Outlook Comes to iOS & Android

I knew that there was a good reason that Microsoft acquired Acompli back in December. Acompli was a company that had built a high quality email app for both iOS and Android platforms. The apps were quite popular with whoever took the time to give them a shot.

Acompli cost Microsoft just over $200 million so you know there had to be a plan and this past week their plan was exposed.

Microsoft this week released Outlook for iOS and Outlook for Android (in beta).

The apps are now live on the App Store and Google Play Store, and should provide a high quality mobile email experience for users complete with all the traditional Outlook features many of us have come to rely on.

Of course there are countless email apps already available on these two mobile platforms are, but Acompli has built a bit an amazing reputation and Microsoft will be the beneficiary.

Hopefully, with the force of Microsoft the programming and design behind Acompli will shine as the newly designed Outlook app.

I have just downloaded this app and although it took a little setup and configuration I must say it is very nice and is now my defacto email app on my iPhone. It also has my calendar, contacts, onedrive and even Box and dropbox accounts all there – in one app.

You can grab the Microsoft Outlook Preview app on Android or iOS.

Getting Control of Outlook’s Notifications

It’s been a little while since I posted a good old tip for you, my dedicated readers. I decided to take a minute and post one here as my day winds down. Do you find that Outlook notifications can actually distract you doing the work day. Does your PC “ding” continually while you work? Well if this is a problem there is a way that you can gain control of Outlook and it’s notifications. What I suggest is reducing the number of alerts you get to only those most important to you.

In Outlook, set desktop notifications only for those VIP messages. All you need to do is turn off all desktop alerts under the Mail Options, then create an Outlook rule to display alerts for messages from specific people sent only to you. For example:

The first thing you will want to do is un-check everything in the Message arrival section of Outlook's options.

The first thing you will want to do is un-check everything in the Message arrival section of Outlook’s options.

 

Then open “Rules” on the toolbar and “Create Rule”. Once here you can choose to “play a selected sound” for countless conditions such as “From” or “Subject Contains” as well as many more if you open “Advanced Options”. You can even choose different sounds for different people.

I won't bore you but there are endless options here and this is only the tip of the iceberg for setting sounds for specific events.

I won’t bore you but there are endless options here and this is only the tip of the iceberg for setting sounds for specific events.

 

Bonus Rule Tip: You can right click on a specific email and select “create rule” from the mini-menu that appears. If you do this, the rule will already have the sender entered in the “From” section for you.

Outlook.com gets better on Android

I am a big fan of Microsoft’s free email service, Outlook.com (formally Hotmail). Before the transition to Outlook.com I was not a fan of Hotmail and actually used the email provided by my ISP. However I do not reccomend using the email account provided by your ISP (internet service provider). This is because, if you decide to change your internet provider you are then forced to change your email address which is really a pain in the you know what. By using a free service such as Outlook.com or Gmail you can avoid this problem.

Anyway the point of this little article is that Outlook.com continues to improve and in fact a couple mor enice features were recently added to their Android app.

Microsoft has updated its Android app for the Outlook.com email service, adding the ability to sync your entire email history to your device and search for emails in the cloud.

The app’s search feature previously kept track of only the emails downloaded to your phone, but now it can communicate back with the Outlook server to let you look through your whole account. Alternatively, you could take advantage of the unlimited sync option in order to have all your emails available for offline access.

microsoft-outlook-com-android

Other changes to the app include support for Outlook.com aliases, new color themes, vacation replies and the addition of traditional Chinese.

Outlook’s Automatic Replies

One of the best and most useful features in Microsoft Outlook is “Automatic Replies”. This is a great feature for letting people know what your status is if you are going to be out of the office for a few days or more without you needing to take the time to personally respond. However people often tend to overuse this once they learn how to use it. I recommend only using this if you are going to be unavailable for a week or more. After all if you use it too much people will start to think you never work!

