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Microsoft's Latest Buy, Acompli, is a Great Email App

Microsoft's Latest Buy, Acompli, is a Great Email App

Reviewer James A. Martin says the free Android and iOS email app appears to be a worthy investment for the company. Here's why.

Microsoft this week announced it had acquired Acompli, an email and calendar integration app for Android and iOS. Re/code reports that Microsoft paid "north of $200 million," a far cry from Facebook's nearly $19 billion buyout of messaging app WhatsApp.

Still, Microsoft's acquisition raises two questions (at least) for mobile users: 1) With approximately 10 zillion email apps available today, why Acompli? And 2), is the free app worth a download?

According to a Microsoft blog post, Acompli "provides innovative ways to focus on what's important in your inbox, to schedule meetings, and work with attachments and files. Users love how it connects to all email services and provides a single place to manage email with a focus on getting things done."

Let's parse that paragraph to help determine if Acompli is worth a look.

"Innovative ways to focus on what's important in your inbox." Acompli does something simple but effective here. It separates messages into two tabs, "Focused" and "Other."

The Other tab houses your email subscriptions, customer service notifications, notices of orders processed, and similar communications. Everything else lands in the Focused tab, on the assumption that those messages require your attention. In my experience, Acompli does an excellent job of sorting mail into the two different tabs.

"Innovative ways ... to schedule meetings." This is probably my favorite Acompli feature. If you need to let someone know when you're available, you can create a new email or respond to one in Acompli. Tapping the calendar icon at the bottom of the message jumps you into your smartphone's calendar, where you can tap to select available slots. When you're done, Acompli adds a list of those time slots to the body of your email. When recipients receive messages on smartphones, they can tap one of the available slots to automatically create events in their calendars. I love this feature. (You can also create calendar invites.)

"Innovative ways ... to work with attachments and files." Acompli make it easy to add files stored in Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive to email messages. To attach Dropbox files to email, you must first connect your Dropbox account to Acompli. When you've linked the two, you select Dropbox as the file source, locate the file and then choose it. Acompli then sends a link to the recipient so they can view and download the file -- it doesn't send the actual file. Though it's not exactly simple to browse through files, Acompli's search tool makes it a snap to find specific documents.

"Users love how it connects to all email services." Acompli connects to Microsoft Exchange and Outlook.com (surprise!), as well as Gmail, iCloud and Yahoo! The iCloud support is a bit unusual for an email app.

Acompli also has some other useful, though not particularly unique, features. For example, swiping right on email brings up a "Schedule" feature that can be used to resend messages to your inbox "in a few hours," "tomorrow morning" or at a specific time. A leftward swipe lets you archive or, if you continue to swipe, delete a message.

Acompli is one of the the best email apps I've used -- and I test a lot of them. It doesn't try to dramatically rethink email, like Google's Inbox app, which wants you to learn an entirely new interface. Nor does it add lots of features you may not use, as is the case with just about every other email app I've ever reviewed. Instead, Acompli keeps it simple by using a familiar email interface and offering a select set of useful tools.

Will Acompli one day disappear into a Microsoft-branded email app? That's unclear, because Microsoft hasn't revealed its specific plans other than to say it is combining the Acompli team and its Outlook team. Whatever its future, Acompli is available today, it's free, and it's highly recommended.

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