A small confession.

I have been using computers for a long time. The BBC B on wheels at primary school, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum at home, the first rumblings of PC’s. Being introduced to the an early Bulletin Board System form of the internet in 1991 and thinking, “that’s rubbish.” Through out all that followed, my start on BBC Basic, through Microsoft Windows, 95, 98, 98se, Xp, dual booting with linux, building my own tower computer, moving to apple products, to my current all apple set up, there is one thing I have never done.

I have never chosen to use Microsoft Outlook as my default email client. It always seemed a bit weird, a bit like trying to cram Word into an email programme. Things change. Microsoft recently has become the company which is experimenting more than Google and Apple. Both Apple and Google became massive and overtook Microsoft was left as a big fish but not the biggest fish anymore. Perhaps it is a throw lots of stuff at the wall to see what sticks approach, in a desperate attempt to stay relevant. The phone adventure didn’t take off enough to support a vibrant app eco system. Given this failure, and the amount of Apple phones in the wild, both Google and Microsoft realised they needed to make apps that allowed people to use their products on Apple’s mobile devices, Google use their cloud based apps to provide a back end. Microsoft used their cloud service as a base to design a web app version of Word, Powerpoint and Excel that could live on mobile devices. They also released Outlook. This is a good decision as for lots of people this works as it pragmatically ties in with work tech decisions.

Well, now it is confession time. I now use Microsoft Outlook as the default e-mail client on my phone, even though I don’t need to for work.

Why? I hear you ask. Actually it is very good. I have been looking at email apps on the iPhone for a while as I am not happy with the performance of the iOS default mail app, so I wanted a replacement. While I have used many apps for the job, but none have really hit the mark, and Outlook is doing a great job currently. I don’t know if it will remain my default app longterm but it is decent so far.

The success Outlook has had with me is build on 2 main factors. First is the way it divides your email into two separate mail boxes. Focused and Other. Focused is where it takes the important mail. It guesses, (well i assume there is a complex algorithm and artificial intelligence at work here), which of the e-mails you review are important, and which aren’t. in the past month it has only got 1 email wrong. I run 4 email addresses through this outlook app. The app works well across 365 emails, other Imap accounts and gmail accounts, judging from the different accounts what goes where. Yesterday I had no emails in my focused box, all 63 emails I got yesterday went into the other account, and rightly so. The app loads into the focused mailbox, a decision that allows you to focus on the work you should be doing. When it loads in email it will tell you if email goes into the other account so you can check them, but it is built to let you ignore what can be ignored.

The second factor is the integration with cloud storage accounts. I use Dropbox and OneDrive for various things. (Despite using Apple products I do not trust Apples iCloud services with anything important.) The ability to save a attachment from my phone to my Dropbox account within the app is great. The old process using Apples universal “box with arrow” wasn’t a bad experience, but to have this streamlined is handy.

If I had to make a criticism the diary does support syncing with Apple’s calendar app nor with iCloud drive. This seems a bit of an oversight when the app does sync so well with some other apps. And as other apps have proved calendar sync is a thing that can be done well (including the old sunrise app that Microsoft bought in order to improve outlooks calendar functions). the other isssue is that this is Microsoft, the historic enemy of Apple, buying success. they bought the metal handling from accompli, the calendar from sunrise. The Outlook app is build on the work of another company that they bought. Internally it feels a bit like disliking a sports team who buy all the best players, but then in fantasy sports doing the exact same. There’s a dissonance about it.

Given all that it is a solid 8/10 for this app, it is not perfect but it is very good at what it does do.