Microsoft is launching a new opt-in beta program for Outlook.com today that will give users access to a faster and more personalized email experience, as well as an overhauled design.
"Recent advances in programming, design, and artificial intelligence have enabled our engineers and designers to improve the Outlook.com web experience in several areas - and we're eager to get your feedback", Microsoft's Outlook team wrote in an August 8 blog post, noting that if users are less than taken by the new features they can switch back at any time. While the software giant is planning to roll this out in stages, it appears that not many people are seeing the opt-in "try the beta" toggle yet. It's probably fair to assume that the new design will also make it to the regular version of Outlook.com over time.
A word of warning though, if you use the toggle switch to turn off the beta, access will be removed for you for good and you won't be able to get back into the program - at least until you're offered access officially.
It's as simple as that, and it will even work if you're an Outlook Premium subscriber.
Simply go to Outlook.com in your browser as you normally would; after the page loads, edit the address from outlook.live.com/owa/ to outlook.live.com/mail/ and then hit enter.
For this redesign, Microsoft is using a new development framework that the company claims is more responsive and that enables the team to deliver a more modern design.
The new design also includes an upgraded search, which will preview files and photos directly in the conversation list.
Other new features include Quick Suggestion, which pops up restaurant information, flight data and "your favorite teams' schedules" (I assume that's something that sports fans talk about a lot?).
An improved photo experience in the Outlook.com beta places all your photos sent or received via email in one place.
Outlook.com beta's new personalization options allow you to pin emails from specific contacts to your shortcuts sidebar.