Windows 8 Mail, People, Calendar apps get minor (but welcome) updates

Windows 8 Mail, People, Calendar apps get minor (but welcome) updates

Summary: The half-baked communication apps in Windows 8 and RT have been an object of derision since the OS was released nearly six months ago. A new update promises improvements in performance, reliability, and usability. But temper your expectations.

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TOPICS: Windows 8
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“Wait till version 3.”

That’s the conventional wisdom for working with any Microsoft software. And apparently it’s still good advice, even in the age of Windows 8 and the Windows Store.

Sometime tonight, Microsoft will release a long-awaited update to its unified communications app for Windows 8. The new release brings a slew of much-needed features to the modern (nee Metro) Mail, People, Calendar, and Messaging apps.

But make no mistake about it. This is version 2, not version 3. And that means the improvements, while welcome, are incremental and less than the wholesale rewrites some critics have been hoping for.

Microsoft gave me a brief sneak peek at the new first-party apps last week, although I have to wait, like everyone else, for the updates to arrive in the Windows Store. Here’s what you can expect.

The improvements for the Mail app flesh out some features that felt underserved in the current app, which was released nearly six months ago. In addition to general performance and reliability improvements, the revamped Mail app has a number of desperately needed usability improvements.

Most noteworthy is a “filter by unread” option, which allows you to hide read messages and see only newly received mail. That feature should have been in v1, but it’s a welcome addition to v2.

Mail_unread

In addition, the new Mail app includes options that make it easier to create, rename, and delete folders, as well as better tools for flagging messages, viewing all flagged messages, and marking messages as junk mail.

Composing a new message is a bit easier, with a smarter algorithm for suggesting frequent contacts as well as improvements in the message editor to make it easier to add hyperlinks, edit bulleted/numbered lists, and paste in new content.

The Search capability is smarter, looking for mail in the local store first and then automatically searching for mail on the server.

If you use Exchange Server, you’ll find a few new features in the Windows 8/RT client, including explicit support for rights management features that allow you to prevent a sensitive message from being forwarded or printed.

Gmail users, on the other hand, get nothing new. In the wake of Google’s decision to drop support for Exchange ActiveSync, Microsoft redesigned the Mail setup routine so that it connects to Gmail accounts using IMAP only. The option to sync Calendar and Contacts was available to all Gmail users until Google petulantly removed EAS support in January. The new version prevents unfortunate error messages when attempting to connect a Google account to the Windows 8 Mail app.

The Calendar and People apps, which are tightly tied to Mail, also get updates designed to make the overall experience more manageable. One welcome change adds a “work week” view, similar to what you see in the desktop Outlook program.

Calendar_work week

Exchange users can check the availability of meeting attendees, forward meeting invitations, and send mail to everyone on the attendee list for a specific meeting. You’ll also find more options for recurring meetings and events. And the People app now connects directly to your Exchange global address list.

The improvements in the People app appear subtle but significant, at least if your life revolves around social media. You can filter your What’s new feed by social network, post to a friend’s Facebook wall, and navigate to different sections more easily.

The fourth app in the communications group, Messaging, is basically unchanged, with only minor performance and reliability improvements on tap. That’s not surprising, given Microsoft’s decision to move messaging features into Skype and Lync.

The updated app will be delivered through the Windows Store. An indicator on the Store's tile or in the upper right corner of the store itself will alert you that it's ready to be installed. As with all apps from the Windows Store, there's no option to download it separately.

All told, these are welcome improvements that should smooth some of the very rough edges of the current v1 communication apps. But these aren’t the sweeping fixes you’ve been asking for.

For those, you’ll have to wait till version 3.

Topic: Windows 8

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33 comments
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  • Need more

    I was really hoping for POP support, collapsible folders, DL and Group creations and lots more. This is a bit disappointing and can only hope Blue delivers more.
    terrygore@...
    • ?

      POP3 support was always there!

