contacts, and Calendar.

    • ianhead

      In reply to Kudupa:

      Yeah, I'm in the same boat. Outlook on the Windows desktop is perhaps the critical app that my whole job revolves around.

      While I would not be averse to some attempts to modernise its look and feel (which they have made, contrary to popular belief), any time someone talks about modernising how it works on a fundamental level, the hairs on my neck start going up.

      Yes it's an 800 pound gorilla, but I need a lot of those pounds along with my 140-odd colleagues, and I don't want to see them getting removed.

  21. red.radar

    They are probably using the Mac as a test bed. If it goes well we can expect updates on the PC. Outlook is a critical business app. It’s real risky to try a blind update.

  22. jlmerrill

    One thing that I know of is you can't have on Outlook for Mac is being able to see a shared mailbox as you can on IOS and Android and Windows Outlook.