There are two components in any communication: the information shared and the people you are sharing with. Understanding your audience—the people you are sending to—is particularly important in business settings. Today, we are announcing several enhancements in Outlook on the web to help Office 365 customers better understand the people they are communicating with. In addition, we reduced the number of clicks to present the most relevant information at a glance. Powered by the Microsoft Graph, these changes allow you to quickly create more personalized and impactful communications.
A better understanding of people and how to reach them quickly
Many users associate people in Outlook with contact management—storing information such as a person’s phone number and email address. And while knowing how to contact someone is important, having a full understanding of who someone is—how you relate to them and how to quickly reach them—is critical.
With that in mind, we updated Contact Cards to provide a “no-click” way to access common communication actions, as well as provide the ability to see who someone is and how you know them. When in Mail or Calendar, simply hover your mouse over an individual’s name to bring up their Contact Card. The Contact Card allows you to quickly email, IM, call or create a calendar appointment. In addition, you will also see the person’s job title, who they report to, as well as a recent email. This makes it easy to quickly place the person in context—both within your organization as well as within your interactions.
Contact Cards provide actions and context at a glance.
While Contact Cards provide a snapshot of information, the new Contact pane offers a deeper view of someone. Click a name—be it in the Mail, Calendar or People view—and the Contact pane slides into view. The first section of the Contact pane has the same communication actions as the Contact Card, but also includes contact information related to those actions. In addition, you’ll see key information such as their team, title and office number.
Scrolling down, you’ll see their reporting structure—including the option to click through to their full organization chart. You’ll also be able to see who they commonly work with as well as the Office 365 Groups they belong to.
The final section of the Contact pane provides a rich collection of information previously shared between the two of you. So, when preparing for your next meeting or replying to an email, the Contact pane allows you to fully understand where a person is within your organization, the projects and people they work with, as well as the specific emails and files you have exchanged with one another. And because the Contact pane slides out in your existing Outlook window, you are able to maintain the flow of your work without managing pop-ups and tabs.
The Contact pane unlocks people intelligence through the Microsoft Graph
Improved search—finding the right person means finding the relevant person
In late 2015, we announced significant changes to Outlook on the web’s ability to understand the people most relevant to you when composing an email or calendar invites. We expanded this same intelligence to the search box in the Mail, Calendar and People modules. For example, if you frequently communicate with Sarah Davis, typing an “S” or “D” in the search box will bring up her name first—even if her name is not alphabetically first in your company’s directory. Outlook knows Sarah is likely the person you are searching for as she is the most relevant person to you based on your communications, collaborations and business relationship.
In addition, we extended “fuzzy name” matching to Outlook search to catch common variations in how names are spelled. For example, an Outlook search for “John” will also will bring up “Jon” or “Katheryn” in addition to “Catherine.” With relevancy-based search and fuzzy matching, Outlook ends the overload of searching through your company’s full directory and bubbles up the people you are most likely searching for.
New contact lists allow you to view people by the way you interact
Finally, we made several enhancements within the main People section itself. The biggest change is the addition of a new “Featured People” section that contains smart lists. Smart lists allow you to view people by the way you interact with them in Outlook—such as in email or shared meetings. Many of the lists are dynamic, which means the people in the list change as your interactions evolve over time. The smart lists include:
- Frequently contacted—This list analyzes the strongest signals coming across all of Outlook to understand who you work with the most. It takes into account your communication, collaboration and business relationships.
- On your calendar—List of the people found in your upcoming calendar appointments that day, which is extremely helpful when preparing for meetings. You can click through to the specific meeting to see who is attending, as well as drill down on any individual via the Contact pane.
- For follow-up—List of the people who recently sent you email that might require your action. It is a good way to get an overview of who is writing you, what they are writing about and whether you have multiple follow-up items from the same person.
- Favorites—The Favorites list is one you manage yourself. Similar to Skype favorites, you can add or remove people on your Favorites list for quick and easy access to the latest communication you’ve had with them—for people both inside and outside your organization.
If you’re a fan of a particular smart list, you can choose to “pin” so it opens by default when you switch to the People view. If the traditional Contacts list is more to your liking, you can choose it as your default instead.
Smart lists provide quick access to people based on how you interact with them.
In addition to smart lists, we improved the way we display your contacts so that you see the most relevant information at a glance such as the person’s name, email address, job title and office number. Clicking a name will bring up the Contact pane for more detailed information. These changes apply to your personal contacts, as well as people in your company directory.
Contact lists now provide information at a glance.
Share your feedback
Outlook is a customer-obsessed organization. If you have feedback or ideas you would like to share, please let us know via UserVoice.
Frequently asked questions
Q. When will these features roll out?
A. We are actively rolling these features out to our Office 365 First Release customers and will start rolling out worldwide in the coming weeks.
Q. What Office 365 subscriptions are eligible?
A. The features are available to all Office 365 commercial subscriptions that include Outlook on the web, including Business, Enterprise and EDU plans.
Q. Do the new improvements to the people experience expose any personal information about coworkers?
A. No. These enhancements to the user experience and added capabilities only present information already available in the company directory, Delve and Outlook. We are not providing additional information on coworkers or private information outside of the work environment. We are surfacing relevant business information already available but with fewer clicks and a more efficient layout.
Q. Will these features be coming to other Office 365 products including Outlook for desktop?
A. Yes. The changes announced today represent the first wave of enhancements to the people experience in Office 365. Over the coming months, we will be rolling out related improvements across numerous Office products and services including Outlook on the desktop.
Q. Will these features be coming to Outlook.com users?
A. The changes coming to the people experience are designed for productivity gains in commercial environments. We will continue to invest in improving people experiences for Outlook.com users, though they will not necessarily mirror the changes described here.