Microsoft updates Outlook's organizing tools

The company says only 20 percent of an average user's e-mail messages are personal -- that means a lot of clutter. Enhancements rolling out over the next few weeks should help.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Celebrating what it says is "National Clean Out Your Inbox Week," Microsoft has added a few updates to Outlook's e-mail de-cluttering and organizing tools. Besides enhancing its Sweep to delete feature, the e-mail service has also upgraded ways to categorize and search for messages, along with other improvements.

Microsoft notes that average Outlook users get more than 10,000 personal e-mails a year and 80 percent of these are commercial e-mail, like newsletters, promotions, or updates. So, the company has aimed to make tools that let users more easily access the 20 percent of personal e-mails.

One of Outlook's more popular tools is Sweep, which is used about 7.5 million times a week. This feature lets users clean out their in-boxes with a bulk delete function. Now, with the Sweep upgrade, users will see a more simple interface that requires fewer clicks.

Another update makes it easier for users to organize their e-mail by categories. Even though e-mails are filed away in categories, users can still find them with the search tool. Search has also been updated with more search criteria, filters, and a simpler interface.

"We provide a set of default categories based on the most common types of e-mail, such as newsletters and social updates, but you can also easily create your own categories based on your inbox activity," Outlook principal group program manager Mike Schackwitz wrote in a blog post. "With your email organized the way you want it, you can use the updated Search tool to quickly find email regardless of the category or folder it's in. One of the most commonly-searched criteria is for people, so we now show your contact names and pictures together when you're looking for them."

In addition to updating Sweep, categories, and search, Microsoft also added more keyboard shortcuts, smooth Web to mobile e-mail syncing, and improvements to video and chat capabilities on platforms like Skype, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

The updates to Outlook's cleaning and organizing features will start rolling out to users in the next few weeks.