Microsoft has a new update for its Outlook mobile app that targets users who prefer speaking rather than typing when it comes to getting things done. The update brings Cortana to the app in a big way, enabling users to ask questions about their agenda, schedule meetings, and other tasks, as well as using voice to search through their emails and related content. The update is only available on iOS for now, however.
Microsoft gave up on bringing Cortana to the general smart consumer market, which is largely dominated by Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. The company shuttered its Cortana apps for Android and iOS, but the virtual assistant lives on and Microsoft intends to use it for productivity as part of its products. Outlook on mobile is the latest example of this effort.
With the update, Outlook on iOS now features a Cortana-powered voice control feature that allows users to schedule meetings, compose emails, and search their content using ordinary voice commands. The functionality is accessible via a plus sign in the bottom right corner of the app that, when pressed, includes a new entry called ‘Use Voice.’
After selecting this, the user can dictate a message for Cortana to type in an email draft, ask Cortana to find their next meeting or scheduled activity, or look for content. The voice search capability covers things like looking for things in one’s calendar, locating a coworker who is in one’s contacts, or searching for files that may be nestled away in old emails.
The ability to use voice commands on mobile rather than just desktop is particularly welcome given how often professionals default to their mobile device rather than their laptop. Microsoft is only rolling the feature out for its Outlook on iOS app at this time, but it has said that the same functionality will arrive on Android in the future.
At Microsoft’s annual Build developer conference, Microsoft talked about some upcoming updates for Outlook, its popular email solution. There are two new features coming soon: Organization Explorer and message extensions in Outlook for the web.
Organization Explorer is a new embedded app for Outlook that will be coming this summer. It’s goal is to help you find co-workers or teams with similar skills as your own so you can collaborate together.
Microsoft says this app comes at a time when businesses have become more distributed, making this task a challenge. With the app, you can visually search across your company to explore colleagues and teams and identify skills to help you complete your work.
The new Organization Explorer option is available to Office Insiders in the Beta channel running version 14101 or later. Not everyone will see it right away, though, as Microsoft is planning to slowly release it to a larger number of Insiders over time. The feature will come to non-insiders once beta testing is complete.
Message extensions in Outlook for the web, meanwhile, is more of a feature for developers with the aim of making your email process easier. With the support for message extensions in Outlook.com, developers should see a unified experience across both Teams and Outlook on the web.
For you, this means that when you go to compose a message, you’ll see a new menu of search-based extensions to choose from. You might be able to compose an email, then use a message extension that pulls tasks from your Teams apps, and then send that out to your teammates.
A final change that you’re not likely to directly notice in Outlook is a developer-centric one that relates to Teams. Microsoft announced that developers can now build one “Adaptive Card” and use it across Teams and Outlook with one universal action model. This means developers can share user interface data so that their experiences are more consistent across both Teams and Outlook.
This is a change from the past, where developers had to build two separate Adaptive Card integrations for Outlook and Teams. Basically, Outlook and Teams apps should be more concise and in line with each other.
Build 2021 is still underway, and it’s expected to come with additional announcements surrounding Teams, Windows 10, and the rest of Microsoft 365. Check out our dedicated Build page for all the latest from the virtual developer event.
Microsoft has confirmed that Outlook for desktop and Microsoft 365 is experiencing an issue where email text is disappearing from the display as it’s being typed. Also, there have been numerous reports of Outlook users receiving emails with no text in the message space.
The computer giant says it’s now working on a fix that should become available at around 9 p.m. PT on Tuesday, May 11.
“Users will need to restart the Outlook client to apply the fix after it’s received,” Microsoft said in a tweet. In a message on its service status page, it added, “In some circumstances, users may need to restart their client a second time for the changes to take effect.”
It also said that Outlook for web and mobile appears to be unaffected, suggesting both options as a workaround until the fix is rolled out. However, some users have disputed Microsoft’s claim that the system is working fine for web users, though it appears that Google’s Chrome browser may offer a better chance of success than Microsoft’s Edge alternative.
