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Issue #858: Dec 31, 2023 – Jan 6, 2024

Q: I’m retired now, but I’ve kept my email address and provider, and continue to use Outlook. Recently, I’m getting promos from Microsoft asking me to switch to “The New Outlook”. Right now, I am getting email on my iPhone and laptop through Cox, and I also have access through webmail. If I don’t switch, will the old Outlook eventually go away? Can you help me decide whether to switch?

 – Marianne K.
Destin, Florida

A: Why yes, I do believe I can help you decide, Marianne.  My assistance begins with a little lesson on e-mail terminology and how various items interact to make e-mail happen.

First of all, unless I misread your inquiry, you may be conflating your e-mail provider with the e-mail software client that you use to read and send e-mails.  For example, you said “I am getting e-mail on my iPhone and laptop through Cox, and I also have access through webmail.”  That is a description of three different views of the same e-mail account, each using a different e-mail client.

I believe Microsoft may be partially to blame for the confusion.  You are using the Outlook e-mail client as one of your e-mail viewers, but Microsoft also has an e-mail service named Outlook.com.  That makes it a little too easy to confuse the client with the e-mail account that it’s accessing.

To address your direct questions, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the older version of Outlook will eventually be retired.  You may not realize it, but there have been well over 20 versions of Outlook over the years.  There have been at least 15 versions just since it began bundling with Microsoft Office way back in 1997, and it was already at version 8.0 at the time.  In their attempt to drive people to newer versions of their software products, Microsoft routinely retires their older versions.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the newer versions are almost always more secure, and offer newer and more modern features to users.  Also, many times the upgrade comes at no cost to the end consumer if they’re already an established user.

Microsoft began announcing the so-called “new Outlook” in May 2022.  Initially available only to Office Insiders, the new version is what is deemed a Progressive Web App, or PWA.  That is a $5 term that simply means the software is delivered via your Internet connection, rather than being installed in the typical fashion.  It’s basically the same thing as the current Microsoft 365 web suite.  This type of architecture puts Microsoft in control of updates and security patches, and thereby helps to control malware that exploits security vulnerabilities, since once they are patched, the patch automatically rolls out to all users as they use the software.

You can put to rest all your concerns about changing e-mail clients, Marianne.  Modern e-mail servers are more-or-less standardized, and your Cox account will be every bit as accessible under the new version as it was on your old version.  In other words, no matter which version you choose, nothing will change as far as accessing your e-mail goes.  Now, having said all of that, I wonder whether it will influence you to know that I use webmail almost exclusively, across about eight different e-mail accounts that I manage.

 Well, my dear Geeks, that’s it for the column for 2023.  I want to take this time to say thank-you to everyone who has continued to submit questions, which as I’ve said, are the very fuel that continues to power the column.  For the foreseeable future, as long as you keep supplying the fuel, the column will continue.  So, with that, I bid you a Happy New Year, 2024!  Best of luck in the coming year, and Happy Computing!


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