back to article Microsoft rethinks death sentence for Windows Mail and Calendar apps

Microsoft intends to shut down its at-times-maligned Mail and Calendar apps, fold their capabilities into a new Outlook for Windows, and use the opportunity to – unsurprisingly – bring in more AI. However, when this will happen is now in flux. In a note earlier this month, Microsoft said Windows 11 devices shipped next year …

  1. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge
    Black Helicopters

    Think of the users, and not just corporates

    There's a whole raft of users out there, outside the corporates who are pretty much stuck with Outlook and Exchange. Those users want something nice and simple that just reads their mail and send photos to their relatives. Outlook is way overpowered for that, before you even get to whatever the hell AI snake oil Microsoft execs want to paint it with. What is this AI going to do for these users anyway? Automatically tell spammers to go forth? Help, clippy-style, write a snotty letter to their ISP/MP/utility company? Can't someone just make a really simple mail client that just follows the IETF docs and be done with it? It's enough to make you reach for your very expensive Mac with the perfectly simple mail client. Steve got that one right.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Think of the users, and not just corporates

      Einstein's dictum: everything should be as simple as possible but no simpler.

      The problem arises when your nice simple interface suddenly fails you when you want it to do something outside its simple features. The "just reads your mail and sends photos to your relatives" might then not be up to it when you're suddenly trying to organise a family wedding, a house move and a holiday all at the same time. At that point you realise that multiple folders with nesting, proper threading of messages and maybe a search function would actually be easier to use than the nice simple interface.

      1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: Think of the users, and not just corporates

        "proper threading of messages"

        So, not Outlook then.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Think of the users, and not just corporates

          I wouldn't know. I haven't used it for nearly 20 years & then it was at a client site.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Think of the users, and not just corporates

        "The problem arises when your nice simple interface suddenly fails you when you want it to do something outside its simple features. The "just reads your mail and sends photos to your relatives" might then not be up to it when you're suddenly trying to organise a family wedding, a house move and a holiday all at the same time. At that point you realise that multiple folders with nesting, proper threading of messages and maybe a search function would actually be easier to use than the nice simple interface."

        So Apple's native Mail app isn't quite so simple, as it manages all that if you want it to (though you don't have to use all that if you want it simple). I recall when MS introduced Outlook and removed its simple mail app of the time, I was annoyed - I liked the simple approach with separate apps for separate tasks. After a year or so, I got used to Outlook's integrated approach and liked it - just one app that let me link the various functions (mail, calendar, addresses and tasks) together. Heck, I even paid for an app to do something similar on my Palm PDA. Then, when the iPhone arrived and was able to join up hardware (for travelling, one iPhone and charger replacing a Nokia and charger, Palm PDA and charger, iPod and charger, GPS and charger) I tried it. But I had to revert to separate apps for mail, calendars, etc. I looked for an app that would link them back into one; back then, no luck, so I got used to the separate functions. As the OS got smarter, it's returned a good degree of integration and I now like having these functions separated. Apple's Calendar is good (for my uses) at being a calendar; Contacts is good as my address book; Mail does all I need for email (other than a few accounts where the Exchange login settings mean I need to use Outlook - those accounts have forwarding set so I can still use Mail's single inbox - I only need to fire up Outlook if I need to send from one of the Exchange addresses).

        I have thought about switching my mail over to Outlook, since it would handle all my accounts, but I'd then lose the simplicity of Mail (and it's own integration with Calendar and Contacts apps (on my MacBook, iPhone and iPad). I'd also need to switch my wife over to Outlook in order to share - and one great bonus I found when she moved from Windows and Android to Apple was the regular calls to sort out a problem disappeared.

        I help run digital skills workshops and drop-ins for the older folk in our county: whilst Windows predominates the laptop population, it's fairly even between Android and iOS with phones - but only a small percentage of phone help is in relation to the latter (and those tend more to be in relation to contract/SIM issues). My biggest issue is with family members who give an elderly relative a device (sometimes a cast-off, sometimes new) and then expect them to know how to use it. Millennials have grown up with the technology but boomers (and before) didn't and, for some, this is their first real hands-on exposure. At least Apple kit is fairly consistent in approach; not perfect but, in general, once explained for one context the skills transfer to far more. It's most noticeable when family decide to upgrade their elderly relative: iPhone 6S to iPhone 11 is not to great a difference (and the changes generally make things simpler); change from a Pixel to Samsung (or even a newer Android from the same family) and it starts to confuse (not a problem if you're comfortable with the tech, as people here are, but a different matter for an 80yo).

