Microsoft is launching a new opt-in beta program for Outlook.com today that will give users access to a faster and more personalized email experience, as well as an overhauled design. Over the next few weeks, the Outlook.com team will roll out to all users a new toggle for opting into the beta. Those who don't like the new look and feel can easily switch back to the old version.
The plan here is to test new features in this beta program and bring to the standard version of Outlook.com those that worked out well. It's probably fair to assume that the new design will also make it to the regular version of Outlook.com over time.
For this redesign, Microsoft is using a new development framework that the company claims is more responsive and that enables the team to deliver a more modern design. It's our understanding that this new framework Microsoft is using here is Facebook's ReactJS, which has become increasingly popular for building modern web apps.
The new version also will feature an upgraded search experience, as well as a refreshed conversations view. In addition, the Outlook.com beta will offer new personalization options that, among other things, include the option to pin to your sidebar shortcuts to emails from specific people.
And because no modern applications can live without them, you can now also easily find emojis and GIFs right inside of Outlook.com, add them to your emails and surprise your friends with your uncanny ability to conjure up old memes.
Other new features include Quick Suggestion, which pops up restaurant information, flight data and "your favorite teams' schedules" (I assume that's something that sports fans talk about a lot?). That sounds like a pretty clever idea, given that it makes it pretty easy to drop a card with info about a restaurant and coffee shop into an email, for example.
The new Outlook.com Inbox will also group all of your incoming sent and received photos into a single spot.
It's been a while since we last heard about Outlook.com, so it's good to see that Microsoft is putting a bit more effort into what is still one of the most-used web-based email clients around.