Outlook on the Web to Get a Smarter Address Book in 2016

New convenience features, including recommended email recipients and automatic flight scheduling, will be available early next year.

Microsoft Outlook

After the holidays, Microsoft is planning to update its Web-based Outlook app with features meant to ensure that emails are sent to their intended recipients.

Starting next month, Microsoft will start rolling out new smart address book functionality, the company's Outlook group announced on Dec. 18. When users add recipients to an email, Outlook will soon automatically display a list of suggested contacts.

"Just place your cursor in the To: or Cc: line and Outlook will bring up suggested contacts in a drop-down list based on your usage," explained the company in a blog post. "These are the people you're most likely to email based on who you've been communicating with recently and most frequently."

It will also be on the lookout for alternate spellings of names, a common source of workplace miscommunication.

"Outlook will now show you names of people you email most frequently—even if you spell their name wrong," wrote the Microsoft Office Team. "For example, if you occasionally write to 'Kathryn,' her name will appear as a suggestion even if you typed 'Catherine.'"

The updated Web app will help users keep their teams and frequently emailed colleagues in the loop as well.

"If you frequently send emails to the same set of people—say, Steve, Anna and Bob—then whenever you email only Steve and Anna together, we'll ask, 'Do you also want to include Bob?' This prompt will not get in your way and will only show when Outlook is highly confident you want to add Bob," said Microsoft.

Also in January, Microsoft will start offering a feature for air travelers that automatically will add flight times to their calendar events.

"When you receive a flight confirmation via email from a supported provider, Outlook will gather key information and automatically add it in your calendar—no extra clicks, no copy/paste, no drag and drop," stated the company. Outlook will block out the relevant times and display information pertaining to the flights, including the flight number, airport and destination. "You will receive an automatic reminder three hours before your flight that includes the original email in the calendar event, so you have all the details handy."

Initially, the feature will work with flight confirmations from Expedia, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines and Alaska Airlines, according to an accompanying FAQ. Support for other providers are in the works.

Microsoft is also working to "support event types beyond flights," the software maker revealed. Users can turn off the functionality—it's on by default—by delving into the Outlook calendar options in the Settings menu.

The new Outlook functionality will be available to Office 365 First Release customers in January 2016 and all commercial subscribers in March 2016. Outlook's new smart address book capabilities will also hit the software clients for Windows, iOS and Android during the first half of 2016. Microsoft has yet to determine if they will appear on Outlook for Mac.

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...