        If my business was in domestic IT support, I'd despise Apple as it would all but kill demand :)

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: Think of the users, and not just corporates

          More or less sums up my views too. Mac mail is quite simple in basic use but it's quite powerful under the bonnet even without scripting. The thing I miss in the Apple suite is a decent ToDo app that's integrated with Mail and Calendar. Outlook for Mac or Outlook on Parallels circa 2008 had pretty decent integration (I used both and can't remember which one). The most integrated was Lotus notes which I used at work for a few years either side of the turn of the century and I remember it with a fondness that doesn't seem to be replicated by any one else I've ever met.

          I transitioned to Mac native apps about a dozen years ago and I've written scripts to get to a place I can live with in terms of making Reminders, Mail and Calendar work together, but Reminders is a useless pig of an app on the Mac that's barely useable for shopping lists and every refresh makes it more iOS-focused and less useable on the Mac.

      3. LionelB Silver badge

        Re: Think of the users, and not just corporates

        > At that point you realise that multiple folders with nesting, proper threading of messages and maybe a search function

        Errm, so Thunderbird (or your favourite IMAP client), then?

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Think of the users, and not just corporates

      Maybe the AI will be attached to that feature they introduced about two years ago which started predicting my sentences, at least in English. It would generally recommend about three words to continue my sentence. I couldn't tell whether it was trained on other emails I sent or not, because it would accurately predict what I was going for when the sentence was pretty basic, but those sentences were also the ones I was most likely to have typed many times already. One reason I never found out is that the feature was disabled with prejudice within about five minutes, most of that spent looking for the right checkbox.

    3. Captain Scarlet
      Windows

      Re: Think of the users, and not just corporates

      More of my family will be moving over to Thunderbird then when Windows 10 Security Updates stop.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Think of the users, and not just corporates

      The only thing new Outlook shares with current Outlook is the name. It is a completely different application.

      https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/office/getting-started-with-the-new-outlook-for-windows-656bb8d9-5a60-49b2-a98b-ba7822bc7627

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "One user argued that for security reasons, they didn't want an app like Mail in the cloud. That said, another user noted that web apps are the future of the industry."

    The two are far from being mutually exclusive.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      And the first guy appears to be wrong. The web app just means they used some HTML and JS frontend instead of native controls. That doesn't mean they're storing mail data or settings on their server and only providing a dumb client. Not that there can't be something invasive in that program, but from other comments, I see nothing indicating that it will require cloud accounts or even any cloud services to function.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        What you describe goes right back to Netscape and still lives on in Thunderbird and Seamonkey. But this is MS and MS in the C21st is just going to do everything they can to drag you into their servers so I doubt it's going to be their version of Tbird.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          You may have your suspicions, but all the conversations are about the choice of interface, suggesting that Microsoft using an HTML-based frontend instead of the native Windows interface features they wrote is contradictory. The cloud guy appears to be the one who created an unfounded assumption, so while it is theoretically possible that Microsoft could make a cloud-based mail client, nothing suggests they have or the people talking about the interface decision would be talking about something unrelated (you can use native interfaces on cloud clients) and unimportant (who cares about interface policies if there's a privacy issue). It's important not to turn one thing into an assumption, often incorrect, about something else.

  3. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Got that backwards, mate

    > If you can't port a UWP app to the native toolkit, it's basically an admission that nobody should ever build native windows apps

    Or a clear admission that you should have stuck with the native Windows and never written the UWP one in the first place.

    Nowt wrong with Windows native[1], everything ends up invoking it right at the bottom. Plenty of additional toolkits available if you want extra fluff.

    > Not even Microsoft is using their own toolkit.

    Way to miss the point! They just want you on their cloudy thing, that is all.

    [1] yes, yes, I know: "you are using Windows, that's what's wrong"!

  4. Roland6 Silver badge

    Relaunch of Outlook Express?

    A question is whether MS are quietly end of living all the Metro apps.

  5. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

    "Relaunch of Outlook Express?"

    I was just thinking the same, though I don't recall OE having a calendar - that came later with Live Mail, I think.

    OE and Live Mail had their problems, but, when they worked, they were much more useful than the primitive abomination that shipped with Windows 10. I haven't seen what ships with 11, but I doubt it's much better.

    As for making it a web app, how is that better than just using outlook.com?

