Microsoft is to bring three new features to Outlook Web App in Office 365 later this year to redefine the e-mail experience and make it more social, relevant and collaborative.
Writing in a blog post, Steve Chew, senior product marketing manager in Microsoft’s exchange group, highlighted the new features, which were revealed at the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) held from 31 March to 2 April in Austin, Texas, US.
"There is no denying that businesses depend on e-mail more than any other digital communication medium," said Chew. "The downside of e-mail's popularity is that people receive so much of it that they often experience inbox overload and e-mail fatigue. E-mail is also a highly versatile tool, so it gets used in situations where it is not the optimal one, like when people collaborate on a document by e-mailing multiple, and often conflicting, versions around."
Codenamed Clutter, the new Office 365 Outlook Web app helps users to separate unimportant and important inbox items and e-mails quickly and efficiently without the need for creating inbox rules. It leverages Office Graph to track an individual's e-mail response patterns to determine important contacts and subjects and those that are less important. For example, the app will note that a user always replies to e-mails from their boss but not to those from another contact and automatically move these e-mails to the clutter box. Users can monitor items marked as clutter and rectify any mistakes, which will enable the system to adjust the model accordingly.
Enhanced Document Collaboration
Outlook Web App now includes full integration with OneDrive for Business, allowing users to easily share files stored in the cloud as attachments in e-mail. Files can either be automatically uploaded from computers to the OneDrive cloud drive and sent as a link in the body of the e-mail, or sent directly from the cloud drive as an e-mail attachment.
All visible recipients can view and edit the file by default, while permissions can be changed directly from the e-mail message if necessary. This enables everyone to work on a single file and offers the file's owner improved control. Recipients can also view and Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel documents side-by-side with the original e-mail conversation due to integration with Office Online. All edits and the user's e-mail response will be automatically saved and sent with one click, saving time and increasing productivity. Groups are also able to collaborate more effectively as the Outlook Web App enables users to co-author files stored in OneDrive in real time without creating multiple copies.
Launched at the SharePoint Conference in March, the Groups concept enables users to create a group anywhere in Office 365 and automatically provision a corresponding Yammer conversation feed, calendar, document library, or e-mail inbox to foster collaboration. By integrating groups membership across Exchange, SharePoint and Yammer, users can access the same conversation feeds via both Outlook Web App and Yammer, enabling colleagues to share information or collaborate easily. Colleagues can share documents, links to pages or articles, or video content.
"Groups are public by default because we want users to engage in open conversations so that they can discover new information and new contacts within their organisation," said Chew. "Conversations that happen in public groups can lead to better information sharing, and free exchange of ideas connects people and makes the organisation more productive."
Microsoft also revealed it will release an Outlook Web App for Android to offer users built-in support for Exchange via the default e-mail app on all phones.
"We're really excited to deliver these enhanced e-mail and collaboration experiences in Outlook Web App and across mobile devices," said Chew. "We're bringing an entirely new way to think about e-mail as a continued enabler to how people get work done whether in the office or on the go. E-mail is becoming more collaborative, more efficient, easier to manage and, yes, more social."
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