We’ve identified the root cause and are applying a fix, which will reach affected users over the next 3 to 4 hours. Users will need to restart the Outlook client to apply the fix after it's received. We expect to restore service to affected users by May 12, 2021, at 3:00 AM UTC.
The issue, which is affecting users globally, started earlier today and appears to be linked to the rollout of a Microsoft 365 update that went out earlier on Wednesday.
One Massachusetts-based user posted a video on Twitter that shows exactly what’s happening:
If you are using Outlook for desktop, you're having this issue too, probably. I just spent an hour trying to figure out why the hell my text was disappearing when I hit enter, only to discover it is a widespread problem today. pic.twitter.com/OZyoz8ZmVJ
Others hit the social media platform to voice their annoyance at the issue, with some concerned about how it could affect their work schedules:
Can't believe I've spent the last two hours trying to figure out this issue, reinstalling three times and even thinking of reinstalling the whole system. I have a team meeting tomorrow. Thanks a lot.
How about you move your users to some isolated servers first, then update and test and then move the users to known good production servers. Never test your poorly written software on production servers. If we had an alternative to 365 we would recommend it to our clients.
Maybe you impulsively sent a mean email to someone. Or, maybe you sent a work email and just forgot to attach a document that your co-workers need.
If you want a way to take it back, you’re in luck — if you’re using Outlook, that is. That’s because Microsoft’s email client has a built-in solution for situations like this: The option to recall emails. An email recall can stop a recipient from seeing an incomplete, angry, or otherwise bad email you sent. Follow the instructions below if you want to recall an email in Outlook. If you also want to know how to delay your emails in Outlook (to prevent accidentally sending out such emails in the future), scroll past the recall instructions to view a guide on how to do just that.
Note: These instructions won’t work with the web-based version of Outlook — they only apply to the desktop client. Also, they only work if you and the recipient use a Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft 365 account within the same organization. Recalls in Outlook won’t work with recipient email addresses from outside of the sender’s organization.
How to recall Outlook emails
Step 1: Open your Sent Items folder and look for the email you want to recall — it should be at the top of the list. You have to double-click on this email to fully open it before moving to the next step.
Step 2: Click the Message tab on the toolbar to make it active. Next, navigate to the Move section and click the More Move Actions button designated with a letter and an envelope, as shown below.
Step 3: Click the Recall This Message option on the drop-down list. (If your interface is the Simplified version of the ribbon, do the following: Select the Message tab, choose the three-dots icon, select Actions, and then choose Recall This Message.)
Step 4: A pop-up window appears on your screen. Here, you have two options: Delete Unread Copies of This Message or Delete Unread Copies and Replace With a New Message. You’ll also see an option to have Outlook notify you if the process succeeds or fails.
Select your option(s) and click the OK button to continue.
If you deleted the message, congratulations! If you want to replace it, continue on to step 5.
Step 5: If you choose to create a replacement, Outlook opens a second screen so you can revise the message. As you compose your new email, Outlook recalls your old message and displays a notification (if you selected that option). Just click the Send button when you’re done with the revised message.
Note: If you send a recall message, it doesn’t exactly make your old email disappear. In order to have the original message disappear, the recipient may need to open the recall message first. This is why you should type “URGENT” or something similar in the recall message’s title so that it’s opened before the first offensive email. Continue on for a lengthier explanation. Microsoft also states that, in some cases, the recipient may be notified when recalled messages are deleted from their inbox. So, bear in mind that even when recalling an email, the recipient may still know that a botched or offensive message had been sent to them even if they can’t view it.
Why email recall doesn’t always work
While it sounds pretty simple, recalling an email won’t always work the way you think. With today’s internet speeds (unless you live in a dead zone), that mistaken email is probably already waiting in someone’s inbox, which creates several issues. A few different factors will mess with your attempts to recall an email. Here are some of the things that might thwart your efforts or add complications.
Opened messages: If a recipient opens your original email, you can’t recall it. The recipient can still get and read the second recall message, but the original stays in their Outlook inbox. That’s one reason why you should act quickly.
