Microsoft Refreshes Outlook With AI-Enabled Event Planning

Planning and attending events get some AI-assisted guidance in Outlook on iOS and Windows.

Microsoft

Microsoft is refreshing its signature email client with new features that offer users more control over inboxes and calendars.

Outlook, in practically all its flavors, will be getting some additional functionality this spring and over the next few months, announced the software giant on April 30. For example, business users who check or write emails on the Outlook app for iOS devices can now use the Show Organization feature to see how their workplace is structured without leaving the app. Show Organization is tied to a company's Azure Active Directory account and allows users to view who their work colleagues report to and work with.

For users planning calendar events on their iPhones, new artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities can provide recommendations on where to meet.

"Suggestions are based on machine learning models that take into consideration your location, the list of attendees, the proposed meeting time of day, and other elements of your meeting," stated Microsoft Outlook representatives in a blog post. "If you need a conference room, Outlook shows your organization's room availability, so you can pick the best option for your meeting with just a tap."

Over time, booking meetings in Outlook will get easier as it learns about each user's preference, claimed Microsoft. Similar functionality is headed to the Outlook client for Windows, but with an added mobile component. If a public location is selected as a meeting place, Outlook will include the full address in the calendar event, enabling the iOS version of the app to send notifications on the optimal time to leave for the meeting based on a user's current location and traffic information.

RSVP tracking has been enhanced across all versions of Outlook, allowing users to better manage large-scale meetings that are organized using distribution lists of over 500 recipients, said Microsoft. Soon, using Outlook for Windows and the web-based version of Outlook, users will be able to track the RSVP status of fellow colleagues even if they didn't organize the meeting. Users will also be able to exert a little more control on meeting attendance by blocking the ability to forward a calendar invite.

Windows users will now receive an alert before replying to Bcc (blind carbon copy) emails, a reminder that they may be replying to everyone included in the recipient list when they may have intended to only reply to the sender.

On the Mac, Outlook gains new features that simplify planning travel and other events that span multiple time zones. Users can also now view up to three different time zones in the calendar view to further aid in planning.

Both the Android and iOS versions of Outlook now feature SOCKS (Socket Secure) proxy support for organizations that prohibit direct access to the internet on end-user devices. Other features are in the works, including the ability to block tracking images in emails and an Office Lens integration for the Android version of the app. And in June, administrators will be able to set policies restricting the allowable number of accounts in Outlook to just one on managed devices, reducing the chances of employees leaking data with attached personal accounts.

Outlook.com, meanwhile, is making it harder to forget to pay one's bills.

The webmail client now detects when users receive a bill, automatically adds a reminder to the UI and creates a calendar event. Two days before a payment due, Outlook.com will send an email reminder.

The new features come on the heels of Gmail's recent redesign. In addition to sporting a brand new look, Google's email service now has a security-enhancing Confidential Mode and Information Rights Management controls that limit the sharing of sensitive information.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...