What Is Microsoft Outlook?

By Andy Joseph

If you ask someone to describe Microsoft Outlook 2013, there’s a strong possibility the person will define it as an email client. Although people primarily use Outlook for sending and receiving emails, this software application from technology giant Microsoft is much more than that. Microsoft Outlook also provides a calendar, a contacts organizer and task-management tools that make it a full-fledged personal information manager.

Basic Functions

The Microsoft Outlook interface mainly consists of an inbox panel. To the left is a list of email messages in the folder, while a larger area displaying all the details of the message is to the right. The user can use this information to decide which messages get top priority. Users can rely on Microsoft Outlook as an email client integrator, because it supports POP3 and IMAP protocols and can import messages from other Web-based email servers, such as Gmail and Microsoft’s own Outlook.com. Outlook can accommodate message importation from multiple email accounts.

Calendar and Tasks

With Microsoft Outlook’s calendar, users can create calendars and group them into categories to organize their professional and personal lives. In addition, users can set up reminders for meetings and appointments; share calendars by email or by publishing them online; and view their commitments by the day, week or month. A Tasks feature supports the creation of tasks, and it groups them by due date and category.

Contact List

Outlook's Contacts panel has a search bar at the top with an alphabetical list of names directly below the search bar. Users can double click on the panel to pull up a contact's window and enter information associated with the contact, including phone numbers, address, job title, company name, and email and website addresses. Users can also add headshots and notes related to the contact.

Availability and Compatibility

Although Outlook is bundled with the Microsoft Office suite of software applications and is part of Office 365, it is also available as a standalone purchase. In addition to Windows and Mac operating systems, Outlook is compatible with mobile platforms, including iOS and Android. Not only can people use Outlook on desktop and laptop computers, but also on tablet computers and smartphones as well.