I love my iPhone. However I have been slowly morphing it into a Windows Phone. If you are a long time dedicated reader you surely know that I was a big fan of Microsoft’s much maligned smartphone. I do still hold out hope for Microsoft in the smartphone world but I would not bet much on it. However all of that being said there are quite a few Microsoft apps that can help you get the Microsoft experience you deserve and improve the iPhone experience along the way. Here are a couple of my favorite Microsoft apps.
Microsoft Word Flow
Word Flow, the keyboard Microsoft puts it brand on, has grown from an experiment to a charming and fully-realized alternative in recent months.
Word Flow’s big hook is that, with a couple of taps, you can contort the keyboard to a shape that rounds out on the left or right. This is less accurate than its full-sized mode, but it does work, and it makes Word Flow the most convenient option to use with one hand.
The keyboard itself isn’t as snappy or active with suggestions as SwiftKey, but it yields few complaints with both swipe and touch typing. It’s all stable and smooth. There are several themes to use with it, too.
Word Flow’s narrow lead comes from its search function — as of late last year, you can search Bing for GIFs and web links that can be shared right from the keyboard. You can look up Microsoft-using contacts as well. This is all much faster than going in and out of a browser.
Put it all together, and you have a surprisingly full-featured option that’s both smart and comfortable.
Outlook’s design is very clean, but still unique. That’s fine; I’m not looking for something to mimic Mail.app exactly. Do I want it to be a complete departure from the normal look and feel of iOS? No, but I want a unique experience.
Outlook has 5 icons across the bottom: Mail, Calendars, Files, People, and Settings. The way it’s laid out makes it feel like a complete communications/file management ecosystem. You are only one tap away from getting what you need. It uses a light theme with black and blue text throughout. I know some people like darker themes, but I feel like the design is very easy on the eyes. I don’t ever feel like the UI is distracting; it melts away and allows me to focus on what I need to see.
From a usability perspective, Outlook really shines. It provides me with just enough options to make it my own, but not so many that I am overwhelmed or spend time tinkering.
I love the built-in calendar function. I love being able to see email and my schedule in one app. The compose screen is simple to use as well. It allows me to change which account I am sending from, add files, photos, send calendar invites, or see my calendar availability.
One important aspect of all third-party email apps is which types of email services it supports. Outlook supports Office 365, Outlook.com, Exchange, Yahoo, iCloud, Google, and IMAP. (POP3 isn’t supported, so if you require it, you need to look elsewhere.)
Outlook has support for iPhones with 3D Touch features. From the 3D Touch menu, you can hop right to your calendar, create a new event, or start a new email. I find myself using the View Calendar function frequently. A Notification Center widget and watchOS app are included as well.
Outlook supports push notifications for new emails, or just “important ones” with a feature Outlook calls Focused Inbox.
Focused Inbox sorts your email so you see the important ones first. It does this by considering past emails from a particular sender and your address book. You can also reclassify emails as you go in order to help train it. The calendar feature can also notify you of upcoming appointments as well as send short emails letting the people in your meeting know you are running late.
The snooze/delay function of email was made popular by Mailbox, but has since become adopted by a handful of other apps. Outlook offers a feature that allows you to control which folder your snoozed emails are stored. Your options for snoozing are in a few hours, this evening, tomorrow morning, or a custom time. Outlook doesn’t offer the ability to customize these times, and I’d like to see that added in the future.
Like I mentioned earlier, I love the fact that Outlook has a built-in calendar. It also has native support for a number of file systems. It includes OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive. While this isn’t as important for attaching files (due to document providers), it does offer some advantages. There is a file screen that shows your most recent files for cloud document apps, as well as making saving attachments faster.
A recent update added third-party app integration through “add-ins.” Add-ins let you turn any email into a Trello card, save a message to Evernote, insert a GIF, translate messages, and more. These are currently only available to users with Office 365 email addresses, however.
Overall, Outlook is the best Mail.app replacement, especially if you are a Microsoft 365 user.
Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint & Word
These are full-fledged mobile versions of Excel, Word and PowerPoint. All of the apps are jam-packed with advanced formatting and editing features, although they don’t include quite as many options as the desktop versions. They’re also beautifully designed and touch optimized, with big, easy-to-tap buttons.