Microsoft set to launch revamped Outlook 15

Microsoft made a number of changes to the next version of Outlook, with early indications suggesting the email client has been optimised for use on tablets.

The changes to Outlook 15 will bring it more in line with its Windows Phone counterpart, according to Microsoft insider, Paul Thurrott.

"It's pretty clear that Outlook is being brought in line with Microsoft's other email and calendar clients, and with the mobile versions in Windows Phone in particular. The Contacts module has been renamed to the more consistent People, for example, and Outlook now connects natively to new calendar types," he noted on the Supersite for Windows blog.

A key addition is the a feature known as "Peeks", which is designed to lets users see more information from other apps in Outlook without having to leave the current page.

The Outlook component links (Mail, Calendar, People, Tasks) have been moved from the sidebar to the bottom of the page. When you mouse over a link, a pop-up window with a "peek" of the link will appear. The peek displays important information about that link. For example, the "calendar" peek would pop-up with a mini-calendar and an update on events for that day.

Outlook peek screenshot

When emailing a particular contact, a "people" link will appear at the bottom of the window. This will allow a preview of that person's Facebook page as well as their Twitter or LinkedIn accounts.

Email replies are also set to be more touch screen friendly. When responding to an email in a previous version of Outlook, a new pop-up window would appear. In Outlook 15, replies are inline in the area normally reserved for the reading pane.

Both the inline replies and the "peeks" features are likely to benefit mobile users as changing between windows on a touch screen or tablet can be frustrating.

Other changes include the absence of the Outlook Connector. Hotmail accounts previously required this separate add-on while social networking integration required another add-on called the Social Connector. These features are now built into Outlook 15 and Hotmail and social networking accounts can be synched with Outlook via the accounts page located in the sidebar.

Another convenient addition to Outlook 15 is the weather bar that appears in the calendar view.

Overall the system still runs the same way, with users still have to sign into an email account and enter a password twice just like the older versions.

"It's an early hint that, for all the surface changes, not much has really changed," Thurrott added.