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Power in Your Palm: Microsoft Outlook and Office Apps

If you are a Microsoft 365 user then getting the Outlook and Office app on your smart phone is an easy decision.  Built for what you need from your small screen, these apps provide an amazing amount of functionality, including scanning, signatures, managing your calendar and far more.

MS Outlook App

Sure, you can get your Outlook emails on the native email app on your iPhone or Android. However, the Outlook app will combine your calendar, email, contacts and even search files in OneDrive all in one app. This gives you one stop shopping for work related endeavors and keeps it separate from your personal emails.

Inbox Views

In the Outlook app on the primary screen on the upper right corner click the hamburger menu to view all the messages in your inbox or choose to only view those that are unread, flagged, those with attachments or ones with @ mentions.

On the left side of the home screen click on your avatar (the picture to the left of the Inbox). There you can see your Outlook folder structure and access emails stored in each folder. You can also add additional email accounts, which is especially useful if you have a shared inbox for your firm, like your “[email protected]”.

Further down the far-left panel you will see a play button. You can set up Cortana to read your emails to you. Below that is a gear icon. The gear icon has all the app settings. You can add your signature, change notification settings, switch to focused inbox, organize your email by threads, add a storage account like Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive to make it easier to access your files and even get add-ins like Evernote, Slack, or Trello.

One handy setting is customizing your swipe options. The default is swipe right to delete and left to archive. However, you can change those defaults and choose to use swipe to move an email to a folder, flag it for follow up, or snooze an email to return to your inbox with a left or right swipe.

Sending and Responding

Because your calendar and document storage are integrated in the Outlook app you have some additional options when you send or respond to an email. In a new email or response to an email, if you click on the calendar icon at the bottom of the screen you can choose to “send availability” and it opens your calendar. Click a few times and then your message will show those times as available to meet with a note that says, “Here are some times that work for me.” The recipient can click on a time to add it to your calendar and theirs. Or if you receive a message that you want to convert to a calendared event click “convert to event” and it will set it up in your calendar with an invitation to the recipient.

You can send attachments from your device, OneDrive or SharePoint, or another online document storage you set up and even find attachments you recently received by clicking on the attachment icon and “choose from files”. If you instead click “choose from photo library” you can send pictures from your phone or browse files in other apps.

If you click on the camera icon you can take a picture of a document and send it as a document, photo, or whiteboard. If you choose “photo” you can send a selfie.

You can also format the text of your email with bold, italics, underline, bulleted and numbered lists and add an embedded hyperlink.

The Calendar

On the main screen click the calendar icon on the far right at the bottom of the screen. You can view your Outlook calendar. The default view is your week with a Sunday start organized in agenda view. You can change your preferences to day view, 3 days, or the entire month by clicking on the hamburger menu in the upper right corner.

Click the plus button to add a new event. You can add people, location, and description. You can even mark the event as private if you share your calendar with other people and the event is personal. One thing that you can’t do, that you can in Outlook on your desktop or in the browser, is add an attachment to the event.


On the home screen at the bottom there is a magnifying glass icon. Click to search your contacts, files, events, and emails. It shows the last searches you did in the app and in Outlook on your desktop.

If you do not enter a search term the screen will show you recent contacts. Click on the plus sign to add a contact. Your options include “scan business card” or simply add contact. You can also access your files from OneDrive or other document storage.

The Office App

Microsoft 365 rolled out the Office App that combines Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in a way that simplifies the experience with fewer apps to download or switch between. It requires far less phone storage than installing individual apps while maintaining virtually all the capabilities of the existing mobile apps. It also includes “Lens” that lets you scan a document.


After you install the Office app go into your Settings to connect services like OneDrive or another online document storage. Explore file preferences, including opening Word docs in a mobile view by default and choosing your default storage location. Set notifications so you can be alerted when someone shares a file with you.

Home Screen

On the home screen you will see “Recommended” files, which are typically files you have recently edited or that are shared with you. Below that you will see a list of files you have worked on recently. The recent files are the files you have worked on regardless of where – on your laptop, on a tablet, in the browser or on your phone.

You can also see your Sticky Notes. Sticky notes in Windows 10 are virtual “post it” notes. You can create one on your desktop and see it on your phone and it also automatically saves to OneNote.


To access Lens, click the plus sign at the bottom of the Office app screen. Click on Lens to invoke your phone’s camera. Take and save a photo, a whiteboard, or scan to a document. You can annotate or edit your capture, crop, combine, filter and change the file type to PDF, Word, or Image. Click “done”.  If you saved the document as a PDF click on the vertical ellipses in the upper right corner to add text to the PDF, rename, convert to Word or open Signature Mode to draw your signature with your finger or a stylus. When you are finished click on the share icon to save the file, email, or text it, or send to any number of apps.

Create or Edit a Document

In the Office app click the plus sign at the bottom of the screen and then click Documents. In addition to creating new blank documents or choosing a template, you can scan text or dictate to create a Word document, scan a table to create an Excel worksheet, or create a PowerPoint from pictures on your phone or from an outline.


From the Office app main screen click “Actions”. You can transfer files between your phone and your computer or share to someone nearby with Near Field Communication (NFC). You can convert images to text and images to a table in Excel.

Under “Do More with PDFs” you can create a PDF from a picture, convert a document to a PDF or convert a PDF document to Word. You can also add a signature to a PDF.

Finally, under “More Actions” you can scan a QR code or rehearse a PowerPoint presentation with Coach. The Coach gives you instant feedback as you rehearse your slide presentation. Coach will remind you to use fewer filler words like “um”, gives you encouragement (“you’re doing great”), reminds you to alter tone and pitch if you are monotone or reading slides and will gently chastise you for insensitive language. Then the Coach sends you a summary with the total time spent and some pointers for improvement.


To round out the apps from Microsoft 365 you will also want to get To Do and Teams if you use those tools. The Outlook app and Office app give you rich functionality, designed for the mobile device, which give you amazing features when you are out and about. With all the tools you get you may even be able to leave your laptop at home if you need to access a document, make a quick edit or respond to email.  This article covers the tip of the iceberg, there is a lot more to explore in these apps.