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Microsoft Outlook for Windows is used by millions of people every day, to communicate and connect with others, to stay organized, and to get things done. It is a critical and essential piece of their day, with their email, schedules and meetings, people and contacts, tasks, groups, all in one place.

 

We know that change can be difficult, and its impact is felt when it touches your day as Outlook does for so many customers. In September 2018, Microsoft introduced user experience updates in Outlook  with a new Coming Soon feature allowing you to try the new experience at your convenience. The Coming Soon preview pane enables you to preview, read about and try out changes that are coming soon to Outlook email and calendar by turning on this experience with an on/off toggle. With the changes that can be previewed through the Coming Soon feature, we are bringing you the option of a simplified experience, and reapplying Microsoft design principles to make it cleaner and clearer. 

 

The Outlook user experience updates have been available through the Coming Soon for the last several months. With the Simplified Ribbon, you can customize it if you want different commands from the most frequently used and you can easily pin and remove items to personalize the experience to your work style. We updated the folder pane with new icons, text and alignment adjustments to make it easier to scan and find the folder you want. Subtle changes were made to the Message List providing more spacing between messages for easier readability and updates to recognize flagged items faster. Additional updates to the reading pane and when composing email include fewer visual distractions as well as an improved sequence when creating a New Appointment, where putting time before location provides smarter suggestions based on availability. We love that over a million customers tried the new experience with Coming Soon by turning it on right in the app.

   

Coming Soon - last chance.pngComing Soon - preview option

In addition to letting you choose when to try out the changes, Coming Soon also lets you provide us with feedback, and it’s been invaluable in helping us adjust the experience. At the top level, we simply asked, do these changes make Outlook better? Almost half a million users responded, with over three-quarters saying “yes,” often with further written comments expressing strong preference for the simpler, cleaner, more modern design, and the new simplified ribbon that streamlines the experience. For the majority of those giving us feedback, we were on the right track. However, even more valuable than the praise was the constructive feedback we got from those who felt we could do better.

 

What We Learned

The response has been great, and feedback has been positive on the update as well as Coming Soon itself as a means of introducing change. One recurring bit of feedback was about the changes to the spacing in the message list and around fields such as To, Cc, and Subject. These design changes were intended to make the list easier to scan with better separation between each message. However, doing so reduced the volume of emails visible on the screen at once, which a small percentage of customers strongly prefer.

 

Changes based on feedback

Based on this feedback, we're introducing the option for you to choose to Use Tighter Spacing on the View tab, learn more. Similar to switching between the Simplified and classic ribbon, you can switch between standard and Use Tighter Spacing, depending on what feels best. Over the coming weeks, the density setting option will be described in the Coming Soon section as an option you can try it out and provide feedback.

 

UX Use Tighter Spacing option cut.pngUse Tighter Spacing optionUX Message List spacing.pngMessage List spacing

UX tighter spacing compose.pngMessage compose spacing

We also want to remind you that all the user experience updates that have been described in Coming Soon over the last several months will soon be rolling out to all Monthly Channel customers. In May 2019, after rigorous rounds of validation and refinement, we will make the updates the default experience and no longer optional.

 

At that time, the Coming Soon button and toggle switch will also go away. However, given the positive feedback we received about using Coming Soon as a tool to introduce change, we plan to bring it back when we are ready to introduce another new set of changes to preview.

 

We are committed to continuing to improve the user experience and appreciate your feedback. We encourage you to try out the new user experience updates in Coming Soon in Outlook in the coming weeks. Moreover, we love your feedback – and want to continue to hear from you so the next time you see Coming Soon, you’ll have the confidence that we will continue to listen and learn. Please provide feedback in the coming weeks through the Coming Soon pane. And don’t forget that you can also continue to submit feedback to Outlook.uservoice.com

 

 

13 Comments
Contributor

Here's a bit of constructive criticism for you: When you're testing something like this, make it consistently available in your test builds, like Insider.

 

I saw the "Coming Soon" toggle last fall in Insider, but it vanished a couple months later. I saw enough that I knew a denser view was badly needed, so I'm glad that's coming, but it would have been nice to actually, you know, test it further in a build expressly designed for testing.

 

What you should have done is supplied a Registry entry (or something) to allow testers to enable/disable Coming Soon even absent the fabled toggle.

Microsoft

@Brian . 

Thank you for your feedback.  We rolled out the user experience as a preview in Coming Soon before the changes become the default experience.  In particular, the Coming Soon feature can help companies introduce change when it’s convenient, before changes become the default experience, and provides an opportunity to provide feedback so Microsoft can continue to listen and learn from customers.  We also encourage customers who would like to receive changes sooner to enroll in our Office Insider’s program.

 

I am not sure why your Coming Soon option disappeared, but it may have been due to the control we made available to administrators to manage the experience for their company.  Companies can prevent their users from having the Coming Soon option through group policy administration, or users can try the experience with the Coming Soon feature and turn to the classic experience at their convenience.  The control is available through a group policy, and you can find the instructions in our September blog: “If you're an admin, you can use a regkey to hide the Coming Soon feature in Outlook for Windows.  Learn more.”

Contributor

@Eugenie Burrage 

Hi, I was definitely aware of that from the other blog. That's not it, however, since the PC is not in a corporate environment. I also checked the policy ("not configured") and the Registry item (non-existent) just to be sure.

 

Unfortunately, there isn't the opposite of that policy: a way to force-enable it. That's what I need and should be made available, since the user should be able to opt in. I think features like this go away for some when it's rolled out for another ring (e.g. Targeted). MS is testing with different audiences at different times. But a build labeled "Insider" of all things probably should always be in the loop.

