Microsoft's new-look web Outlook takes on Gmail: Dark mode plus these new features

Microsoft Outlook on the web plays catch-up with Gmail with a new look and new features rolling out soon.

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Microsoft is rolling out its new-look version of Outlook on the web that plays a little catch-up with Gmail and aims to offer Google a better, more productive rival. 

The new Outlook on the web should deliver what Microsoft claims will be a "faster" and more "modern" experience for its users at work and home, and covers email and calendar. 

The company has been testing productivity-enhancing features like Categories and improved search for the past eight months with users who opted in to the new Outlook. It's now ready to deliver that revamp to all its "millions of" users. 

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Categories could be a nifty feature that adds visibly distinctive tags to email notifications in the inbox message list. Users can add multiple categories to a message and also label it as a favorite, as well as use search to find messages in that group. 

How useful it will be depends on how much work the user is willing to put into categorizing their email, which in my test required manually tagging each individual email and those tags didn't carry across to all messages from the same sender.

Of course, Microsoft had to add dark mode to Outlook on the web and emojis too. Within an email there's a sun icon next to the reply button that lets users "turn the lights on" within individual messages. 

And there's a new snooze option, bringing Outlook in line with the Gmail snooze function Google introduced in 2018. As the name suggests, users can elect to postpone a message and it will reappear as an unread message. 

The Outlook calendar now gives an overview of upcoming events in the month view, while users at work get a faster way to create online meetings. The dropdown menu for 'Add online meeting' lets users choose between a Skype meeting or one using Microsoft's Slack killer, Teams. 

Users can also see other attendees' responses to meetings with a new summary in the event peek and in the invite itself. 

Microsoft has also bundled in a new version of Tasks that syncs tasks with To-Do. When users flag an email it automatically gets added to the To-Do list. 

Microsoft says the new Outlook on the web will start rolling out in late July, but users might not see the features if organizations have blocked it. 

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As well as distinctive tags to email notifications in the inbox message list, users also get dark mode in Outlook on the web.

Image: Microsoft

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