Redirects to other folders: If your first message activated a filter and Outlook rerouted it to a specific folder, then your recall will fail. The recall option only affects emails that remain in the inbox. If the first message waits elsewhere, it won’t go away.
Public folders: If anyone reads your message lurking in a public folder, the recall fails.
Other email clients: The recall function works with Outlook. If you send an email to someone who uses Gmail, for example, the recall won’t work.
Again, recalls aren’t foolproof, and your attempts may get frustrated by factors you can’t control. If you find you’re attempting recalls that don’t go through, consider these two other steps:
Solution 1: Type out an apologetic email. Besides double-checking to ensure your emails are sent to the correct people, this is probably the most straightforward solution to the issue. If you happen to accidentally send an email to the wrong recipient or group of recipients and it wasn’t overly scandalous, then just save some time and effort by owning up to your mistake and saying you’re sorry. An honest apology usually goes over well and may even build trust with the recipients. Then you can all move on.
Solution 2: Delay your emails, so they don’t send immediately. If you’re constantly replying to emails, sending private data back and forth, or are just prone to slip-ups, you might want to start delaying your emails. You can easily set this up for all your Outlook emails by following these simple instructions:
Step 1: Select File in the upper-left corner of Outlook.
Step 2: Scroll down a bit and click Manage Rules & Alerts.
Step 3: The Rules and Alerts window will pop up on your screen. From here, select the New Rule option.
Step 4: Another pop-up window will appear. Here, click Apply Rule on Messages I Send. You’ll notice that this is listed underneath Start From a Blank Rule. Hit the Next button to continue.
Step 5: Don’t worry about anything else on the conditions list and click Next to continue. After this, a confirmation screen will appear. Select Yes to confirm.
Step 6: Select the Defer Delivery By a Number of Minutes option. Choose the A Number of link. You’ll see a pop-up screen appear and ask you to choose your preferred duration. Input the number you want (120 minutes is as far as you can go) and then click the OK button. Once you’ve gone through all that, click Next.
Step 7: If you have any exceptions, select the exceptions options you want. Then, click the Next button to continue.
Step 8: Give your rule a name, and check the Turn On This Rule checkbox if it’s available. Finally, hit the Finish button.
If all of these Outlook steps are just too overwhelming, you can also use a disposable address.
Microsoft has developed a new image-captioning algorithm that exceeds human accuracy in certain limited tests. The AI system has been used to update the company’s assistant app for the visually impaired, Seeing AI, and will soon be incorporated into other Microsoft products like Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint. There, it will be used for tasks like creating alt-text for images — a function that’s particularly important for increasing accessibility.
“Ideally, everyone would include alt text for all images in documents, on the web, in social media — as this enables people who are blind to access the content and participate in the conversation,” said Saqib Shaikh, a software engineering manager with Microsoft’s AI team in a press statement. “But, alas, people don’t. So, there are several apps that use image captioning as way to fill in alt text when it’s missing.”
These apps include Microsoft’s own Seeing AI, which the company first released in 2017. Seeing AI uses computer vision to describe the world as seen through a smartphone camera for the visually impaired. It can identify household items, read and scan text, describe scenes, and even identify friends. It can also be used to describe images in other apps, including email clients, social media apps, and messaging apps like WhatsApp.
Microsoft does not disclose user numbers for Seeing AI, but Eric Boyd, corporate vice president of Azure AI, told The Verge the software is “one of the leading apps for people who are blind or have low vision.” Seeing AI has been voted best app or best assistive app three years in a row by AppleVis, a community of blind and low-vision iOS users.
Microsoft’s new image-captioning algorithm will improve the performance of Seeing AI significantly, as it’s able to not only identify objects but also more precisely describe the relationship between them. So, the algorithm can look at a picture and not just say what items and objects it contains (e.g., “a person, a chair, an accordion”) but how they are interacting (e.g., “a person is sitting on a chair and playing an accordion”). Microsoft says the algorithm is twice as good as its previous image-captioning system, in use since 2015.
