Web & communication software

How to use the revamped Outlook.com Android app's handy new features

With Outlook.com for Android's modern UI-style makeover behind done, Microsoft is turning its attention to boosting the app's functionality, recently releasing an update that packs a plethora of improvements and new features.

The company didn’t provide a complete list of all 150 improvements, but most appear to be bug fixes, multi-language support, and other minor tweaks. Nevertheless, Outlook.com fans will find a lot to love in the new app, including improved search capabilities, alias and vacation support, new color themes, and the ability to download all your email.

Server-side search

Chalk this one up in the “it's about time” category, but Outlook for Android now supports the ability to search your entire message history, and not just the emails on your device. Overall, the new feature works pretty well. Outlook is able to figure out pretty quickly whether or not a keyword exists on your device and then offers the chance to search messages on Microsoft’s servers.

The server-side search obviously takes longer, but is still pretty quick. It searches the current folder you’re in first—typically your inbox—and then offers to scan all folders in your account.

Download all mail

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When Microsoft says it views all electronic devices as PCs, it wasn’t kidding. You can now download a complete archive of all your mail to the Outlook.com app.

It's helpful in theory, but seems a little excessive given the limited storage capabilities of most tablets. Since many users come from the Hotmail era, your Outlook account was probably one of the first email addresses you ever had—if it didn’t get recycled recently. Downloading more than a decade’s worth of email would not be advisable even on a 64GB tablet, especially when you consider that Hotmail’s early Junk mail controls were terrible.

Nevertheless, if you want all your mail on an Android device, tap on the menu icon in the Inbox's lower right corner and tap settings. On the next page, select E-mail>How much? and then choose “Unlimited” at the bottom of the pop-up window to start stuffing your Android device with emails.

Alias support

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Outlook for Android now supports aliases. These are email addresses that appear to be different from your primary Outlook, address but are tied to the same account.

Aliases are a handy feature that lets you hand out junk email addresses to online forums and other spam-like mailing lists. You could also create an Outlook alias as a recovery email address for non-Microsoft online accounts. If you never hand out that alias, it’s a great way to keep your recover address secret.

To see your aliases, just tap on the Outlook icon in the top left corner of your inbox to reveal a slide out navigation drawer. Your aliases will be under your Outlook mail folders. Check out our primer on Hotmail aliases from 2011 for more information on getting started with “phony” mail addresses.

New themes and vacation replies

If Microsoft’s default theme for Outlook has you feeling blue (get it?), you can spice up your inbox with a fresh coat of paint. Tap the menu icon in the bottom right and select settings once again. Next, tap General>Theme color to see ten other color choices such as Dark Red, Orange, Teal, and Black.

You can also set a vacation responder from within the Android app and that setting will be reflected on the web app version of Outlook.com. To do so, go back to the settings screen again and then tap E-mail>Vacation reply. You can decide to send vacation responses only to your contacts or to anyone who reaches your inbox—spammers routed to your junk folder won’t get the responder. By default, Outlook will only send vacation notices to your contacts.

Those are the primary new feature additions to Outlook for Android. Overall, it’s a nice feature bump for the app especially after suffering with a barebones Hotmail app and the original non-modernized version of Outlook.com before it. You can find it now in Google Play.

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