The Mail, Calendar and People apps are getting better!

Starting tomorrow, you will be able to download an update for the Mail, Calendar, and People apps from the Windows Store. These apps are designed to manage communication seamlessly on Windows PCs and tablets across multiple accounts—Outlook.com, Exchange, and others. We know our customers typically have two or more email accounts for personal use and work use, they use these accounts throughout the day, and they have a large volume of email they’re continuously managing. So this update will bring improvements to your Windows experience across your whole life – your personal communication and your work. You will see big improvements to performance and additional new features to make it easier to connect with friends and colleagues, manage your inboxes, create and send email, and manage your calendar.

Once the update is available tomorrow, just tap or click on the “Updates” link that appears in the top right-hand corner of the Windows Store to install the update.If you have the Windows Store pinned to your Start screen, its live tile will alert you that you have an update available. You are required to go to the Windows Store to get the update as it won’t install automatically.

I am really excited about this update for the Mail, Calendar, and People apps. The rest of this post provide more details on many of the new features included in the update.

Keeping my inbox organized:

Like many of us, I consistently check email throughout the day and have multiple accounts for work and my personal life. I am always going between multiple email accounts: one for personal email and another for work. The Mail app allows me to view all of my email accounts and toggle between them to manage all of my email. With the Mail app update – staying in touch and organized across your work and personal life gets easier.

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Everyone has their own set of habits when it comes to checking email. For me, I check all my unread messages first, and the Mail app now lets me filter to see only unread emails. I’m also big on organizing my email into folders. You can create and delete folders directly within the Mail app and also select all items within a folder and move them (or delete them all).

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I also often flag important emails that will need more of my attention, and the Mail app now lets me do this. Flagged emails will show in your inbox (or any other folder in the account) and in a “Flagged” folder within the Mail app so you can see all flagged email messages. Quick power user tip: the insert key toggles the flag on a selected email message.

Many of these new features are now part of the app commandsin the Mail app that can be brought up by swiping from the bottom or top of your screen or by right-clicking with a mouse.

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I spend a lot of time writing and replying to emails so being able to manage draft email messages is essential. When you first start a new email draft, the “To” line is populated by “smart contact suggestions”. Essentially, the Mail app will remember and suggest the contacts that you email regularly. And if you’re working on a draft message, that message will now show up automatically at the top of your inbox. If you’re replying to an email, the draft will show up within the email conversation. Going back to find and finish draft emails is super easy.

Speaking of drafting email messages – improvements have been made for composing email messages too. You can now add, edit, and delete hyperlinks and edit bulleted or numbered lists more easily in email messages. Again, this can all be found as part of the app commands in the Mail app. The Mail app also works a lot better in keeping the format of content pasted into an email message from web pages, Microsoft Word documents, and other apps.

By default, the Mail app only keeps email messages within a two-week timeframe. This is done in order to preserve disk space and battery life on your device, and you can always change that setting. However with the update to the Mail app, you can now search for email on the server making it easy to find any email message you might be looking for.

Everything I mentioned above applies to both personal and work email accounts. If your business supports rights-managed email, you can do that now too. The Mail app now supports reading and composing rights-managed email messages. The Mail app will also pull contacts from a Microsoft Exchange global address list and will provide contact information from Exchange—just click on the person’s name in email.

Coordinating my calendar(s):

The Calendar app is designed to align with the different habits people have for managing their calendars. That means being able to stay organized across your personal and work calendars.

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Visually, the Calendar app has been updated to make looking at your calendars easier to read. Gone are the solid blocks of colors – instead, those colors are reflected in a small bar on the left of each appointment.

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A new “Work week” view has been added to the app commands.

The Calendar app now accommodates the use of scheduling assistant for business accounts that use Microsoft Exchange. Anyone used to scheduling meetings in Microsoft Outlook and being able to see a person’s availability will be able to see the same thing in the Calendar app.

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You can now also forward meeting invitations, send email to all meeting attendees (great for sending out meeting agendas), choose more recurrence options for reoccurring meetings or events and set end dates for recurring events.

Connecting with people:

The People app is your one stop destination for the important people at work and in your personal life. It’s easier to stay in touch, manage and connect with the people in your life across multiple services such as Outlook.com, Facebook, Twitter, Skype – and your work.

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You can now navigate the People app more easily by swiping from the top (or right-clicking) to bring up the app commands. There is new navigation at the top that allows you to quickly move between your profile where you can post status updates and Tweets or see what your friends are posting on the “What’s new” feed. You can also now post to your friends’ Facebook wall.

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And finally, you can more quickly filter your “What’s new” feed by social network.

Improving your Windows experience:

The features that are part of this update for the Mail, Calendar, and People apps are designed to align with the different habits people have for staying on top of their email and schedule and staying organized. These updates are part of our ongoing focus and commitment to continually improving your Windows experience. This means that the experience on Windows PCs and tablets will keep getting richer.

UPDATE 4/3: See this blog post on how to get your Google Calendar events in Windows 8.