Microsoft Outlook For Web Gears Up For Gmail-Style Text Predictions

Outlook Crystal Ball
The psychics at Microsoft are working on implementing a predicative text feature to the web version of Outlook. As you begin composing an email, the feature will attempt at what you most likely are aiming to write, and will "suggest words for phrases" that you can quickly input if applicable, or of course ignore if they miss the mark.

When typing a message and suggested text appears, users can press the Tab key or the Right arrow key to roll with the crystal ball prediction. Otherwise, users can effectively ignore the suggested text by simply continuing to type their message, at which point the suggested text will take the hint and perform a disappearing act.

It remains to be seen how well it works, but based on a basic description in a support document on the topic, it sounds similar to Google's Smart Compose feature for Gmail. Smart Compose is a benefit of machine learning, in that it uses neural networks to come up with relevant suggestions, as Google outlined in a blog post a couple of years ago.

Microsoft is undoubtedly also using machine learning for the upcoming feature. As such, users can expect the predictions to improve over time as the technology gets a better grasp at context. It will be interesting to see how it compares to Smart Compose, both right out of the gate and down the line (Smart Compose is a work in progress as well).

For users who might be distracted by suggested text or otherwise want to turn it off, there will be an ability to do that. It can be found by going to the top of the page and navigating to Settings > View all Outlook settings > Mail > Compose and reply. Once there, uncheck the Suggest words or phrases I type under the Text predictions setting.

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