Microsoft is releasing a series of new updates for Office 365 Outlook. These updates improve the user experience and make managing meetings and email significantly easier.
I now have 10 plus years of experience in the messaging and collaboration space, and I still hear people referencing the impending death of email. Interestingly enough, it’s still the same mantra recited 10 years ago.
“You know, with the advent of <insert new messaging protocol or application here>, email is about to go away.”
I’m going to make a prediction – email stays relevant for the next 10 years. There, I said it! Running with this prediction, when I see Microsoft make updates to the Outlook client, I get a little weepy with happiness.
Last month, Microsoft released some of the most talked-about and requested features of the previous decade for the latest versions of Outlook for Office 365. You can expect some completely new functionality as well as enhancements to existing features that make the end-user experience more streamlined. You may already have these updates depending on your company deployment schedule.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the feature enhancements of the latest updates from the Exchange and Outlook product team.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Meeting Form Layout
The new simplified layout only displays the most used form fields enabling quicker meeting creation. The Optional Attendee field is now a default function. In my opinion, this is the single best update we have seen to the look and feel of Outlook in the last five years.
Gone is all the clutter of the old form with its extra options and buttons confusing the end-user. There is now a simplified view of the most commonly used features and options, along with a cleaner ribbon pulling it all together.
Limit meeting invites. Don’t want to enable a user to forward your meeting to the 73 other people they think need to be at the 15-minute scrum call? MS fixed this with a single click. This new feature allows you to limit forwarding capabilities, so only necessary contributors receive the invitation.
I don’t think I’ve ever limited forwarding meetings myself, but this is a fantastic idea. I can relate to popping into a call meant to be a touchpoint that ended up being a rehash of old topics. This feature helps eliminate unnecessary meetings for everyone, giving people back their time.
Default Meeting Duration
Make sure you have time to refill your coffee in between back to back meetings with the new default duration setting. This setting adds a buffer to meetings that you schedule so you can ensure the communicated meeting end time is clear, while still allotting travel time.
For example, if a user sets it to 10 minutes and schedules an hour-long time slot, the meeting ends at the 50-minute mark. You can even set different cushion durations for sessions less than 30 minutes or more than an hour.
Display Time Zones
With today’s geographically dispersed workforce, the alternative time zone display is an invaluable tool. As you can see in the image below, you can add up to 3 alternative time zones that will display in your calendar for quick reference. Very helpful when you have a team that works nationwide or global – a quick view to see if you are scheduling a meeting when they are awake!
Microsoft made this feature available a while ago, but they added a third-time zone in this recent update. Now, you can keep up with what time it is in Honolulu. noʻu ka hauʻoli!
Save time using the advanced options to dismiss your reminders for past calendar events automatically. There is nothing more annoying upon returning from vacation, and the first thing Outlook throws at you is repeating meetings that never got dismissed.
Hi, welcome back – BAM! Eighteen meetings you missed – would you like to dismiss them since they happened already? My best guess is yes.
You can find the entire list of Outlook updates on the Microsoft Tech Community site. If you want to be first in line to see new features and you like providing product feedback, you should take a look at the Office Insider program. From blogs about upcoming features to notes on why and what features they are deploying, it’s all available in the Insider Program.
One of my personal favorites is the Release Notes section. It is a straightforward list based page describing items such as new features or fixes for existing features by date, build version and OS. It even provides scenarios you can try to test out the functionality!
There are plenty of updates to play around with, and more coming in the future. For the next few years, email still reigns supreme.