I get a lot of email. I cleared out my inbox from 10,000 messages down to zero a few months ago, and it has already skyrocketed north of 4,000 again–and that’s after I’ve deleted the crap I absolutely am not interested in.
One thing that makes managing email more complicated than it should be with Outlook 2013 is the fact that I have to manage and maintain not one–but SIX–different inboxes. I have a couple Exchange accounts through Office 365, a few Gmail accounts, and an iCloud account, and they’re all separate because Outlook 2013 doesn’t have a unified inbox.
I wrote a post about why the unified inbox is one of the most crucial features Microsoft needs to include when it rolls out Office 2016:
In my opinion, there’s one feature that absolutely must be included: a unified inbox for Outlook.
All new versions of Office in 2015
On Jan. 22, Microsoft announced the next version of its ubiquitous productivity suite: Office 2016 will appear in the second half of 2015. According to the announcement, the next standalone version of Office will be intended mostly for keyboard-and-mouse applications.
That announcement focused primarily on a native “Universal” Windows 10 version of Office. It’s the touch-friendly version of the suite, composed of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. Microsoft’s Julia White stated that Office for Windows 10 will show up in Win10 Technical Previews “in the coming weeks” and be offered to everyone later this year. They’ll be preinstalled on Win10 phones and tablets but won’t, however, have the capabilities of Office 2016. We should soon see exactly what those limitations include.
A unified inbox is very nearly universal
Like millions of other Outlook users, I rely on Microsoft’s email client all day, every day. My primary email account is served by Office 365, and that account receives about 90 percent of my daily messages. But I also have a number of other accounts handled by Outlook: other Microsoft accounts, a handful of Gmail accounts, and an iCloud account.
Unfortunately, the way Outlook currently manages multiple accounts is cumbersome and clunky. I have to view each account separately. By default, Outlook displays only the primary inbox in the left panel’s Favorites section. I can, however, add inboxes for the other accounts. But I’ve ended up with six or seven entries called “Inbox” in my Favorites. Again, keeping on top of messages coming into those various inboxes is cumbersome — and time-consuming.
Oddly, it seems that Outlook is the last email client that doesn’t gracefully manage multiple accounts. Most others do.
Office for Apple’s OS X has a unified inbox
True confession: I spent a couple of years using a MacBook Air as my primary computer before switching to a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. On the Air, I used Office for Mac 2011. In many ways, Office on the Mac seemed less capable than the Office for Windows versions I’d been accustomed to using. But Office for Mac had one feature that stood out: a unified inbox — one inbox to rule all accounts.
I asked Microsoft why the Mac and Windows versions of Office were so different. But I mostly wanted to know why some features in Office for Mac 2011 weren’t available in Outlook 2013! Microsoft replied that the Office team for OS X is separate from the Office for Windows team — or at least it was.
Perhaps the two teams will share notes. One of the hardest things about transitioning from OS X to Windows was giving up that all-for-one inbox.
You can check out the rest on Windows Secrets. Note: you must be a paid subscriber to Windows Secrets to view the full story: What Microsoft needs to include in Outlook 2016.
I’m curious whether you agree that a unified inbox is important. How many different email accounts do you actively use? Is there some reason you’d prefer to manage them separately? Let me know in the comments below.