Microsoft seems determined to eliminate whatever hurdles may stifle collaboration among users of the company's mobile apps. The latest move on that front involves updating its well-regarded Outlook app for iOS so that it handles Office files better, providing a more seamless experience for users.
"Outlook for iOS now opens Office documents sent as attachments directly in their respective apps, replacing the simple viewers we previously used," announced the Microsoft Office team in an Aug. 20 announcement. "We've also streamlined the steps required to collaborate on files sent as attachments."
Tapping on attachments now cause them to open in their respective apps (Word, Excel or PowerPoint), allowing users to quickly view and edit Office documents. "If you haven't yet downloaded the Office apps, Outlook will load a built-in viewer and provide a link to download the app in the App Store," Microsoft added.
After a user edits a file, the Outlook app takes it upon itself to prepare the updated attachments for the return trip.
Before today, collaborating on attachments would often force users to crack open their laptops, Microsoft noted. Trading Office documents over email "was almost exclusively done at a computer, due to the many manual and sometimes confusing steps necessary when using the built-in Mail app for iOS." Now, users can complete the processes entirely on their iPhones and iPads.
"With the latest updates, once you've opened a file from Outlook and finished making your changes, a single tap on the Back button closes the document and returns you to Outlook, automatically adding the now-updated file as an attachment in your reply," stated the group.
Users also can now kick off an email within the Office apps. "Word, Excel and PowerPoint now include a 'Send with Outlook' option in the 'Share' menu. This button will bring up the Outlook 'Compose New Email' pane with the document attached and ready to share," said the company.
Microsoft teased that these capabilities are heading to the Android flavor of the app in the coming months. Lastly, the company said OneDrive for Business support will also arrive later this year. Currently, Outlook for iOS supports the Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive and Box cloud storage services.
Outlook for iOS and Android launched earlier this year, months after Microsoft acquired the company behind the popular Acompli mobile app.
"Now, with Outlook, you really can manage your work and personal email on your phone and tablet—as efficiently as you do on your computer," said Julia White, general manager of the Office Product Management team, in a statement at the time. Foreshadowing these latest developments, Javier Soltero, Acompli's former CEO and current general manager of Microsoft Outlook, said in a Jan. 29 blog post that joining with Microsoft "gives us the ability to reach over a billion Office users and do much more with the technology, with tighter integration with Office and Outlook."