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Over the weekend I was given the option to try out a new-look Outlook. The option appeared in the top-right corner of my Outlook 2016 window. There’s a little ‘Coming Soon’ icon with a button to switch On and Off next to it. Switch that on and you’re thrown into a redesigned interface. Here’s what it looks like if you’ve not been given the option yet.
The new Outlook inbox view
Here’s the main Inbox view. I have my inbox set up with a large reading pane on the right, so that I don’t have to double-click and open emails to read them. Your view may differ.
The main change is that Microsoft has streamlined the Ribbon menus at the top of the screen. It now looks a lot less cluttered than it did before, with Outlook now only showing the most-used commands by default.
Of course, what might be my ‘most-used commands’ may differ from yours, so Microsoft still gives you the option to customise the Ribbon if you want to bring a particular feature or button to the fore (see below). You can also expand the Ribbon by clicking on the little down arrow on the right-hand side, bringing back most of the hidden icons.
The pane in the middle, which shows the messages in your currently selected inbox, has also been given a makeover. The name of the sender has been reduced in size, allowing you to fit more messages on screen, which I think is a positive move.
The new Outlook message view
The same stripped-back look applies to the new message view. Again, the Ribbon menu is reduced to single row of icons running across the top of the screen, pushing the focus onto the message content (or lack of it, in my case).
If you can’t find a particular feature, expanding the Ribbon should reveal all…
There is a little bit of new icon learning to do here. One of my most frequently used features, for example, is the option to append different signatures to emails. That’s got a new pen and paper icon, which took me a while to find.
How to customise new-look Outlook
If you don’t like the way Microsoft has ordered the new Ribbon, change it. Click on any blank space in the Ribbon menu and you should see the option to Customize the Ribbon.
This will open the following, rather complicated menu, where you can decide which buttons should appear where on each Ribbon tab. If you never bother categorising your emails, for example, get shot of the option and replace it with something more useful instead.
New-look Outlook verdict
Overall, the new design is yet more fiddling at the edges, whereas Outlook needs a complete overhaul, in my view. The one feature that I still can’t believe hasn’t been implemented is a unified inbox – a single inbox for all your different accounts. The mobile version of Outlook has offered this for years, and very good it is too, especially in the way it sorts wheat from chaff. Why the paid-for desktop version can’t do this is utterly baffling.
Now read this: How do you recall an email using Outlook?