I’m pleased to be able to blog on this subject – the Outlook (indeed, Office) 2013 apps were something that showed up in presentations from fairly early iterations, but now I’ve actually experienced them. If you’re wondering who the people are in this example, they’re demo users. IBM have Frank and Samantha and their colleagues, we have Katie, Sara, Alex, Robin and a number of others.

I should also mention that at the moment we only have access to a US version of the Bing Maps app – it understands addresses with zip codes, and we’re awaiting a UK version which understands post codes. I don’t know what the plans are for the rest of the world.

So, here’s the scenario. Sara sends Katie an e-mail suggesting a follow-up meeting. It doesn’t matter what the meeting is about, don’t get hung up on that. Katie receives the e-mail and sees that there’s a grey app bar at the top showing that Outlook has found some items it recognises and can be associated with some installed apps – Bing Maps, Suggested Meetings, and Action Items.

Clicking on Bing Maps will expand this bar into a panel and – you’ve guessed it – the address at the bottom of the e-mail (Bob’s hotel) will be plotted on a Bing Map. Pretty straightforward.

Next Katie clicks on Suggested Meetings – again the bar expands into a panel, and a message says that Outlook thinks it’s found a suggestion for a meeting. It assumes that the Friday is the upcoming Friday, adds the time and uses the subject of the e-mail as the subject for the meeting.

An extra note on this: when I demoed it yesterday the meeting suggestion was for 3pm on Tuesday – surely that was wrong? Well, no. Outlook recognised that the e-mail in the demo was sent on Wednesday last week, and therefore the Friday suggested was last Friday (the 16th) not this Friday (the 23rd). So it stated that we’d missed the original meeting suggestion and created another one for the near future.

It’s fairly obvious how these two apps work – one is looking for a recognisable (US) address and the other is looking for dates and times for a meeting. But the final app is a bit less obvious in what it’s looking for. Finally, Katie clicks on Action Items, and you can see from the highlighted text that Outlook has recognised “Please can you prepare an agenda” as something that should be actioned. Clicking the ‘follow up’ button adds a follow up flag to the e-mail.