Microsoft is preparing to roll out a new feature for email service Outlook that will give users a chance to assess the suitability of their messages before sending.
As explained in a new entry to the company’s product roadmap, Outlook users will soon gain access to an upgraded version of the MailTips help service. Available from July onwards, the new-look tool will notify people if their emails do not live up to accessibility standards.
“Users will see a MailTip in Outlook recommending to fix accessibility issues before sending email messages to large [groups], external users, or for any messages marked as ‘high importance’. The MailTip will show up at the top of the email compose window,” explained Microsoft.
With a larger proportion of collaboration taking place over email and cloud-based office software since the start of the pandemic, the need for workers to ensure their communications meet accessibility standards has only become more acute.
However, it’s not always easy to remember to perform accessibility checks in the heat of a busy working day. And in some instances, it may be unclear precisely what can be done to make an email more accessible. The upcoming update for MailTips in Outlook should help address both of these problems.
“By creating and sending accessible emails, you ensure that recipients can access, read and use the information they contain,” said Microsoft, in a separate explainer.
“We are expanding the functionality [of MailTips] to automatically prompt you when an accessibility violation is detected while composing an email to large audiences or external users, for example, and help you fix the issue.”
There are a number of ways to configure the new feature, which can be switched on permanently, activated only in certain scenarios (e.g. when a recipient has registered specific accessibility needs), or turned off until a manual accessibility check is performed.
The Outlook announcement follows on from a separate update for Microsoft Office, which serves a related purpose. As detailed in a blog post from January, Microsoft 365 customers can now use a new Accessibility Reminder add-on for Word, Excel and PowerPoint to notify colleagues of any additional needs they may have.
The idea was to create a non-confrontational way for someone to remind co-workers of their accessibility needs that didn’t involve sending out a dedicated email or instant message.
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