The transformation of business environments and blurring lines between work and personal lives may require more flexibility in how we get things done and increase the need for help to balance professional and life's commitments. Today we’re announcing new capabilities in Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS that will help you organize your time and tasks and feel connected as you go about your day. Play My Emails offers you the ability to listen and respond to what’s new in your inbox when you need to step out to get groceries or walk the dog, when your hands are busy taking care of household chores, or if you need to take a break from extended computer time. This new set of capabilities can help keep you organized, on time and more in control of your schedule so you get time back to focus on the things that matters most to you.
The Play My Emails experience starts with a summary of new, unread emails and event updates. Now when you listen to a readout of the meeting invitations in your inbox, you have the opportunity to quickly RSVP when Cortana asks if you’d like to accept the invitation or you can simply tap the new Accept or Decline touch targets. Don’t worry, Cortana lets you know if the invitation is for today, tomorrow, or a specific day so you don’t need to figure out which day of the week it is and since you won’t have line of sight to your calendar at that moment, Cortana also calls out if you have a conflict at that time. Once you’ve made your decision, Cortana responds on your behalf and updates the event host and your calendar according to your preference.
If you receive an email about an important issue, you may want to discuss before responding. Now you can ask Cortana to set up a meeting with the sender. Cortana finds the next available 30 minute time slot while being mindful of people’s location and time zones and asks you if you’d like to schedule it. To provide more insight about how the event fits in your day, Cortana informs you if you have meetings before or after the suggested time slot your Outlook Calendar. But if you prefer a different time, just suggest it and Cortana gives you the option to schedule it your way instead.
Convert an email into a meeting
One recommended best practice for working remotely is to schedule time for yourself too. Now you can simply ask to block time on your Calendar to focus on what matters; you and your well-being. While using Play My Emails you can say “Hey Cortana, block time on my calendar” … and Cortana will find time for you. Another way to focus on what you need to get through your day is to use Play My Emails to give you the flexibility of stepping away from your computer. You can stay connected to what’s new in your inbox while taking a much needed break. When you find yourself in back-to-back online meetings, simply pop in your favorite headset and take them on the move.
If you choose the new Surface Earbuds, you can use the touch surface to “tap and hold” and give voice commands such as “Flag this, reply, or skip to the next message” or you can simply navigate through your emails by swiping back or forth. Plus, when a Bluetooth connection with Surface Earbuds is detected, Outlook will help pair them with your phone to optimize for immersive sound and use the earbud microphones for exceptional voice recognition.
There may be times that you use this blocked time to juggle personal responsibilities during the workday and sometimes that can mean you’ll be late for your next meeting. Play My Emails can help you manage your commitments in a professional way by providing you with the option to send a message that you’re running late. To help you be on time however, we are rolling out the option for you to quickly join a Teams Meeting if it’s in progress or within a minute from the start of the meeting. Cortana will ask you if you’d like to join so you can do that hands-free or you can simply tap the Teams touch target to join.
Keeping it all together is challenging at the best of times. But these are extraordinary times so getting a little assistance to stay organized may help. Outlook makes it easier to get things done when you hear about a task from your email that you'll need to address. You can flag emails in Play My Emails or your Outlook inbox to add them as tasks in Microsoft 365 which syncs with your To Do app. Now you can also create tasks from specific emails by asking Cortana to add the email to your tasks list. This way you can manage your tasks in To Do when it’s more convenient or view your top 3 tasks from To Do on your proactive Search page in Outlook for iOS and other Outlook experiences.
Convert an email into a new task
Since the November launch, we learned from customers that using Play My Emails to quickly reply to emails with your voice is a great way to triage your inbox but sometimes it’s hard to dictate replies clearly on the first go. We’ve added the ability to edit your reply – now you can ask Cortana to try to dictate your response again rather than save it as a draft email to address later. Additionally, once you’re happy with your response, you can take further action on the email you’ve just responded to, such as Archive or Delete, to complete your work.
With many stores still closed, online shopping has increased. If you receive emails about upcoming package deliveries or bill payments, Play My Emails will readout the confirmation or reminder emails to help you stay on top of what’s due.
You can also catch up on emails about recent activity related to documents you are collaborating on – if your colleagues add comments to your document or assign you a task with @mention, Cortana will let you know. Similarly, Teams activity notifications are also read out so you don’t miss what’s going on within a Teams Channel and Chat.
Lastly, and just a reminder, you can set up a Siri shortcut to start Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS. This way when you see an email notification or calendar reminder on the lock screen of your iPhone, you can simply ask Siri to “Read me my emails” so you can catch up with what’s new in your inbox any time.
We’ve already released several of these task and time management updates in Play My Emails in Outlook for iOS and should complete the rollout of all the capabilities mentioned here to customers in the United States in next couple of weeks. And while we don’t yet have a timeline to share when we can extend Play My Emails to customers in other countries, we are pleased to confirm that we will start to add Play My Emails in Outlook for Android in the coming weeks too.
Please let us know what you think about these updates here in Microsoft Tech Community or continue to provide feedback in Settings > Help and Feedback in Outlook for iOS or at Outlook.uservoice.com. And thanks.
A: At this time, Cortana reads out only the new emails you received in the last 24 hours and schedule changes. Very soon you will be able to catch up on unread Emails from the last 72 hours.
A: You can reply to the calendar invitation with a quick response that you’d prefer a different time to meet.
A: No, the Siri shortcut for opens Outlook for iOS and activates Play My Emails. You can learn about Cortana, your personal productivity assistant, in Office 365 here. Cortana in Office 365 meets the same enterprise-level privacy, security, and compliance promises as reflected in the Online Services Terms (OST).
4. If I schedule a meeting in response to an email, will it be set up as an online meeting?
A: Yes, if your organization has selected a preferred online meeting provider such as Teams, then Cortana will make it a Teams Meeting and include the details necessary for participants to join.
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