Microsoft's flagship email program shows its age
- Familiar interface
- Handy popup calendar
- Touch controls for touch screen devices
- Pulls contact info from online sources
- No threaded messaging
- Annoying notifications
- Monochromatic colors makes things hard to focus on
If you think that Microsoft Outlook 2013 would be getting some dramatic new features and improvements like the rest of the applications in the Office 2013 suite, you'd be wrong. For the most part, Microsoft Outlook 2013 remains much the same as the 2010 version. Here's what did change:
The entire app has a flattened look, which goes with the Windows 8 design language. The whole application is monochromatic, featuring lots of white and gray with the occasional blue accents. To me, this color scheme makes it hard to differentiate specific elements of the interface. There are no more icons and everything is text heavy. At the bottom, you'll find sections for mail, calendar, people, tasks and more. Gone are the buttons and icons, giving way to a minimalist text look.
There is a touch mode in Microsoft Outlook 2013, which brings up the same menus that it does in the other apps in Office 2013. There is a bar with frequently-used commands like reply, delete, move, flag and mark. This is great and gives Microsoft Outlook 2013 a good touch experience.
You can now pinch to zoom in the calendar to switch between day, week, and month views. If you are in any other section of Microsoft Outlook 2013 besides the calendar, you can now hover over the calendar section to bring up a pop up of the calendar and your tasks for the day. The calendar will also show weather information of your locale.
Microsoft Lync is still fully integrated into Microsoft Outlook 2013 so you can view a colleague's status and start an audio or video call right from within Microsoft Outlook 2013.
While the mail view is a bit difficult to read because of the monochromatic color scheme, Microsoft Outlook 2013's people view is much improved. Contacts will now pull in information from online sources like Facebook and Linkedin if you've tied these services with your Microsoft Account.
Microsoft Outlook 2013 will combine duplicate contacts, creating one contact card with consolidated information. If your contact has a picture, the picture will show up as a thumbnail next to the contact. It's strange that Microsoft didn't include this in the mail view of Microsoft Outlook 2013, which would help visually differentiate between different emails.
Even more baffling is the lack of threaded messages in Microsoft Outlook 2013. You'll still have to hunt for previous emails from a conversation. Oddly enough, Microsoft's own Mail app in Windows 8 and Windows RT features threaded messaging.
Another annoying change is Microsoft Outlook 2013's notifications. There's no way to dismiss them all in bulk so you'll be closing tons of alerts if Microsoft Outlook 2013 comes back online. Microsoft also got rid of the ability to act on an email from the notification, which was a very useful feature.
If you didn't like Outlook 2010, Microsoft Outlook 2013 won't win you over. While there are some useful new features, its bland interface and missing features make Office 2013 feel like an antiquated email client.