 

I've asked around: some on Insider still have "Coming Soon."  But some don't.

Contributor

I don't understand why MS continues to make discoverability of features harder. This reminds me of when Office 2003 started collapsing menus in apps (this is before the ribbon) and most users I dealt with just thought features vanished.

 

Same here. I see integrated features we use daily like moving emails to OneNote, or adding FindTime meeting polls are buried in the ellipses menu. How does hiding features and adding clicks make it easier for us?

 

This increases the load on IT teams and power users to go around and how people either how to expand and the "ribbon" or add their favorite items to the mini-ribbon.

 

I'm curious if you left it alone, but gave users the option to hide things (collapse the ribbon, move features to an ellipses style menu), how many would voluntarily do that? Instead it is always the reverse. "Let's hide a bunch of stuff, then let the local IT departments deal with it at the help-desk level."

 

And I've not tested this, but I'd wager these changes and customization are local to one machine only, and if a user gets a new machine or Office has to be reinstalled, all pref's would have to be manually made again? Or does this data get saved to the cloud so it is persistent on a per-user basis?

Occasional Contributor

Why doesn't Microsoft put effort into sorting out Drag and Drop to an O365 Group Mailboxes from Outlook instead of this....??!! #priorities
https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Office-365-Groups/New-Drag-and-drop-conversations-into-groups...

As of which Outlook-for-Windows version number is this new "Tighter Spacing" feature present?

(I'd like to check whether we already received the update to that version).

@Paul_Van_Cotthem  It is the Build number that will drive whether or not you will get the tighter spacing feature. Please ensure that you have Build 11425 or later.

To check the Build number in Outlook for Windows:

  • In Outlook click on File
  • Click on Office Account
  • Under About Outlook you will see the Build number.  For example, Version 1903 (Build 11425.XXXXX).
Contributor

Since I can't test Coming Soon (only being on Insider), I can't make the determination if the "tighter spacing" gets us back to where we started before Coming Soon.  If not, it'll be disappointing, since that should have been the whole point. Yes, it's tighter than Coming Soon, but that's not saying much. It would have been helpful if you'd also included the original spacing in the screenshot.

@ Ed Hansberry
Thank you for your feedback.
The goal for the user experience updates in Outlook for Windows is to bring a simplified, more powerful experience to our customers. One of the ways we accomplished this was to update the command ribbon into a single row of most used commands, to help you focus on what matters and allow you to customize your experience. We introduced Simplified Ribbon as an option, keeping you in control of whether you wanted all your commands in a single row versus the classic three-level approach. You can easily pin and remove items to the ribbon from the ellipses to personalize the experience to your work style. We know from research and usage data that beyond a small set of very core features, the commands that are “daily” commands varies from person to person.

Your feedback about making changes consistent across devices is valid. We are working on moving several settings to the cloud eventually and are just now rolling out Focused Inbox as our first one.

Contributor

@The Outlook Team 

 

By way of explaining why "Coming Soon" isn't available on qualifying builds/channels of Outlook, can you maybe translate this for me (note that the comments were made in October, which was very early in the process)?  I don't understand it, and while it may not matter in the near term, "Coming Soon" will surely rise again. As you'll see, it clearly conflicts with the idea that if you're on channel X or build Y, you will have the toggle. It seems that it's more gray than that.

 

"Coming Soon will only be shown when there is a feature available that is part of the "Coming Soon" experience. If you are on a build that does not have any new features that fit into that experience, the toggle disappears. It will show back up again once there are more features that fit into that experience."

 

"If there isn't a feature being tested in your ring (Fast or Slow) that falls into these categories, or if the features that were in Coming Soon have been turned on for everyone without the option to turn them off, then the toggle will not show. As the new UX is now rolled out broadly, it is no longer a part of the "Coming Soon" feature set. There are not any other features currently in Insider Fast that change the look or feel, or functionality changes that can be toggled, so the toggle is not showing."

 

"The new UX rolled out to Insiders Slow in the 1809 build (see the What's New page with that information here) as well as production users (see here.) I do personally see the UX. Also, as with all Insiders features, things may come and go from build to build, may show up for some users and not for others. Things like Coming Soon are dynamically controlled based on what is available to you. "

Occasional Visitor

I have had the "Coming Soon" function on for several months. I was able to turn on the tighter spacing layout just fine, and like it. I'll continue using it. I am not, however, able to successfully try out the "Simplified Ribbon." I believe what I have underneath the full ribbon toolbar is called a "Quick Access Toolbar." There is no information in this blog post (or in the info at the hotlink in the "Coming Soon" info tab for it) that explains how these two things relate to each other. And I can't find information about how to try out the Simplified Ribbon. Frustrating. 

Contributor

Nothing to do with the Quick Access Toolbar, which is that tiny strip in the upper left of Office apps.

 

The so-called Simplified Ribbon is just the seriously different-looking (and working) Office ribbon that's across Office apps when you have "Coming Soon" toggled on (or, soon, forced on everyone regardless).

 

You can see it in the second screenshot above, or a lot more here:

https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Outlook-Blog/Designed-for-Simplicity-User-experience-updates-...

Frequent Visitor
Here's an idea: how about allowing us users to keep the look we have now if we want, and make the new look available to people only if they opt in to it? Here is more on that topic: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Outlook-Blog/New-Outlook-updates-enable-you-to-customize-your... Why does MSFT have to force this change on us? Why can I not continue to use Outlook in the way I want to use it, as the program I pay for?