Microsoft thinks you need 'likes' and @mentions in Outlook

Microsoft Office 2016 shifts focus from 'me' to 'we'
Microsoft Office 2016 shifts focus from 'me' to 'we'

#Oy. Two head-scratching features that you didn't think you needed are coming to Microsoft Outlook: Likes and @mentions.

This week, Microsoft will begin rolling out a thumbs-up icon into the reading pane of Outlook, letting you "like" an email.

Once you click the like button, the sender will receive a notification letting him or her know that you enjoyed the message.

So, for example, your manager might email you saying, "Great work on the TPS reports." Instead of hitting reply, typing "Thanks," and hitting send, you can now like the email in a single click.

One click instead of 2 clicks and 6 key strokes: t-h-a-n-k-s.

It's just another part of Microsoft's strategy to make us more productive.

microsoft office likes

Adding @mentions to emails makes a bit more sense -- a bit.

You can now type an email in Outlook and @mention a colleague or contact in the body. When you do that, it will add him or her to the To: field (if the person wasn't already included in the email) and flag the message with an "@" symbol.

Microsoft (MSFT, Tech30) envisions two scenarios for using @mentions: 1) when you have an email thread and want to add someone who wasn't originally included, and 2) when you want to call out someone to do a particular task.

For example, you might receive a group email from a colleague that says, "Hey, it's taco day at the cafeteria! @YourName, think you can beat your record from last week?"

microsoft office mention 2

Microsoft said in a blog post that the additions to Outlook are necessary: "Over the last several years, social networks have changed the way we communicate."

It's true that social media and even Office-rivaling productivity apps like Slack have begun using tags, likes and @mentions to notify other people. But Outlook using social media parlance feels a bit like your grandpa using the term "bae." You know what it means, but it just doesn't feel right.

Still, Microsoft knows that it needs to modernize to keep its tools relevant to the Millenial worker. Office 2016 was focused on making Outlook, Word and Excel more collaborative, complete with "share" buttons and cloud storage. No one likes email, and adding new features that make it somewhat simpler to use might make Outlook more attractive to the social media generation -- even if the utility of the changes isn't all that apparent.

Microsoft said the new features will roll out to most Office 365 corporate customers by the middle of November. Outlook.com customers will get the feature in December. And Office 2016 customers using the Windows, Mac, iPhone or Android apps will get it by the middle of next year.

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