Email's Great - But Why Use Outlook?
Thu 21st October 2010
But the means by which you access your email and stay in touch with your contacts is important; with the right software, you can do a great deal more, more easily, and have a much more pleasant communication experience.
However, you may well be comfortable and happy with accessing email without using any special software - you may use a website that provides free email, as millions do. There's a lot to be said for webmail: it's usually free, it's universally accessible, and (at least with the more established providers) it's a very straightforward business. Yet it's also limited, providing only the tools that the provider is willing and able to host on its website.
The alternative is Microsoft Outlook, enhanced for 2010. It still sends and receives emails in the same way as a webmail provider - and you can access the same web-based email account through Outlook, there's no need to change your address. Many of us have multiple email addresses, and different contact lists to go with them; they can all be accessed and managed from the same single, centralised view within Outlook, giving you complete control without the hassle of having to switch between accounts online.
But the email itself shouldn't always be the most important thing. What about the people at the other end, what about your contacts, friends, family, colleagues clients? Outlook 2010 transforms the way you stay in touch with a new 'contact card' system.
You can access your contact's card at any time, and in addition to the information you'd expect - name, title or department, a picture - Outlook will let you know if they're currently available (and any detail they've provided on why or why not) and when they're likely to be available again, and also offers simple shortcuts to different forms of communication that can be accessed directly from within Outlook: email, inevitably, but also instant messaging and voice-over-internet calls.
You'll also find, through the Outlook Social Connector, the kind of information about your contacts that have become familiar lately through social networking sites, such as information about mutual friends and other social information.
Set against the range of tools that specialist software offers, webmail has always had one ace up its electronic sleeve - universal accessibility. Traditionally, Outlook has stayed on your home or office computer, whilst webmail providers can be reached from anywhere with an internet connection. No longer - with the Outlook Web App, you can view your Outlook content from any web browser, anywhere, via a secure Exchange server. The Outlook Mobile App gives you just the same, but specifically suited to mobile phone access.
On top of all this, Outlook also gives you more than just email. Schedules and calendars are easily created and shared within the software, helping you to keep your time and under control, and to keep others informed. We touched earlier on contact cards that tell you when a contact will be available; these connect automatically with the schedule you arrange within Outlook. So if you need your colleagues to know when you're available and what you're likely to be working on, you can both manage your time and tell others as much (or as little) as they need to know about it, all from within the same application.
That application also makes it easy to compare your schedule alongside another's, giving you yet another advantage in managing your time and making sure you have the best opportunities for effective communication.
Outlook has long offered different tools to webmail providers. However, with the 2010 edition, it provides more versatility and control in both its own sphere and that conventionally occupied by web-based alternatives. Outlook can transform communications within your business - a short training course can help you and your staff to get the most benefit from the software - and in doing so, can transform your future. Communications have changed a great deal in those fifteen years or so, and Outlook holds the tools to make those changes work for you.
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