Outlook finally coming to Windows RT tablets

Microsoft plans to include the widely used e-mail program in the tablet-specific version of Windows when it updates the operating system later this year.

Jay Greene Former Staff Writer
Jay Greene, a CNET senior writer, works from Seattle and focuses on investigations and analysis. He's a former Seattle bureau chief for BusinessWeek and author of the book "Design Is How It Works: How the Smartest Companies Turn Products into Icons" (Penguin/Portfolio).
Jay Greene
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Microsoft's Surface tablet, which runs Windows RT Josh Miller/CNET

Consumers who own tablets running Microsoft's Windows RT operating system will get a new version of the software giant's widely used e-mail program, Outlook 2013 RT, later this year.

At the Computex computer trade show in Taiwan, Microsoft said Wednesday that the e-mail program will be included as part of the Windows 8.1 update announced last month. Outlook 2013 RT will be available as a free update for tablets running Windows RT, the scaled-down version of Windows 8, and will be included in Windows RT devices going forward.

When Microsoft rolled out Windows RT last year, it included other Office applications, such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, but not Outlook. Speculation mounted in recent months that the e-mail application was on its way.

"We're always listening to our customers and one piece of feedback was that people want the power of Outlook on all their Windows PCs and tablets," senior marketing manager Chris Schneider wrote on Microsoft's Office blog.

Outlook 2013 RT is slightly different from Outlook 2013. In the version created for the full-featured version of Windows, developers can use tools such as Visual Basic for Applications to write and run macros and other custom programs. But Visual Basic for Applications is not available for Outlook 2013 RT. The RT version of Outlook also does not include data loss prevention capabilities, nor does it support so-called Group Policy Objects, which corporate IT administrators use to centrally manage deployments of Office software.

Outlook 2013 RT also won't integrate with Microsoft's Lync video conferencing and instant messaging software, since it requires the beefier 64-bit version of Windows. And last, Outlook 2013 RT users will be able to read emails sent with information rights management, used to encrypt documents. But users can't create emails with the information rights management feature.

The new Outlook is built for touch computing. In his post, Schneider said it includes "a streamlined user experience that reduces clutter." Some of the new features include the ability to respond to email with inline reply, and being able to peek at the calendar and contacts in Outlook without have to manually switch between tabs.

Microsoft also announced that its Surface tablets will get new hotkeys with an update in about a week. Users can press the function and caps keys at the same time and it will lock the F1 through F12 keys into being function keys. Users will also be able to press function and spacebar to print their screen, the function and delete bar to turn the brightness up, and the function and backspace bar to turn the brightness down, among other new key combinations.