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Microsoft breaks down how it's improving search inside Outlook on iOS and Android

Outlook and Edge on iOS
Outlook and Edge on iOS (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Outlook on iOS and Android will gain several new features to improve the search experience.
  • The features center around Microsoft Search, which helps find contextual content based on your queries.
  • The new Search experience will start rolling out in April 2020.

Microsoft is rolling out a new search experience to help people find content within Outlook on iOS and Android. The experience around Microsoft Search, and aims to provide you contextual information based on your searches. Microsoft breaks down all of the features in a recent post (opens in new tab). The new Search experience should start rolling out in the beginning of April for Microsoft 365 customers in the U.S., including both business and consumer Office 365 customers.

Outlook will soon support natural language searches on iOS and Android. This feature allows you to speak or type a question in "everyday language" to find emails, calendar events, contact information, and files. You can filter results by using terms such as "last week" or "next appointment."

The improved Search experience in Outlook mobile has two new elements within the Search home screen. First, the search box on the Search home screen now has a microphone icon, which allows you to dictate questions. There's also a card that appears on the bottom of your screen within the Search home screen that suggests questions to ask.

Outlook is also gaining support for Calendar search answers. When you search within Outlook mobile, it will provide answers that have quick actions associated with your search. Microsoft shares an example in its blog post:

If you search using everyday terms such as "when is my next meeting with John next week", Microsoft Search in Outlook can understand which of your contacts with the name John is in question, find which scheduled event is on your calendar that matches the time frame for next week and deliver results that are relevant and actionable.

Microsoft is also rolling out top results to Outlook mobile for keyword queries. This feature brings up relevant results when you search for something, not just the most recent results that fit your search parameters.

Outlook also supports Actionable Search answers. These show a contact that's relevant to your search, including an image (if available), phone number, and email address.

To help people stay productive, Microsoft is beginning to connect Outlook mobile and Microsoft To Do. Outlook will soon take your top three tasks from your Microsoft To Do and add them to the Search home page in Office for iOS.

There are also lots of little changes, such as Outlook suggesting items within search when you spell a query incorrectly. Microsoft's post breaks down all of the changes and covers some frequently asked questions.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

2 Comments
  • Sorry to be nitpicky here, but in the title it's "it's" (short for "it is"), not "its" (the possessive form). Just out of curiosity, I ran the title through Microsoft Editor in Word and ... it didn't discover the error.
  • So this is basically where Cortana is going now (there's a name that has gone away fast). Good. This is where AI could be actually useful. Ordering diapers or turning off lights via talking to a glowing plastic puck hardly constitutes a great improvement in users' quality of life. Mobile Outlook integration with To-Do is overdue but very welcome.