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article imageMicrosoft releases major Outlook.com update with new features

By James Walker     Feb 19, 2016 in Technology
Microsoft has released a substantial update to its Outlook.com online email client. The web app now has a redesigned interface and a similar level of functionality to the business version included with Office 365.
The update has been in development for a long time and began to roll out to consumers this week. Microsoft says the upgrades will be coming "soon" to users around the world, becoming available to "millions" more people every week in a gradual staged refresh.
Outlook.com is locked into a continual feature war with Google's Gmail. Microsoft hasn't released a major Outlook upgrade for some time though, letting Gmail get ahead of it. With the new update, Microsoft aims to catch up with one long stride by basing the consumer version of Outlook on its existing enterprise Office 365 technology.
The company said: "The new Outlook.com is built on an Office 365-based infrastructure, so you get the benefits of an email service that millions of businesses, governments and schools around the world rely on every day. In today’s digital world, the security of your personal information is vital, and this move to a new platform gives your email and calendar data, enhanced security and reliability."
The most immediately noticeable change is the refreshed inbox design, using the same layout as the Office 365 email client. The colour theme and design can be customised to suit the user's taste. Content is displayed in three panes, showing folders to the left of the display, the contents of the folder and then the body of an email.
Microsoft s new Outlook.com  launched 17/02/2016
Microsoft's new Outlook.com, launched 17/02/2016
Microsoft
The Office 365 base has allowed for new features to be added, many of which are already available on Office 365. Documents and attachments can be edited directly from the inbox, using a new split-screen view with Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint web apps.
Outlook now integrates with external services including Dropbox and Box, making it simpler to add attachments from sources other than Microsoft's own OneDrive. Files don't have to be transferred or uploaded to OneDrive to be sent in an email. A link to the file on its original platform can be sent instead to keep files in sync.
Microsoft s new Outlook.com  launched 17/02/2016
Microsoft's new Outlook.com, launched 17/02/2016
Microsoft
Third-party services are present in other areas of Outlook.com too. Plugins from services including GIPHY, Yelp, Wunderlist, Uber, PayPal, Evernote and Boomerang expand the functionality of the inbox, letting users get more done without switching tab or loading another app.
Email can be sent directly to a contact using the PayPal add-in. GIPHY simplifies finding a GIF animation to add flair to an email and Wunderlist makes keeping tabs on a to-do list simple while responding to emails.
Microsoft s new Outlook.com  launched 17/02/2016
Microsoft's new Outlook.com, launched 17/02/2016
Microsoft
"Email remains the backbone of digital communications in today’s world and we’re committed to making email awesome with Outlook experiences at home and at work—across all the devices you use," said Javier Soltero, corporate vice president of the Outlook team. "Today’s milestone with Outlook.com is one more key step in that journey, and you can expect to see more improvements and enhancements over the coming months. We’re eager to hear your feedback as we roll out these upgrades; please send us your suggestions on Outlook.UserVoice.com."
Microsoft may still have more to show off for the new version of Outlook. The company is reportedly working on "Outlook.com Premium", a subscription-based service that will give users access to more advanced features including custom domain names.
This lets users purchase their own domain and use it as their email address instead of the stock .outlook.com domain. The feature used to be present in Windows Live - the precursor to Outlook.com - but was dropped several years ago. Microsoft told ZDNet it has "nothing to share" on the rumours.
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