Tom Warren of The Verge reports on Outlook for Mac details shared at the Microsoft Ignite conference last month:
A lot of the changes look very similar to the Outlook for iOS app, with a single-line ribbon and a smaller set of default commands. Reducing complexity is one of the key aims of the redesign, to make it easier for new and existing Outlook users to navigate the email app.
A new customizable ribbon will let Outlook for Mac and Windows users control which buttons are available, so you can tailor the email interface to your own common tasks. The left navigation panel will include quicker access to folders across multiple accounts, and looks like the switcher in Outlook for iOS.
Outlook for iOS has long been among the top email clients on the mobile platform. It pairs a clean, beautiful interface reminiscent of iOS’ Mail.app with the power user features Apple appears content to ignore. Moving Outlook for Mac away from its traditional desktop roots and further into the modern era looks to be a clear win.
The full Ignite session detailing future Outlook changes is available on YouTube.
In updates to Readdle’s Spark app for iOS and macOS released today, the email client gained two key power user features: send later and follow-up reminders.
Send later works exactly as you would expect. When composing an email, hitting the send later button in the compose bar will present several default options for when you’d like the message sent: Later Today, This Evening, and Tomorrow. Perhaps the most common use case will be responding to emails late at night and wanting them to send as soon as the next work day kicks off, which the Tomorrow option is perfect for. Thankfully, you can also set a custom date and time. Once you schedule the delivery time, Spark will take care of the rest.
With follow-up reminders, there are five default options joining the custom date picker: Later Today, This Evening, Tomorrow, Weekend, and Next Week. This feature serves to stifle a key pain point I’ve regularly encountered in email management: reminding me to follow up on an email when I don’t receive a response.
In the past I’ve tackled this problem by pairing my email client with a task manager, such that after sending an important, time-sensitive message, I would assign myself a task to follow up with a second email on a certain date in the future. The problem with this approach is that it requires two apps, and that my task manager has no way of communicating with my email inbox – it doesn’t know if I received a response to the message or not, meaning I may end up with an unnecessary task on my list. Integrating this function within an email client is exactly the right move, and Spark does it well. When your set follow-up point arrives, if you haven’t received a response yet, the sent message reappears at the top of your inbox with an icon denoting it’s a reminder. It’s easy from there to open the original email and send a quick follow-up.
The team at Readdle continues adding functionality into Spark that sets it apart as a true productivity-focused email client. With third-party integrations, snoozing, deep customization options, and now the ability to send later and receive follow-up cues, Spark is growing into an email powerhouse that every power user should give a serious look.
Spark has been on a roll. Just a few weeks ago, Readdle significantly improved search in its popular macOS email client. Today, Spark 1.4 for macOS takes another step further into professional app territory with the addition of several useful integrations with third-party apps, while Spark 1.9 for iOS adds deep PDF Expert support and other functionality.
Search isn’t the forte of many email clients. Too often I find myself resorting to gmail.com or the Gmail app on iOS to find a message because Google’s search is so good. However, a downside of Google’s approach is that it requires you to recall or look up special syntax to narrow your search using date, attachment, sender, and other parameters. An update to Readdle’s Spark for macOS avoids that pitfall with improvements to its search functionality that detect keywords in your searches as you type queries in plain English.
I haven’t used Spark’s improved search enough yet to give it a thorough review, but I like what I’ve seen so far. As you type a search query, Spark looks for keywords. For example, start typing ‘att…’ and Spark will suggest searching for attachments. Smart keywords include things like ‘to,’ ‘from,’ ‘attachment,’ ‘flagged,’ ‘forwarded,’ and dates. The parameters can be batched in plain English too, so I can type ‘emails from Federico from yesterday with PDF attachments’, and Spark knows to apply the sender, date, and attachment filters returning results almost instantly.
Spark is already a popular email client with a host of modern features, but the improvements to search have the potential to make a lot of new converts to the app.
Spark for macOS is available on the Mac App Store.
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.