Q: Why is Microsoft trying to get me to switch to the new Outlook in my Mail program?
A: In its usual confusing way, Microsoft is signaling an upcoming major change for those currently using Mail and Calendar apps in Windows 10 and 11.
The suggestion to ‘Try the new Outlook’ in the upper right corner of Windows Mail is the precursor to what will be a forced transition sometime in 2024.
Microsoft recently announced these plans as a way to consolidate tasks like mail, contacts and calendars from separate apps to a unified one that they are calling Outlook for Windows.
What makes this decision confusing for many is the existence of many tools that use the Outlook name both online and via apps.
Understanding the Differences
Outlook has been the default email program in Microsoft Office since 1997 and is still part of the subscription version of Office 365 which is now called Microsoft 365.
Outlook.com is a free web-based version that replaced Hotmail which is Microsoft’s competitor to Google’s Gmail.
The new Outlook for Windows app isn’t a website but it’s free and has the basic look and feel of the paid versions of Outlook that have a lot more features.
It’s obvious that they’re trying to create a pathway to convince users that are using their free tools to upgrade to their premium versions to generate revenue.
What This Means for Mail Users
If you like the simplicity of the Mail app’s interface, the good news is that you can continue using it for the next year or so. The exact date that the app will be shelved isn’t clear yet, but the indications are sometime at the end of 2024.
For the time being, you can switch back and forth between Mail and the new Outlook with the toggle switch to see the differences in the two apps.
Microsoft will stop supporting the Mail app with important security updates when it removes the app from the Microsoft Store, but it’s our understanding that it will still function.
As protection against email-based attacks is a significant service, it would be unwise to continue to use the Mail app once it has been abandoned even though it may still work.
Essentially, you’ll be forced to use Outlook for Windows at some point, so taking the time to get used to it before you no longer have a choice would be advisable.
Significant New Features
One of the most significant additions to this new app is the integration with many of Google’s popular tools such as Gmail and Calendar. For those that spend a lot of time in both Microsoft and Google’s ecosystems, this could eliminate a lot of switching back and forth.
The additional features and integrations could potentially be overwhelming for those that like the simplicity of the current Mail interface, but change is never easy.
Many features that were only available in Gmail such as the ability to unsend emails and advanced text editing tools will also be welcome improvements.
IT Department Guidance
If you work at a company that uses Microsoft’s various platforms, the ‘when and how’ to switch guidance should come from your IT department.
Microsoft alerted IT administrators long ago about these upcoming changes so they would have plenty of time to devise migration plans.