Microsoft Outlook update will address one of the most common office frustrations

Microsoft is readying an update for email service Outlook that will help ensure users don’t get caught without a space ahead of an important meeting.

As per two new entries in the Microsoft 365 product roadmap, users of Outlook for iOS and Android will soon benefit from the ability to browse and reserve meeting rooms on their work phones.

“Need to book a space? Outlook Mobile is here to make your transition to hybrid work easier. Search and book conference rooms when you need to collaborate with colleagues or book a workspace when you need some time to focus,” wrote Microsoft.

The new room finder feature is currently in development across both major mobile platforms, but should roll out to all users by the end of March.

Microsoft Outlook update

As many workers begin to return to the office, at least part-time, there are bound to be a range of issues that businesses will need to iron out.

A number of collaboration software vendors are talking about challenges to do with ensuring meetings remain equitable when participants are split between the home and office. Others are concerned about equipping workers with the tools they need to remain secure and productive, no matter their working environment.

With its latest update for Outlook, Microsoft is honing in on a more practical issue: room bookings. To date, Outlook users have been required to search for available meeting rooms using the desktop app or another alternative system implemented by their company.

Once the latest update takes effect, however, users will be given the freedom to manage room bookings on the go. This could be useful, say, if someone needs to make a last-minute booking while on the way to the office or out at lunch.

In recent months, Microsoft has announced a series of new hybrid working-related features for Outlook, including the ability to specify one’s working location on a day-by-day basis and color-coordinate the calendar to create clearer distinction between meetings.

The idea is that the new room finder feature will combine with these recent updates to improve the overall hybrid working experience for end users.

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Microsoft Teams update will eliminate a common business bottleneck

Getting your next big project or idea approved by your manager or boss can often slow down productivity which is why Microsoft launched its new Approvals app in Microsoft Teams earlier this year.

The Approvals app can be accessed from any chat or channel conversation or by using the dedicated app entry point in the left navigation bar in Teams.

With the app open, all you have to do is fill in the details of the approval like the title, description and the users who need to approve it and hit 'Send'. However, you can also add attachments from Microsoft's office software or custom responses to tailor the request to your business needs.

Once submitted, the approvers are notified within Teams and can act on an approval request either from the chat directly using the Approvals card or from within the Personal app. They can also quickly review the details of the approval right within Teams before making a decision to approve or reject it.

Microsoft 365 groups as approvers

After launching in January of last year, Microsoft is now working on a new feature for the Teams Approval App that is slated to roll out next month.

According to a new post in the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, the software giant is adding the ability to select Microsoft 365 groups as approvers when creating a new approval request within Teams.

For those unfamiliar, Groups in Microsoft 365 let you choose a set of people that you wish to collaborate with and easily set up a collection of resources for those people to share. These resources may include a shared Outlook inbox, shared calendar or a document library in OneDrive for collaboration on files.

When this new feature becomes available, Teams users will be able to send approval requests to their Microsoft 365 groups which could be useful if approvers aren't using the company's video conferencing software and online collaboration tool.

Looking to improve your video call experience? Check out our roundups of the best video conferencing softwarebest business webcams and best headsets for conference calls

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Windows 11 could finally solve one of the most common video call problems

Microsoft is looking to solve a major annoyance for video conferencing users with a new preview update for Windows 11.

The Windows 11 Insider Preview Build 22494, which was released to the Dev Channel in early November, is getting a new way to mute and unmute the microphone, straight from the taskbar. 

The feature will initally be limited to Microsoft Teams, the company's online collaboration app, but the company is expecting developers to pick it up and add the functionality to other applications, as well.

Microsoft Teams muting

“We are beginning to roll this experience out to a subset of Windows Insiders with Microsoft Teams for work or school installed and ramp it up over time,” Microsoft said in its announcement. “This means not everyone will see this right away with their Teams calls.”

As soon as a user enters a Teams call, Windows 11 will add a microphone icon to the bottom right part of the screen, next to the volume, battery and Wi-Fi icons. By simply tapping/clicking the icon, the user can quickly toggle between mute and unmute states. The capability only applies to the current call, the company added. 

Right now, the feature is limited to Microsoft Teams, but the company’s plan is to bring it to Chat from Microsoft Teams (Microsoft Teams for home) as well. It also said other communications applications can add this capability, meaning it’s up to individual companies or users to see if adding it makes sense.

“You can see your call audio status, what app is accessing your microphone, and quickly mute and unmute your call at any time,” Microsoft further explained.

There is also a keyboard shortcut to mute/unmute the microphone: Win + Alt + K. This, too, works only in Microsoft Teams, for the time being.

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