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Windows

      It is better because you can have multiple email accounts, including gmail accounts, open at the same time.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I have that on my desktop right now but it's not a web app. It's SeaMonkey mail & news client - multiple email accounts, RSS & Usenet all on one tab, calendar on another although I preferred it when the calendar was a plugin with a separate window.

      2. Snapper

        "Relaunch of Outlook Express?"

        You mean yet another Microsoft app that will be incompatible with other Microsoft apps.

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Terminator

    Missing functionality

    Something that blocks all the AI crap? Whenever I use an MS application these days, I seem to have to disable one more 'helpful' AI function, or am presented with yet another message box telling me about them.

    Can't we please return to small and simple applications that do one thing and do it well? I don't need a robot to do my thinking for me and I strongly suspect most other people don't either.

  7. Ayemooth

    "no major updates since Windows 11 launched two years ago"

    Maybe that's WHY people don't want to lose it? It still works the same way that they showed Granny two years ago.

  8. Headwesty

    Farewell to tablets

    And so the self-destruction of Microsoft's tablet interface continues. The Mail app has useful gestures on touch devices and does everything most people need from a mail client. It even doesn't have AI! Perhaps if MS also sold touch-based 2-in-1 devices they would pay more attention to tablet features.... It's been all downhill from Windows 8.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Farewell to tablets

      They do sell touch-based 2 in 1 devices. Anything that has the Surface name and isn't called the Surface Laptop or Surface Duo is a 2 in 1 device.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Farewell to tablets

        I think you'll find they were being sarcastic and saying that Microsoft should be spending more effort on a tablet interface since they make tablets. If I saw people using them as tablets, I might agree more, but all the Surface users I've seen have been using them like laptops anyway.

  9. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge

    how many is enough?

    It used to be a bit of a cluster fcuk when Microsoft had two similarly names products, doing mostly the same things in completely incompatible ways.

    So now we currently have... Outlook 20xx (Windows app), Mail (Windows App for W[10,11]), Outlook 365 (Web browser based app), Outlook 365 (windows app), iOS and Android variants (which, to be fair, seem to work, for given values of work, similar to, if not quite the same as, their desktop based siblings) and the abomination that is the 'New Microsoft 365 Outlook' - so is that 7 distinct products?

    IMHO they should somehow try to rationalise the mess that is their mail client/oragniser nightmare and herd all those cats into one product that does everything well enough.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: how many is enough?

      Outlook has a 'new Outlook' option now. Turns 'proper' outlook into the crappy browser WPA thingy. Looks like it's proper outlook that's going.

  10. Adam JC

    No more '365 Apps for Business' needed then..?

    Is this the equivalent in functionality to the full-fat 365 Outlook or is it a severely crippled version for home users? I highly doubt they'd shoot themselves in the foot and allow the same functionality as the (currently) paid-for Outlook bundled with Apps for Business/Business Standard/Business Premium.

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
      Devil

      Re: No more '365 Apps for Business' needed then..?

      I wonder if someone at MS was given a bunch of old SourceSafe backups to look through, found one called "Outlook Express" and the phone call started with "hey boss, I've got a great idea" and well, here we go again.

  11. Is there anybody out there?

    ..but its horrible

    The new look is horrible. It cluttered, messy, ugly and ad ridden. I tried to give it a proper go but lasted about 15 minutes. For home use, Mail is fine for me.

  12. Numen

    Sounds like they're reinventing Mozilla Thunderbird

    I've been able to do this for years - multiple email accounts (with Owl to access MS mail), integrated calendar with sync. Local folders, spam learning, sorting, ... Very nice!

  13. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Windows

    Meh

    I tried the new Outlook, and I like the UI in some respects, but it has some major failures, notably the Rules engine straight up does not work (won't process rules on incoming mail at all and goes into a death spiral when run by hand) and gets rid of message recall and resend. I'm sure there are other faults as well, but those were enough to put me off it. It's an improvement over the default Mail and Calendar apps but a decided step down from "legacy" Outlook.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meh

      > gets rid of message recall

      This is only a thing on private groupware systems like Exchange. It simply does not work across general Internet email.

