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Outlook for Mobile – Too Little Too Late, or Just in Time?

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 3/13/2015

Microsoft recently released the official Outlook client for Mobile devices including Android, iPhone and Windows Phones. This article will look at the new client to see if Outlook is joining the party a little too late or if it offers enough to warrant the space on your device.

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    Outlook for Mobile

    You can download the Outlook mobile client free from your device’s app store. Once you have installed it, you can choose the type of account you wish to sign into. Outlook currently supports mail accounts from Exchange (either online or on premise), Outlook.com, Google, iCloud, Yahoo or other IMAP providers (Figure 1). Outlook also supports file storage\retrieval from OneDrive, Dropbox and Box.com.

    Once you have picked an account you can sign in using your regular username and password.

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    Taking a Look

    Once you get your account set up, you will see your inbox after opening the app. Hit the three horizontal lines along the top bar to see your list of folders. Next are the search, new mail and options buttons. Things get a bit more interesting below the blue bar.

    You will see I have two tabs: one called Focused and one called Other (Figure 2). The idea behind the Focused tab is that current conversations and emails sent directly to you from another human will show up here. Junk mail and automated mailing lists should show up under the Other tab.

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    It’s a lot like Google’s tabbed interface, but in practice it doesn’t seem to work as well as it should. I found several junk mail emails in my Focused tab.

    Next to your tabs is a button for Quick Filters. This lets you easily filter your mail by Unread, Flagged and Files (aka emails with attachments).

    Clicking on a message will let you view it. I’m pretty impressed with the mail rendering. HTML messages are fully rendered and files with known attachments will be given a preview below the message contents (Figure 3). Message composition is pretty standard fare with all the basic options you would expect from a mobile client. Email attachment can come from your local phone or integrated OneDrive, Dropbox or Box.com folder.

    It’s a lot like Google’s tabbed interface, but in practice it doesn’t seem to work as well as it should. I found several junk mail emails in my Focused tab.

    Next to your tabs is a button for Quick Filters. This lets you easily filter your mail by Unread, Flagged and Files (aka emails with attachments).

    Clicking on a message will let you view it. I’m pretty impressed with the mail rendering. HTML messages are fully rendered and files with known attachments will be given a preview below the message contents (Figure 3).

     

    Back in the Inbox Outlook does add a few nice features. When viewing your list of mail you can swipe messages left or right. Swipe it to the right and you will set up a reminder or Schedule for the item. The messages will disappear from your inbox until you want them to come back. Swipe a message to the left and it will be sent to your Archive folder, much like Gmail.

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    Is It Worthy of a Switch?

    After using the Outlook client for a few days as my go-to mobile email client I have to say there isn’t much to nudge me into using it full time. I like the idea of categorizing my email, but Google Inbox seems to do it so much better. I don’t like to have to move between tabs to see my email. Having them grouped automatically would be nice. I could live with the focused and other tabs Outlook offers but I would need them to work better.

    The options within the tool are a bit limited at this point. You can disable the Focused inbox and you can configure what each message swipe (left and right) will do, but that’s about it when it comes to customization. There is no ability to sort your messages or otherwise filter them besides the three options mentioned above.

    It’s a good start, but with so many other email clients out there, Outlook has a ways to go before it will catch up. Here’s to hoping the Outlook team keeps improving the product with some of the missing features. What is your favorite mobile email client and why? Discuss in the comments section below.