Microsoft Outlook for iOS was updated today with several new features, and Microsoft announced that another significant update would be coming soon.
The new feature that appeals to me most is quick reply, which makes the act of replying to an email resemble that of replying to a message in services like Slack or iMessage. At the bottom of each email there’s now a quick reply box you can tap in to begin crafting your response. No need for a separate compose window to appear, taking you out of the conversation; the full conversation is still in view, and you can scroll through it as you wish. I believe compose windows are largely unnecessary friction points that contribute to email’s poor reputation, so while a quick reply box may seem like a small change, for me at least it helps make email easier to deal with. One additional nicety included in the new reply interface is the ability to @mention to call out specific recipients.
Threaded messages in Outlook are now all uncollapsed by default, saving the extra taps previously needed to expand collapsed messages. Now when you open a threaded email you’ll be automatically navigated to the most recent message, so there’s no more need to scroll the full thread before finding what you’re looking for.
Outlook’s sidebar menu now includes a persistent column listing all of your different accounts, making it easier than ever to switch between different accounts. The updated menu also brings more convenient access to folders than was previously available.
These changes are rolling out progressively to all users, so you may not see them immediately.
One other upcoming change Microsoft announced today is that search will soon receive a major upgrade. Outlook’s main navigation tabs will be updated to include only Mail, Search, and Calendar; search’s more prominent placement in the app will be justified due to it including more than just email results – you’ll also find results for people, files, and intelligent information about things like upcoming flights or package deliveries. An exact release date for the new search features wasn’t announced, but Microsoft says it is coming soon.
In my iOS 11 wish list for iPad and concept video, I focused on system-wide drag & drop – a feature that could reshape how iPad users move documents and data between apps. Readdle, makers of the popular Spark and PDF Expert, aren't waiting for Apple to add a native drag & drop framework to iOS, though. Today, in addition to the release of Documents 6, the company is updating most of their iPad apps with a custom drag & drop feature that simplifies the transfer of documents between two apps in Split View. I've been testing this functionality for the past week, and, even if it's not system-wide iOS drag & drop, it's been enough to pull me back into Spark and PDF Expert – at least for now.
Newton, the email client for power users, today launched Amazon Echo integration with an Alexa skill. The skill enables email management with nothing but your voice; in addition to having Alexa read emails to you, you can perform the following list of actions by voice:
- Mark as read
- Mark as spam
Replying to or composing new emails is not possible with Alexa, but personally, I don't think I would trust a voice assistant to write my emails anyways – at least not until the technology grows more foolproof. The option to perform simple actions by voice, like archiving or snoozing messages, is much more appealing.
Newton's expansion to Alexa-equipped devices follows the introduction of a Windows version of the client in beta form earlier this week. As a daily Newton user, I wrote about the iOS and macOS versions last Friday for Club MacStories members, and look forward to seeing the service continue to grow and improve.
The hallmark feature of Readdle’s Spark email client for macOS is its Smart Inbox, which is designed to surface important email messages intelligently. That feature, along with a unified inbox and swipe gestures for common actions, goes a long way to simplifying email management. Nonetheless, email is one of those areas where personal preferences matter a lot. People are particular about how their email is organized, an area that was underserved by Spark. With version 1.2 for macOS, Readdle has begun to tackle email organization, which should make Spark a more attractive option for people who like Spark’s approach to email but want a little more control over how their messages are managed.
Today as it launched version 2.1 of Outlook for iOS, Microsoft announced a new feature for the app: add-ins. Add-ins are a form of integration with both third-party and first-party services that provide multiple new ways to manage your email, and they're available only to Office 365 customers.
Airmail, the most powerful email client for iOS and my 2016 App of the Year, has made integrations with third-party apps and services the central element of its experience, allowing users to deeply fine-tune their email workflows. With version 1.5, launching today on the App Store, the developers at Bloop are further expanding Airmail's integration roster with the ability to create custom actions as well as Workflow support to craft automations tailored for messages shared from Airmail.
Competition among email clients on the Mac and iOS has heated up over the past couple of years. With that comes innovation, making email clients one of the most interesting app categories.
Today, Readdle released Spark for Mac, bringing its popular iOS email client to the Mac for the first time. Spark excels at bringing order to the chaos of your inbox and providing tools to help you quickly triage common types of email individually, or in bulk. But perhaps the greatest benefit of Spark for Mac is that it’s a solid free solution for fans of the iOS version of the app who felt constrained by the lack of a macOS version.
Last week, I mentioned how Airmail – my favorite email client for iPhone and iPad – would soon receive Siri integration on iOS 10. Today, Airmail 1.3 has hit the App Store with a variety of iOS 10 features in addition to SiriKit, including support for rich notifications and iMessage.
It's been a busy year for Italian indie studio Bloop. Airmail for OS X has been around for a while, but Airmail for iOS was introduced just seven months ago as an iPhone-only app. A couple months later, Bloop brought Airmail to the iPad with extensive keyboard support and great new features like smart folders and saved searches, which was enough for Federico to switch to Airmail full time. Today, Bloop released version 1.2 of Airmail for iOS, which picks up where version 1.1 left off with some great new functionality.
One of my favorite features of Airmail is its integration with other apps and services. Airmail makes it simple to get information out of my email and into the apps where I need it whether that's sending an attachment to Dropbox or the text of an email to 2Do. Version 1.2 adds additional integrations including the ability to send attachments to iCloud Drive and emails to Day One or Ulysses. Bloop's expansion of integrations into even more apps and services is smart and should make the app appeal to an even wider audience.
Notifications have also gained new functionality. You can now turn on 'Do Not Disturb' on an account-by-account basis, which should be a great help to people who manage multiple email accounts. Notifications can also be tied to a location. I can imagine this coming in handy if you're on vacation and don't want to get notifications until you get home. Email senders can be muted, which eliminates notifications from those senders. Blocking senders is similar, but in addition to muting the sender it automatically archives the email you receive.
In addition to the foregoing, Airmail 1.2 adds:
- Undo send, a feature that already existed in Airmail for OS X and that can be set to delay the sending of an email 5 or 10 seconds to allow you to prevent its sending;
- Email Label sync when your iOS device is connected to a power source;
- An Apple Watch complication that launches Airmail's Watch app from certain Apple Watch faces;
- Dynamic Type support;
- Preview support for EML and Win.dat email file formats; and
- MDM server support to configure and manage Airmail for teams.
Bloop has covered a lot of ground since the beginning of 2016. After having seen so many free email alternatives come and go, it's reassuring to see Bloop continue to innovate and refine Airmail on iOS and the Mac and charge a fair price for an excellent app.
Airmail 1.2 for iOS is available on the App Store for $4.99.