Microsoft Garage

Microsoft Garage has a new project, which will make it easier for users to sort through their electronic mails. Called Email Insights, the new service searches through an Outlook or Gmail inbox and shows results within the app.

In its announcement, Microsoft says finding specific content in an email inbox is not easy. This is especially the case for enterprise users who may receive multiple emails per day. While searching an inbox will bring up relevant results, sometimes there are hundreds of emails to hunt through.

Email Insights intuitively finds the specific content, which takes the load off the user. The app searches connected inboxes and displays the top three most relevant results. This removes much of the scrolling through emails. Microsoft says the results is more like a search engine like Bing or Google.

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“Many users face this problem of not getting the emails they are looking for quickly,” says Suresh Parthasarathy, a senior research developer on Microsoft Research India’s Applied Sciences team.

“Web search has evolved over the years. We wanted to make email searches like web searches,” says Parthasarathy. “It is not just about the algorithms, but about the user experience. We present a novel browser-like email experience that feels lightweight and works just like web search.”

Extending the links to a search engine, Email Insights also features contextual autocomplete, fuzzy name search, and spelling correction. Multiple searches are also supported through a browser-like tab system. The search box can also be a quick task extension. Users can compose one-line emails and schedule meetings from the search box.

“The idea is to remove the cognitive load of a user while searching,” Parthasarathy adds. “A user need not remember all the exact keywords or spellings for their queries. Contextual fuzzy name search obviates the need to remember spellings of peoples’ names. For instance, ‘Chris’ gets corrected to ‘Kris’ and ‘Philip’ gets corrected to ‘Philippe,’ depending on your inbox.”

Outlook Extension

Email Insights started as a hackathon projects within Microsoft Garage. It has since grown to a full-scale app that the company describes as an extension of Outlook and Gmail.

In a few circumstances, Microsoft Garage projects get pulled if they are unsuccessful. The division was created to allow employees to collaborate across teams on outside projects. Each creation is an experiment that sits outside Microsoft’s normal sphere.

Email Insights is the kind of useful feature that we could see baked into Outlook fully in the future.

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