Setting up Automatic Replies

To get started with Outlook’s built-in auto responder you will need to set some basic options first. These settings are available in both Outlook 2013 and the Outlook 365 web app (which can come in handy in case you forget to set your replies before you leave the office).

In Outlook 2013, click File > Automatic Replies.

A dialog will open, with the option ‘Do not send automatic replies’ selected. With the exception of editing Rules, every other option will be disabled. Select Send automatic replies to begin setting your options.

outlook 2013 automatic replies
The Automatic Replies dialog lets you set your away message and the length of time you will be away from the office. You can set up your replies before you leave by using the date range controls.

The first option is a check box for turning automatic replies on or off.

The second option is a pair of radio buttons for choosing how to treat recipients of your automatic replies. If you want to reply only to people in your address book, selectMy Contacts only. To reply to anyone who may send you an email, select Anyone outside my organization.

Below the two date fields you will see two tabs in Outlook 2013: ‘Inside My Organization’ and ‘Outside My Organization.’ In the web app, both of the tabs are displayed on one page.

When you’re done, click Apply in Outlook 2013, or Save in the web app.

Note: This feature is also available in Outlook 2010 and Office 365, and the steps are very similar.

Outlook Shortcuts & Notifications

One of the software applications that is the most used in the office every single day is Microsoft Outlook. So of course the better you know Outlook the more time you will have to do other things during your workday. So here we find ourselves with some quick tips to help you master Outlook and find more time to impress your boss.

Useful Shortcut Key Combinations

Once you master these you will move around Outlook just a little bit faster then before.

  • Ctrl+R: reply to email
  • Alt+R: reply to all in email or switch to the work week calendar view
  • Alt+W: forward email or switch to the weekly calendar view
  • Ctrl+M: F9 to Send/Receive all
  • Alt+S: Send email
  • Ctrl+G: open the “Go to date” dialog to jump to any date in the calendar

Reduce Outlook Notifications

It can be distracting to constantly being alerted with “pings” and “beeps” each and every time you receive a new email. The days of jumping for joy when we hear those immortal words, “You’ve Got Mail!” are long gone.

That being understood you may still want to get notified for specific important messages. In Outlook you can do just this by setting up desktop notifications only for those VIP messages. You will first want to turn off all desktop alerts under the Mail Options, then create an Outlook rule to display alerts for messages from specific people sent only to you.

Steps to Create a Special notification for a Specific User

  • In your inbox, right click the email message that you would like to create a special notification for.
  • Select Rules and Create Rule
  • rules1Simply check the “From sender name” box and
  • Check the “Play a selected sound”. The default windows notify sound file will be used but you can change the sound as well if you have another one by browsing and finding it.

As you can see by the image above you can also make notifications for specific issues using key words from the subject line. This can be useful of you are working on a project.

Outlook.com Outage Explained

Last week Microsoft suffered an almost three day service interruption effecting their Outlook.com email service. Outlook.com formally known at Hotmail is very popular and is an excellent free email platform. However a three day service problem is really unusual and not something any service provider wants to experience.

It may have taken three days, but Microsoft has officially resolved its Outlook.com outage — and it has both explanations and long-term solutions for affected email users. Trouble began with the failure of a caching service for Exchange Active Sync. The resulting deluge of reconnection attempts promptly overwhelmed company servers; a slow recovery was necessary to avoid another meltdown, Microsoft says. To prevent repeat incidents, the tech giant is both upgrading its network capacity and implementing a more elegant error handling system. While the fixes likely come too late for some users, they suggest that Microsoft has learned a hard lesson about the fragility of online services.

Outlook.com & SkyDrive Outage Over

Yesterday, August 14 at about 10am many users of Outlook.com and Skydrive began to experience and report email outages as well as being unable to connect to files in their Skydrive. While outages of this nature are not completely uncommon, when people do loose connectivity to their email and files they tend to freak out.  Outlook.com, formally known as “Hotmail” for the most part serves the consumer base as opposed to professional businesses.

