Feb 3, 2015
I admit it: I still use the BlackBerry experience as my mobile email barometer. It probably explains my craving for combined email. Gmail doesn’t have it yet, but hey, it does well at other things.
Can’t blame a guy for looking though, and the recently released Microsoft Outlook Preview game me a great excuse to try something new.
Or new-ish, really. After poking around a bit, it does feel a lot like Acompli, the email utility Microsoft gaffled up a while back. The opening UI is bathed in whites and blues, with clean styling and subtle material design aesthetics.
Formally getting started involves adding an account; Outlook supports IMAP accounts, as well as email sourced from Yahoo, Google, iCloud and (of course) Exchange plus Outlook.com. After the login and acceptance of permissions — there are several — the app gets the required tokens and signs in. I tried it with two Google emails to start, and the login process is mostly seamless, though it was necessary to tweak my IMAP folder setup.
By default, emails from different accounts show up combined, and the navigational aspects should feel quite familiar to anyone who has used the Gmail Android app. Tapping the three horizontal lines invokes the email folder slide-out, and from here, one can view unread counts as well as manipulate folders. On the main page, it gives one the option of checking “focused” emails, and there is a nifty “quick filter” function that allows one to pull up emails that are unread, flagged or have attachments.
The built-in calendar is a nice touch; it pulls in data from each Google account. It integrates with OneDrive, Box and Dropbox.
My biggest gripe has to do with the way the app handles Gmail labeling. I like the ability to file emails immediately, and frequently use multiple labels as appropriate, like when a “review request” also contains some “news.” This can’t be done on Outlook just yet; the email can be moved to one file, or none at all. I was a bit dismayed by the lack of integrated tasks, and would have loved some integration with other apps like Light Flow. The navigation seems a bit inconsistent; that back button got me lost more than once. Then, I would have dearly loved more swipe functionality.
Still, for a preview, it is a pretty nice option; it obviously has plenty room to grow. It has a good base, and with Microsoft’s cross-platform push, consumers win.