On the mobile platforms that still survive, the highly-regarded and rightly popular “Outlook” mobile apps have no relation to the Outlook desktop Windows app which first appeared with Office 97, before smartphones were a glint in anyone’s eye. Mobile Outlook has hundreds of millions of downloads on both iOS and Android; quite a feat, as later this year Windows Mobile sinks quietly beneath the waves.
The genesis of Outlook on the phone as we know it today, is perhaps the acquisition of a company called Accompli 5 years ago, and a great deal of refinement and effort since.
Somewhat interestingly, traces of the same app have come to Windows as well – namely the Mail and Calendar app(s) that are in the box on Windows 10. Look back to ToW 445, and you’ll see that the names for the apps are outlookcal, outlookmail and outlookaccounts. Stick a “:” on the end and you can run them from a prompt.
e.g. Hit WindowsKey+R then enter outlookcal: and you’ll jump straight into the Calendar app.
Both have come a very long way – at first release, they were pretty basic, but they’re now so well featured that most people could use them as their primary email and calendar apps, most of the time.
The Calendar app is functionally pretty similar to the Outlook desktop app, except when it comes to working with other people – there’s no way to view someone else’s calendar, for example, but for a personal diary of appointments it’s really very good. And if you want the best of both worlds, you can connect your Office 365 account to both Outlook – as might be your primary way of working – and to the Mail and Calendar apps, for some side benefits and quicker ways of getting some things done.
Go into the settings on the Calendar app, then Manage accounts, then + Add account… or just Win+R then outlookaccounts: and you’ll be able to add your Office 365 account onto both Mail and Calendar.
If you have multiple calendars connected – like home Office 365, Gmail or Outllook.com accounts as well as your corporate one – you could selectively enable them for display in the app, and the set of calendars that are shown will also appear in the agenda if you click on the clock / date on your taskbar. You can also see your upcoming appointments in a live tile on the Start menu, if you still use such things.
You’ll also see your next appointment on the Windows Lock Screen if you have it enabled under Lock screen settings.
You may want to go into the Notifications & actions settings page (just press Start and begin typing notif…) and turning off Calendar notifications, or you’ll get a blizzard of reminders from desktop Outlook and the Calendar app.
Tip o’ the Week 368 – Mail and Calendar apps mature
Ever since Windows 8 came out, there were simplified Mail & Calendar apps built-in. Reviews were initially fairly mixed – and even after a bunch of improvements and a refresh when Windows 10 arrived, it could be argued there was still work to do.
The Mail & Calendar apps are essentially joined now – though you still have “Mail” and “Calendar” appearing in the apps list once installed, and starting either from the appropriate icon jumps into the requisite section within the single Mail and Calendar application. “They” show up as a single app within the Store (bearing the same icon within its Store entry as full-fat Outlook, no less, though the apps are different). Increasingly, new functionality is appearing within the Mail and Calendar app which is common across regular Outlook and also the Outlook mobile versions.
There’s been a recent update to the Mail and Calendar app – to check if you have it, go into the Store app, click on your own avatar to the left of the Search box in the top right, and check under Downloads and updates.
There’s a bunch of new functionality similar to Outlook – @mentions support (try it), categories, travel integrations and a lot more – the latest updates are pretty substantial.
Both mail and calendar functionality is getting advanced enough, you might choose to set up Mail and Calendar for your work/Office 365 email account, rather than bothering with installing Outlook on your home PC or companion tablet device.
The Focussed Inbox view familiar to Outlook 2016 and Office 365 users makes an appearance in Mail (though you do need to turn it on – go into Settings > Reading, and look at the bottom of the settings pane).
Another notable new feature in Calendar is dubbed “Interesting Calendars”, optionally added alongside and sourced from a variety of publishers surfaced via Bing, and tailored for you based on locale.
If you have multiple mail accounts set up, you can choose which one to add your “interesting calendars” to, by checking under the Settings > Calendar section (note – to get to the calendar specific settings, he app needs to be in the calendar view at the time, then invoke settings by clicking on the gear wheel in the icons on the bottom-left).
If you add a custom calendar to your Office 365 account, the same one will be visible within Outlook too, under the “My Calendars” group.
Aside from new features, there are some neat tricks you can use to personalise Mail and Calendar – like choosing the colour scheme and background images to fill the apps when you haven’t got something selected in the preview pane.
Or set the “quick actions”, an inherited bit of functionality from the mobile versions of Outlook, where swiping a message left or right can do something to it – delete it, archive it, flag it etc.
Handy if you’re using the Mail app on a touch device (from a cheap 8” Windows tablet to a Surface being used in tablet mode).
For a history of new features in Mail and Calendar, see here (though since that page doesn’t list version numbers and also doesn’t look comprehensively up-to-date, YMMV).