DATA DOCTORS

What to know about the strange Microsoft alert confusing Arizona’s office workers

Jul 29, 2023, 5:45 AM

What this Microsoft Alert you're getting means...

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

You turn on your computer, ready to hunker down for a busy day. Then you get a popup saying, “Try the new Outlook” in the upper right corner of Windows Mail. You probably have a few questions about this vague Microsoft alert.

Q: Why is Microsoft trying to get me to switch to the new Outlook in my Mail program?

A: In its usual confusing way, Microsoft is signaling an upcoming major change for those currently using Mail and Calendar apps in Windows 10 and 11.

What this Microsoft alert means

The suggestion to “Try the new Outlook” in the upper right corner of Windows Mail is the precursor to what will be a forced transition sometime in 2024. Microsoft recently announced these plans as a way to consolidate tasks like mail, contacts, and calendars from separate apps to a unified one that they are calling Outlook for Windows.

What makes this decision confusing for many is the existence of many tools that use the Outlook name, both online and via apps.

Why you got this Microsoft alert

Since 1997, Outlook has been Microsoft Outlook’s default email program. Now it’s part of Microsoft 365’s subscription.

Outlook.com is a free web-based version that replaced Hotmail which is Microsoft’s competitor to Google’s Gmail. The new ‘Outlook for Windows’ is an app, not a website. It’s free and has the basic look and feel of the paid versions of Outlook.

It’s obvious that they’re trying to create a pathway to convince users that are using their free tools to upgrade to their premium versions to generate revenue.

How this Microsoft alert impacts Arizona’s white collar workers

If you like the simplicity of the Mail app’s interface, the good news is that you can continue using it for the next year or so. There’s no confirmed end date. However, the indications are sometime at the end of 2024.

For the time being, you can switch back and forth between Mail and the new Outlook with the toggle switch to see the differences in the two apps. Microsoft will stop supporting the Mail app with important security updates when it removes the app from the Microsoft Store, but it’s our understanding that it will still function.

Protection against email-based attacks is a significant service. It’s not a good idea to use abandoned apps — even ones you’re familiar with, like the Mail app.

Essentially, you’ll be forced to use Outlook for Windows at some point. It’s best to take the time to get used to it before you no longer have a choice.

New features you’ll want to know about

One of the most significant additions to this new app is the integration with many of Google’s popular tools such as Gmail and Calendar. For those that spend a lot of time in both Microsoft and Google’s ecosystems, this could eliminate a lot of switching back and forth.

The additional features and integrations could potentially be overwhelming for those that like the simplicity of the current Mail interface, but change is never easy. Many features that were only available in Gmail such as the ability to unsend emails and advanced text editing tools will also be welcome improvements.

If you work at a company that uses Microsoft’s various platforms, the ‘when and how’ to switch guidance should come from your IT department. Microsoft alerted IT administrators long ago about these upcoming changes, so they would have plenty of time to devise migration plans.

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What to know about the strange Microsoft alert confusing Arizona’s office workers