News this week includes Outlook for Mac’s support of public folders, the triumph of the Focused Inbox over Clutter, a wizard to help you buy more Azure Active Directory Premium licenses, and the promise of perfect prose, but only with the help of Word’s new Editor feature.
Mac support for public folders expands
The Mac community uttered a long and satisfied sigh (at least, in my imagination) this week when the Exchange team announced that the April 2016 update for the Outlook 2016 for Mac client enabled public folder support, providing you use Exchange 2013 CU13, Exchange 2016 CU2, or Exchange Online (Figure 1). See the blog post for more details. The announcement is particularly important for hybrid deployments.
Figure 1: Outlook 2016 for Mac and public folders
Outlook for Mac users are the great unwashed when it comes to supporting various features. Mostly, it’s a question of APIs. Outlook for Mac is built largely using Exchange Web Services, which is a solid client API for basic mailbox functionality like creating and sending messages or managing a calendar, but stutters when it comes to more complex features. For instance, Office 365 Groups are not supported by Outlook for Mac. Apparently support is coming… Soon! Perhaps we shall hear more at Ignite.
Clutter is dead. Long live the Focused Inbox
Microsoft announced that the Focused Inbox feature from the Outlook for iOS and Android apps would replace Clutter, the machine-learning driven capability that learns how users deal with inbound messages and moves non-essential messages into the Clutter folder. The Focused Inbox was the signature feature of the Acompli mobile clients acquired by Microsoft in November 2014 and subsequently took the same status when those clients were rebranded and relaunched as the Outlook apps in January 2015. Javier Soltero, the boss of Outlook development, flagged that the Focused Inbox would come to all varieties of Outlook earlier this year, so this news is really no surprise.
Some people (me!) like Clutter while others absolutely despise it, possibly because Clutter experienced so many hiccups in the early days. Microsoft will release new versions of Outlook 2016 for Windows and Mac, OWA, and Windows 10 to support the Focused Inbox. Although unlikely to happen, Microsoft has not definitively said whether Focused Inbox will be backported to earlier versions of Outlook. In any case, those who use older versions of Outlook can continue to use Clutter until it is eventually turned off sometime next year.
The Focused Inbox can be used when Outlook clients connect to other mail servers (such as Gmail or Outlook.com). Focused Inbox uses the same classification model to decide whether a message is important (focused) or not (other). When connected to Exchange Online, users can improve their results by moving items between the two views, just like you can with Clutter. And if you’ve been using Clutter and have trained it to know how to handle inbound email, the good news is that the learning accumulated by Clutter will be picked up by the Focused Inbox and used to sort messages. First Release tenants will start to see the Focused Inbox in September 2016.
It’s good to have feature consistency across all clients and so the move to replace Clutter with the Focused Inbox is welcome. However, some subtle but potentially “interesting” consequences flow because the change moves from a folder-driven system to a view-driven system. For example, Clutter is a system folder to which you can apply a retention policy. The Focused Inbox is composed of two views applied to the Inbox folder and you can’t apply a retention policy to a view. This might or might not be important to you.
The same announcement also contained the news that mentions (when you refer to someone by prefixing their name with the @ sign) will also come to Outlook for Windows and Mac desktop clients and the Outlook mobile clients. The feature is already available in OWA. I don’t use social features like this much but others are big fans of directing comments to recipients through prolific use of @ mentions (is that a correct grammatical construct?).
New wizard for Azure Active Directory Premium
The Azure Active Directory team released a new wizard (Figure 2) to help tenants understand the benefits of Azure Active Directory Premium and to configure features made available through the premium licenses. According to Scott Guthrie, 40% of Office 365 tenants use the Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), which includes Azure Active Directory Premium. These tenants might find some additional value from their investment by running the wizard to discover features that they have licensed but don’t use now.
Figure 2: The Azure Active Directory Premium wizard
Azure Active Directory Premium is a feature that makes sense to most enterprise Office 365 tenants, especially if they operate a hybrid environment, so it’s a good way for Microsoft to increase their net yield from these tenants. If this wizard convinces even more Office 365 customers to sign up for Azure Active Directory Premium, Microsoft will be even happier as it drives them towards Satya Nadella’s goal of realizing an annualized $20 billion revenue run rate for commercial cloud services by mid-2018.
Delve Analytics smartens its setup
The Delve Analytics team has made it easier for users who sign up for the feature (which requires an E5 license or add-on) by automatically enabling the Outlook add-for enabled accounts. The add-in reveals statistics about read and sent messages. Microsoft resolved a glitch last week that stopped statistics for sent messages from being reported accurately, so it’s all good now.
Exchange Technology Adoption Program looks for new customers
The Exchange (on-premises) development team blogged that they are looking for customer nominations to join the Technology Adoption Program (TAP), whose members sign up and make a commitment that they will deploy early builds of new versions of Exchange in their production environments.
I’ve know the folks running the Exchange TAP for a very long time and respect them very much. If you are committed to on-premises Exchange, you could do far worse than sign up for the TAP.
I’m so looking forward to Editor
Finally, among the other Office announcements this week, Microsoft told us about Editor, a new Word feature designed to assist writers to put “the finishing touches” to their work “by providing an advanced proofing and editing service”. Editor “makes suggestions to improve your writing”, a feature that might have come in handy for a review on the topic published on Engadget (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Some editorial problems in a review about the new Word features
As a frequent writer, I will be interested to see how Editor will “overhaul Word’s visual proofing cues” for spelling, grammar, and style errors. In the meantime, I shall rely on IT Unity’s indefatigable human editor, Erik Ruthruff.
Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.
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