Our organization has been in Microsoft’s cloud for almost three years now for Email. There have been a few outages during that time frame so I was not really that worried about this one.  I also use Outlook.com for my personal email and I really like it. However I must report that the “outages” we have experienced with Microsoft’s 365 service have been short and only effecting specific areas of their service. For example once or twice Outlook clients would not connect to the email service, however email continued to flow to mobile devices and Web Outlook. Another time Web Outlook was down, however once again mobile devices received email and the clients worked. Each of these occurrences lasted a few hours, much less then yesterday’s Outlook.com outage.

What caused yesterday’s outage? Microsoft has issued the following statement:

“At 13:35 PM PDT on August 13th, 2013 there was a service interruption that affected some people’s access to a small part of the SkyDrive service, but primarily Hotmail.com and Outlook.com. Availability was restored over the course of the afternoon and evening, and fully restored by 5:43 AM PDT on August14th, 2013.

On the afternoon of the 12th, in one physical region of one of our datacenters, we performed our regular process of updating the firmware on a core part of our physical plant. This is an update that had been done successfully previously, but failed in this specific instance in an unexpected way. This failure resulted in a rapid and substantial temperature spike in the datacenter. This spike was significant enough before it was mitigated that it caused our safeguards to come in to place for a large number of servers in this part of the datacenter. 

These safeguards prevented access to mailboxes housed on these servers and also prevented any other pieces of our infrastructure to automatically failover and allow continued access. This area of the datacenter houses parts of the Hotmail.com, Outlook.com, and SkyDrive infrastructure, and so some people trying to access those services were impacted.

Once the safeguards kicked in on these systems, the team was instantly alerted and they immediately began to get to work to restore access. Based on the failure scenario, there was a mix of infrastructure software and human intervention that was needed to bring the core infrastructure back online. Requiring this kind of human intervention is not the norm for our services and added significant time to the restoration.

From that point onward, the team brought back access in waves throughout the evening. The majority of the impacted mailboxes were fully restored before midnight and the rest completed by 5:30 AM.”

We should accept and expect that as we rely on the “cloud” for more and more services service interruptions will occur from time to time. What you should however require from your provider are a couple of very important considerations:

1. When outages occur, communicate immediately with clear and concise information regarding the issue.

2. Work to get the service restored as quickly as possibly.

3. And most important of all, protect our data!

Outlook.com Down

Microsoft has confirmed user reports that Microsoft’s Outlook.com mail service, People contacts sync, and SkyDrive cloud storage service were unavailable for a period of time.

Since the initial outage occurred, SkyDrive and People have apparently returned to normal operation. Outlook.com is continuing to have unspecified issues. The company promised that it would provide an update on the status of its mail service, but the initial timeframe Microsoft gave for an update has come and gone, with nary a whisper from the software giant.

It’s not clear how widespread the issues actually are at this point. Personally, I have been unable to connect to my Outlook.com email account and while trying to setup a PC for my son this evening I thought it was me when I could not get his Live.com (Outlook in all but name) to sync.

UPDATE – August 15, 6:00 AM
It looks like Outlook.com is finally back in service after an almost 24 hour outage. It will be interesting to see what happened here. Stay tuned.
UPDATE – August 15, 6:10 AM
Looks like MS has been able to restore access for most users, though some are still having issues. Here’s a followup statement from the company, “Outlook.com experienced an incident that caused some users not to be able to access their account or share their SkyDrive files. We have restored web access for all users but some people might still see issues with their mobile devices. We are working to restore full mobile access as quickly as possible.”

Contacts & Signatures in Microsoft Outlook

Lesson 4 walks you through a couple of different ways of adding contacts to Microsoft Outlook as well as creating your own professional business card that can be automatically attached in your email messages as a signature.

In the previous video I did not demonstrate how to delete unwanted images in your contacts. Well here you go.