The nocaps benchmark consists of more than 166,000 human-generated captions describing some 15,100 images taken from the Open Images Dataset. These images span a range of scenarios, from sports to holiday snaps to food photography and more. (You can get an idea of the mixture of images and captions by exploring the nocaps dataset here or looking at the gallery below.) Algorithms are tested on their ability to create captions for these pictures that match those from humans.
It’s important to note, though, that the nocaps benchmarks capture only a tiny sliver of the complexity of image captioning as a general task. Although Microsoft claims in a press release that its new algorithm “describes images as well as people do,” this is only true insomuch as it applies to a very small subset of images contained within nocaps.
As Harsh Agrawal, one of the creators of the benchmark, told The Verge over email: “Surpassing human performance on nocaps is not an indicator that image captioning is a solved problem.” Argawal noted that the metrics used to evaluate performance on nocaps “only roughly correlate with human preferences” and that the benchmark itself “only covers a small percentage of all the possible visual concepts.”
“As with most benchmarks, [the] nocaps benchmark is only a rough indicator of the models’ performance on the task,” said Argawal. “Surpassing human performance on nocaps by no means indicates that AI systems surpass humans on image comprehension.”
This problem — assuming that performance on a specific benchmark can be extrapolated as performance on the underlying task more generally — is a common one when it comes to exaggerating the ability of AI. Indeed, Microsoft has been criticized by researchers in the past for making similar claims about its algorithms’ ability to comprehend the written word.
Nevertheless, image captioning is a task that has seen huge improvements in recent years thanks to artificial intelligence, and Microsoft’s algorithms are certainly state-of-the-art. In addition to being integrated into Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint, the image-captioning AI will also be available as a standalone model via Microsoft’s cloud and AI platform Azure.
If you’re like most computer users, you probably created your email account years ago and haven’t updated your login info since. Most email services like Outlook don’t require you to update it, so most people don’t bother to make changes unless there’s a security concern.
It’s important to know that changing your Outlook password on a semi-regular basis can protect your information more effectively. Even if you don’t want to change your info frequently, knowing how to do it is essential. Here are the steps you need to follow.
Change your Outlook.com password
Changing your password in the Outlook desktop client doesn’t change your email provider password. If you’re using an Apple, Yahoo, or Gmail email in Outlook, follow our guides on how to change your password with those services, then skip to the section directly below to learn how to alter your credentials in the Outlook app itself. Other email providers will require you to visit their respective websites to change your credentials there.
If you’re using an Outlook email address, follow the steps below.
The next page will ask you to confirm your current password again and input your new password. Choose something unique, secure, and long — mixing numbers, special characters, and both lowercase and uppercase letters — and input it twice as requested. Then hit the blue Save button.
And that’s it! You’ve changed your Outlook.com password. If you’re using the Outlook email client, read the next section to learn how to alter your password there.
Change your Outlook client password
If you’ve changed your password with your email provider and you want to make sure that your Outlook email client knows it, follow these steps below to change it.
Note: If you are using an email account other than Outlook, you will need your app password. You can get help finding or generating those at the respective pages for Yahoo, Gmail, and Apple.
Step 1: Open Outlook’s account settings
Launch the Outlook application. When it’s loaded, select File in the top menu, followed by Account Settings, and then Account Settings again in the drop-down menu.
Step 2: Change your password
If you have an Office 365 subscription that gives you semiannual updates or a stand-alone version of the Outlook client, select the email address you want to change, click Change, and type in your new password in the respective fields. Then click Finish.
According to Microsoft, if you have a monthly update subscription for Office 365, you should instead choose File > Account Settings > Update Password. Change your password and click OK.
Step 3: Make sure it works
The last and most important duty of this whole process is testing out your new password to ensure that you’ve successfully changed it. You’ll have to close out any open window and then launch Outlook once more to verify the change. Click on the Send/Receive button to see if all your emails showed up. If they’re all there, then your password change was successful.
In many cases, the cause of barred access to your email account is simply an incorrect password entry.
Gmail, Yahoo, and Apple may require you to enter via an app password service instead of a conventional password login page. Click these links for Yahoo, Gmail, and Apple for more information.