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Microsoft Outlook Review

Download the PDFMicrosoft Outlook user interface

Millions of professionals around the world depend on Outlook to send and receive emails. It is among the top three most used Platforms. This Outlook review will help to shed light on its features and benefits.

What is Outlook?

It is an application from Microsoft that is used primarily to send and receive mail. However, its capabilities exceed postman duties. The application can also be used to organize a user’s calendar, adding entries such as appointments, tasks to be done as well as managing contacts. As part of the Microsoft Suite, you can purchase it along with other Office tools.

Outlook has been in use since 1997 when it was introduced as part of the Microsoft Office 97 package. Since then, there have been many other versions with improved features that are aimed at making life for the office worker much easier. Today, automation is the feature every enterprise tool tries to incorporate and Outlook is not any different.

Overview of Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook is web-based and features impressive functionality. One of its major appeals is its ability to maintain a clean inbox free of junk mail so that the user can focus on only important communication.

Moving with the times, it is able to integrate with social networks and can easily share video content. This however doesn’t slow it down so whether you are integrating or simply sharing content from a social platform with team members, this can be done flawlessly and there is the option of automating such tasks.

Microsoft has given their flagship mail platform a good rethink to come up with Outlook 365 which is the epitome of simplicity while packing a load of functionality to it. Unlike other mail platforms that may restrict attachments to just 25MB, this one will allow as much as 300MB which is practical considering what the modern business may need to share using mail. This capability is also backed up by SkyDrive which provides storage for documents.

Outlook Mail Features

Not many mail users give thought to the importance of features since they think they just need to be able to send and receive mail. However, there’s more to it and Outlook mail reveals this with features that help you do a lot more with your mail account.

Mail Automation: This feature allows a user to determine the time mail is sent. You might draft an email in the night, but schedule it to be sent out in the morning when your respondents are online. This can also help if you have to send out notification mail and you do not want to forget. Simply schedule it and it will be sent at the right time.

You can also consider Outlook-Windward Hub integration as documents can be attached and sent in emails automatically from Outlook once they are finished outputting in Hub.

Task Scheduling Using Mail: This saves you from having to open your calendar and schedule a task or appointment. You can simply drag an email that contains details of a task and drop it onto the calendar tool and the task will be scheduled automatically.

Social Media Integration: A user can integrate messages and posts from social media with their email account so that even without visiting the social platform, you can easily respond to messages or posts. You can also receive notifications every time your business is mentioned on social platforms.

Junk Filter: Are you tired of receiving promotional mail early Monday morning? Or you have to peruse your inbox to see which mail is important? Your outlook email can filter junk mail so that all you receive is mail that is relevant to your work.

Synchronization: Outlook allows you to synchronize your mail across different devices. This means you can access your mail on the office laptop, on your mobile phone as well as your laptop at home, and on any other devices you use.

Customized View: A user can determine how their inbox displays emails. For example, you can choose to use a specific color for unread mail and highlight mail that contains a keyword. Users can decide how to make outlook work for them instead of being a prisoner of the generic view.

The application has several features that can be uncovered as a user explores its capabilities. The bottom line is these features are intended to help people work faster and smarter.

Outlook integrations

You can improve the performance of your mail account using Outlook integrations. These can increase the tasks you are able to perform without living your mail screen. Microsoft is always adding new applications that can connect with their mail platform and this makes automation of different tasks easy.

The integration process is fairly easy since in most cases there are instructions either from Outlook or the third-party app that you wish to connect to. However, in some cases, you may need to write a bit of code to configure the connection.

There is good news however for people who hate the idea of having to write code since you can use Zapier to integrate your Outlook account with thousands of other applications. This is an integration that doesn’t require coding. By simply choosing the application from a list and describing the trigger and action you would want to be completed, you can integrate within a few minutes.

It is evident that Microsoft sees the need for integrations and so they make the effort to ensure users have flawless integrations with most of the common applications used by businesses. This includes social media sites, cloud storage apps, news feeds, document generation and so many more.

These integrations turn an impressive email account into a remarkable automation tool that helps the user perform several functions without having to switch windows or open new tabs.

Outlook Webmail Pricing

It can be a bit confusing trying to understand Outlook’s pricing. This is because you may find information indicating that Outlook Webmail is free but at the same time you may come across a hefty price quote of $139.99 on their website. To clear the air, Outlook is free to use online with a lot of cool features. However, you may need to pay for extra storage space as well as advanced features.

You should also take note of the fact that the Microsoft website is marketing the 365 suite which is a combination of other products that also include the mail account. Outlook as part of the subscription for the other productivity tools will come at a considerable fee and includes several other features like OneDrive, Excel, and Word.

For a business looking to gain from the full suite of Microsoft products, it is advisable to fork out the money and pay for a complete plan. The free account may be suited for small businesses and individuals who may be comfortable with limited storage space. A free account however can help a user learn more about the product before they take the plunge.

Security

The safety of your data and conversations is something everyone should worry about. Microsoft has tried to provide basic security for outlook clients but it is evident that the good stuff has to be paid for. For example, a free account will not have encryption of messages and attachments will not be scanned for threats unless you are a paid client.

It is, however, possible for a user to install their own security using third party applications to protect them from viruses and data theft. It is advisable to employ two-step authentication.

Mobile App

As you search for an email provider, the mobile app is something you should take into consideration. You need more than just access to your mail on the go. Outlook takes this into consideration and have created a mobile app that is just as productive as the desktop version. You have the power to do anything on your mobile phone including automating processes and so much more. It is arguably the best email mobile app for business.

Verdict

Microsoft Outlook may struggle for popularity against Gmail and Apple Mail, but it has managed to make an impression on those who have used it. The fact that it has the backing of other powerful tools in the 365 suite makes it more appealing for businesses and people who are heavily invested in office suites like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

If you’ve just discovered us, we’re excited. Try Windward Hub for free and take it for a spin. Start automating document generation in Hub and send them as email attachments automatically in Outlook in just a few clicks starting today.

Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

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Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

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Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

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Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

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Tag Tree

Displays of all the tags in the template, structured as they are placed in the template. This provides a simple & intuitive way to see the structure of your template. Also provides the capability to go to any tag and/or see the properties of any tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

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PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

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Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

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Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

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Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

If you've just discovered us, we're excited. Learn more about Windward document automation software now.

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Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

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Generate Code

The Generate Code tool in the designer allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables. Simply copy this code and paste into your application's code in the appropriate place. You now have Windward integrated into your application.

You only need to do this once. You do not do this for each template. Instead, where it has explicit files for the template and output, change that to parameters you pass to this code. Same for the parameters passed to Windward. This example uses explicit values to show you what to substitute in where.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in an XLSX template are carried over to the XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will have pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

This makes creating an XLSX workbook with pivot tables trivial.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, or the properties in the parent.

You set to retain when you don't want the child template's styling to change when imported. You set to use the parent when you want the styling of the imported template to match the styling in the parent.

Any explicit styling is always retained. This only impacts styling set by styles.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

If you need this - it's essential. And if you don't need it, it's irrelevant.

Windward enables you to build a document by applying multiple datasources to the template simultaneously. When Windward is merging the data into a template, it processes the template by handling each tag in order, and each tag pulls from different datasources. (As opposed to processing all of one datasource, then processing the next.)

This allows the select tag to use data from another datasource in its select. For example, if you are pulling customer information from one data source, you can then pull data from the sales datasource using the customer ID of the customer presently processing to pull the sales information for that customer. If you're interested in patching together your data from multiple datasources, read this post on our blog.

Written by:_
Genesis Abel

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