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Microsoft Outlook is getting a big makeover — and a much smarter way to book meetings

Outlook
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Microsoft Outlook is finally catching up to the productivity apps that help us all plan and manage our increasingly busy days, weeks and months. To get there, Microsoft is adding two new features it just announced today: one focused on planning and the other helping you schedule meetings.

Microsoft detailed the below features in a blog post entitled "Everyone needs some extra time," and unfortunately it bears no secrets in how to carve out additional hours in the day. These features are coming to Outlook soon, for "customers with a commercial or education license."

Microsoft Outlook calendar board

First up is a new feature called Outlook calendar board, which is based on the truth that the calendar is only half of your planning brain. This Board view (accessible under the View button) basically takes your window and reduces the calendar's width by half, and then gives you the option to add all sorts of other widgets to the "board." 

Next to the Week view, you'll be able to pin other calendars, your Task lists, important Office files, sticky notes and other items. Think of it all as a giant interactive bulletin board for your many lives.

Microsoft Outlook Calendar Boards

Outlook Calendar Boards split your view between the week on the left and pinned items on the right. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft notes that "On average, people use 6 tools to track all the things they need to get done," which sounds about right (I rely on Google Suite, Fantastical, Due, Trello and Todoist). So if you're juggling productivity applications, Calendar Boards may be the solution you didn't know you so seriously needed.

Calendar Board view will arrive on Outlook on the web first.

Outlook gets smarter meeting scheduling

The other problem Microsoft is seeking to solve is the difficulty of planning meetings. 50% of information workers polled by Microsoft said that finding a time to meet and scheduling meetings with multiple people is their "biggest meeting pain-point."  

So, to solve this Outlook's iOS and Android apps are going to be getting the ability to suggest times that work for all of your invitees. If no such time is available, it will then look for times that work for all of your guests, and see if you can reschedule one of your existing meetings.