Sunday, January 31, 2016

Microsoft Makes Mail Work on iOS

Over the past several months I have been noticing something odd.  More and more on my iPad I have been turning to apps made by Microsoft.  You might suspect that the most frequent culprits are Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  You would be correct that these are among my most frequently used apps.  After all, the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint file formats are the de facto standard for document, spreadsheets and presentations.  But, as it turns out, the apps that I find myself using the most are the incredible calendar app Sunrise, which Microsoft bought in February, 2015 for just over $100 million, and Microsoft Outlook.

My primary employer is a Microsoft Exchange user, so I had to find a mail app that handled Exchange accounts, however, two of the universities to which I connect were Google Gmail users.  In addition, I have three or four personal Gmail accounts along with a Google Apps for Education account.  But of foremost concern from the productivity side was my dependence on Google calendar.  Actually, multiple Google calendars.  At last count, I managed or subscribed to about 20 Google Calendars.  The Gmail app did great with the Google accounts but never handled the Exchange accounts.  The built-in Apple Mail app could not handle the Gmail accounts.  The same went for the Google Calendar app.  I struggled for a solution.

I must have purchased a dozen mail apps until I saw that Microsoft had released Outlook for iOS.  I have to admit, I was dubious but I installed it.  It is a free app so there was no downside other than a bit of time to set it up.  So I did and within a few hours I was impressed.  Within a few days, I had moved it to my dock.  Within a couple of weeks, I had completely removed my accounts from Apple Mail.  The Outlook interface is slick and easy to use. The mail handling is quick and reliable.  It is so good that I oftentimes pick up my iPhone to triage email even while I am sitting in front of my laptop.

As for the calendar, I still rely on Sunrise.  From the beginning Microsoft had announced that the purpose behind the purchase was to make calendaring better in the Outlook app.  In October of 2015, Microsoft officially announced that once Sunrise was completely integrated into Outlook, Sunrise would be discontinued.  No timetable was provided, however, and both apps have been updated regularly.  If Microsoft is true to their word and completely integrates Sunrise, I will probably go to Outlook as my all in one Personal Information Manager (PIM), however, there are some conditions.  Microsoft, you must include the incredible month view that I use on my iPad.  I live with the month view on the iPhone because I realize the space is not there, but on the iPad I want that nice big month at a glance view I have become accustomed to having.  Make sure that Exchange integration works perfectly for the calendar.  Currently, even Sunrise doesn't love Exchange calendars.  I don't even use my Exchange calendar in the office because it just doesn't sync well.  I want to put an event on my personal Google Calendar and have it sync to my Exchange calendar and vice versa.  Have never been able to see this happen.  Make Sunrise continue to support the Google calendars as well as it does now and add smooth Exchange calendar syncing and I'll never use anything else!  Oh, and I'd pay for the app then too!

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