    2. jessgirl19087

      Re: Meh

      Agree, rules don't work. The other fault I noticed is when you "Add an event or reminder" from the flyout calendar upon selecting the clock in your taskbar. It didn't actually create the event back in "new" Outlook, and it also just lost the event completely if you select "More details." All it does is jump you to the "new" Outlook calendar. Frustrating because one of the best features of Mail/Calendar has been to quickly see meetings from ALL calendars when someone asks if you're available on a particular date. I manage two work calendars, my personal google calendar, my kids' google calendars, and the ical subscriptions for their schools. A quick click on my clock and whatever date someone proposes is SO much faster than navigating to Outlook and making sure all my calendars are toggled on. Ooof. I really hope they don't force this. Why break what works?!

  14. 43300 Silver badge

    The 'New Outlook' seems to basically be the webmail packaged as an app, and it's shit! The current Outlook may not be perfect, but it's much better than this. Really not looking forward to all the support requests from users when this mess gets imposed on them.

  15. Adelio

    I am using outlook 2007 at home for many years, it does all that i need. Most of it i admit i do not use. I just want to be able to have connections to multiple e-mail hosts and to hold all my e-mails locally.

    I have no interest in "cloudy" versions of most apps. Most web versions of applications have been dummed down so much I really do not like using them. Moving to the Web always seems to end up removing so much functionality for the original non web app that it seems designed for a baby. All the hard work done to write a useful application has been flushed down the drain when moving to the Web..

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Windows

      One thing Outlook 2007 doesn't do is oauth authentication, which as far as I'm aware is now required to access gmail accounts. You need a more recent version of Outlook for that.

      1. nobody who matters

        Some people would regard an inability to access GMail as a benefit, rather than a disadvantage ;)

  16. EnviableOne

    thunderbirds are go-ish!

    time to dig out the venerable Mozilla project and see if it plays better with exchange online than it did on prem...

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: thunderbirds are go-ish!

      You'll probably need the Owl extension, for which there is a small fee. (You won't need it if your Exchange admin has not disabled IMAP support.)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mail? You mean HxOutlook?

    Home users have always had the esteemed privilege of using HxOutlook throughout its early development for free. Nothing is really being replaced here, just upgraded for outsiders to enjoy at no cost as an additional perk because daddy naddy loves his homies and wouldn’t want to deprive them of the ability to help test New Outlook would he?

    On the plus side, the latest upgrade uses the Elecfron rip-off known as WebView2 and if this trend continues for the rest of MS Office, then we might finally see a “Linux release” of sorts.

  18. Grunchy Silver badge

    Freeware works better

    Thunderbird comes to mind, or maybe Seamonkey (I showed my Granny Seamonkey much more than 2 years ago & she still rocks it!)

    I prefer Thunderbird because it deals with RSS and NNTP, not saying Outlook doesn’t, but it probably doesn’t work as well.

    (I remember using Outlook way back in Win95 days & enhancing it with the “Lookout” extension, then I thought better and dropped the Microsoft spyware altogether. Not ever going back.)

  19. Matthew 25
    FAIL

    I tried it

    That lasted until I could switch back. If I want to use that interface I can open a browser and save the disk space for something useful.

  20. Barry Rueger

    And when your Internet goes down?

    the web stack has become a ubiquitous standard for creating cross-platform user interfaces. You create it once and you have an app in the browser, mobile, and desktop. … It's here to stay and that's not a bad thing."

    Unlike the guys in Redmond and SoCal, we live in the poorer part of a Canadian province where the norm is to have power and/or internet outages for hours or even days. And where mobile companies charge an arm and a leg for any decent data allowance.

    That's why my email archive lives on my computer, available no matter what. It's also less prone to being encrypted and held for ransom by hackers.

  21. Lost in Cyberspace

    Urgh, more rebranding and confusion

    My regular clients, home users, often get confused between the apps and their email provider.

    I put this down to the names of the apps.

    Windows Live Mail/Windows Live Hotmail

    Outlook/Outlook Express/Outlook.com

    Rebranding the mail client with virtually every new Windows version, Outlook Express/Mail/Windows Live Mail/Mail/Outlook, and going from Hotmail/Live/Outlook online...

    No wonder some people get confused with it all!

  22. Mostly Irrelevant

    I, for one like the simplicity of the Mail and Calendar apps. I recently tried to switch to the Outlook app and found the UI to be needlessly cluttered and full of ads. So if Microsoft discontinues Mail and Calendar I'll be moving to 3rd party applications.

    Come to think of it, Mail is so simple I could just write my own clone of it. Maybe I will, might be fun.

  23. Alan Bourke

    I see native apps are doomed again

    ... any decade now, no really ...

  24. navarac Silver badge

    Probably delaaying things while they work out how to put more ads into Outlook.

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