      IMAP was not available which has become available now. The folder creation and search on Gmail has become possible using IMAP.
      wmac1
      • pop not supported

        http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/pop-email-accounts states that pop is not supported.
        M Reed
    • Blue isn't the answer to everything

      The mail app has nothing to do with the version of the operating system. This isn't like iOS where the mail app is an inseparable part of the operating system, it's just an app from the store that a lot of people happen to use. You're welcome to uninstall it and replace it with a different app from a different developer if you want, or you can wait for Microsoft to make more enhancements which have nothing to do with OS releases.
      chefgon
      • OS releases do include enhancements

        From another ZDnet article:

        "By all indications, Windows Blue will be an enhancements and refinement release"
        RpDnn
  • Windows 8 Mail, People, Calendar apps get minor (but welcome) updates

    Cool! Just like you I'm eager to get these updated apps as well. Good changes to the Mail app. Looking forward to an Xbox music update whenever they release it.

    Kudos Microsoft team!
    Loverock-Davidson
    • Loverock Davidson Microsoft is Finally rolling out some Windows 8 core app

      That's really good for those that are stuck using Windows 8 apps.
      Over and Out
  • links in an email

    Clicking on a link in an email doesn't work for me in Mail. Will this upgrade fix that?
    lesterbauman
    • links

      Update gives support for HTML links.
      Saxwulf
  • Still can't clear deleted items or junk mail?

    I pin Outlook.com to my home screen so I rarely use the terrible built-in app. For someone like me that likes to clear out the old crap every few days from junk and deleted items, this app simply does not work. Just ridiculous.
    kstap
    • folder management

      Update gives you the ability to empty a folder. Also ability to rename or delete entire folder.
      Saxwulf
    • You can clear out deleted items (without the update)

      Go to the folder you want to manage, click in the email(s) you want delete, hit the delete key.
      -or-
      Click on an email, press CTRL + A to highlight all the emails in the folder, hit the delete key. Cleans out everything in the folder.
      -or-
      Do either of the two above and use CTRL + left click to select/deselect individual emails until you have everything selected you want to delete. Press the delete key.

      It isn't the easiest of interfaces, but it gets the job done.
      Emacho
      • I should start logging fellow Windows users gripes for that "WHY?" moment.

        "It isn't the easiest of interfaces, but it gets the job done." Good reason to switch to 8.
        partman1969@...
  • wait till version 3

    These will be version 3.
    Saxwulf
  • Gmail EAS support

    Does this mean existing users will no longer be able to add a Google Calendar and Contacts?

    My understanding was Google EAS abandonment was only for new customers, so Windows 8 Mail still has a requirement to use EAS for existing customers.

    I've not removed my Google account from Windows 8 Mail/Calendar/People as it's working just fine, including Google Calendar.
    bradavon
    • Google keeps changing their mind

      They first said that they were moving to the more-open CardDAV and CalDAV protocols after Google Connect was destroyed, and Microsoft already agreed to support those, but it sounds like Google is already changing their mind again in favour of closed API's all over again. I don't see why they killed Google Connect, only to flip-flop like this. Gmail, like all of Google's other services, should be considered a beta because of this. No company should consider Gmail business-ready as a result.
      Joe_Raby
    • We shall see

      I haven't actually had a chance to use/test the new apps. So we'll see what happens.

      But Google appears to have torpedoed this feature pretty effectively.
      Ed Bott
  • Speed

    Is it supposed to any faster? Is there any on-screen feedback that a sync is in process? Those were my big complaints with V1. I guess you won't know until you can try it out.
    FDanconia
    • The work "Syncing" sometimes shows up in the upper right corner

      But it's extremely subtle and perhaps not always there. I know that if I want to force a sync, I keep pressing until either something shows up or I see that "syncing" message.

      At least it's not a modal dialog :-)
      Flydog57
  • Semi-related

    Is Yahoo going to improve their IMAP access at all? Their current support is just plain terrible. They only allow Sync/Folder operations once every 30 mins, and even then it seems that it just won't connect.

    I have a feeling they are doing this intentionally just to get people to use their webmail so that they get their ad revenue.
    Joe_Raby