Two weeks ago Microsoft introduced a newly overhauled Outlook.com, and in the past couple of days it has begun to slowly roll out to a small subset of users. The update offers a number of new features, including "Clutter", a trainable feature that can automatically filter types of email into a Clutter folder, search suggestions, new themes, a link preview, inline images so you can place images directly into your emails right where you want them, and lots more.
The first thing you notice right off the bat is that Microsoft seems to be backing away from the Outlook.com branding they rolled out only 2 years ago when they rebranded from Hotmail:
Another first impression, one that's hard to screenshot, is just how fast the new web client is. The new Skype client on the right hand side opens nearly instantly, as do folder when switching from one to another. It's just fast.
Notice not only the "Outlook Mail" branding but also the url resolving to outlook.live.com/owa as Outlook.com morphs into an Office product, and there are references to "Outlook on the web", as Outlook.com and Outlook Web Access head towards becoming one and the same. The apps section has been expanded with new apps, including Bing, Sway, and MSN:
Speaking of apps, the new ability to add apps to Outlook on the web is there, although not populated:
As you can see, you get the new richer editing experience when composing messages, or adding entries to a calendar (see below).
The integration into the Office family is apparent throughout the new experience. Adding a Calendar entry, for example, now gives you a full on editing experience for notes. This is the current (old) Outlook.com Item details box:
and as you can see the new experience is much richer:
The People experience has also changed, building in a way to manage your contacts across various social network contact directories:
People has also apparently done away with Outlook.com Groups, in favor of the more Office Outlook-like Contacts and Contact Lists. Just a note here, last night the interface was showing thumbnail images for contacts, and today it's just showing the placeholder initials, this is still after all a preview.
The new Skype experience is here, as expected, and brings the full Skype look and feel right in to the web client:
We'll have more on the rollout of Outlook.com as is progresses, and as we dig into the new experience. This is very early access, expect the public rollout to go slowly at first.
Update: A commenter asked about sender and date and time info, and indeed the new experience is much more forthcoming in what it tells you about your incoming messages. Here's a screenshot showing the real email address (well in this case the email subscription alias) of the sender, as well as the date and time the email was sent: