Microsoft's Email Insights finally adds some useful search smarts to Outlook

You have to wonder why Microsoft couldn't have done this earlier.

Email Insights, a new experimental app from the Microsoft Garage, is the answer to a problem Google’s Gmail solved more than a decade ago: how to search Outlook and find exactly what you want.

Google’s Gmail gained enormous traction in part because it allowed a quick, convenient way to search emails. Today, you can search Outlook, but it arranges the results in order with no real preference given to what might be most relevant. 

Email Insights works with both your Microsoft Outlook desktop application as well as Gmail, and attempts to bring the three most relevant results to the top of your inbox via an “intent pane.” The tool also provides contextual autocomplete, spelling correction and a fuzzy name search that will pull up the name of a contact, even if you’re not entirely sure how to spell it.

email insights intent pane Microsoft

The “intent pane” within Email Insights brings up relevant search results to the top of your inbox.

Users can open tabs within Email Insights to perform multiple searches. The search box can also be used to fire off a quick, one-line email to a contact, or even set up a quick meeting—functions that are becoming more common in the notifications window within smartphones.

If you’d like, you can even “detach” the Email Insights toolbar from Outlook itself and drag it down to your taskbar, Microsoft said.

Why this matters: Let’s face it: Gmail is still easier to use than Outlook, at least where everyday email searches are concerned. If Email Insights proves as useful as it sounds, maybe Outlook will incorporate it into a future release. The problem, though, is that this app is being published via Microsoft Garage, Microsoft’s online home for app experiments. If you like Email Insights, encourage others to download it, too. Otherwise, Microsoft could kill it, as it recently did with Cache, its erstwhile Google Keep killer.

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Mark Hachman

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