Outlook category-based tracking in server-side synchronization

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Microsoft has announced Outlook category-based tracking with the Dynamics 365 app for Outlook. This ought to bridge the gap between Dynamics 365 App for Outlook, the future of Dynamics 365 and Outlook integration, and the legacy Outlook add-in Dynamics 365 for Outlook. You can read the official blogpost “Introducing Outlook category-based tracking in server-side synchronization” on the Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Team Blog.

New Features

Allow delegates to track mail and appointment on users’ behalf 

If you allow another person to manage your email and calendar by providing them delegate access, the delegate can track your emails and appointments by assigning the “Tracked to Dynamics 365” category. 

Track multiple emails and appointments 

Select multiple emails and categorize them as “Tracked to Dynamics 365” to track them in Dynamics 365. If you want to perform other tasks like Set Regarding, use Dynamics 365 App for Outlook. You can also set up a rule in Outlook to assign or remove category to automate category assignment. 

Track Outlook tasks to Dynamics 365  

You can track your Outlook tasks to Dynamics 365 based on server-side synchronization rules by assigning the “Tracked to Dynamics 365” category in Outlook. 

Identify tracked emails and appointments in Outlook at a glance 

Visually identify email messages and calendar items that are tracked to Dynamics 365 by the presence of the “Tracked to Dynamics 365” Outlook category. If you have Dynamics 365 App for Outlook, you can open the app to view more details on a specific email or appointment. 

Category-based tracking via server-side synchronization is an opt-in experience. To understand how to enable this capability for your Dynamics 365 organization, please review the documentation. This is currently available on Dynamics 365 (online) version 8.2, with support for version 9.0 soon to follow. 

So why does Microsoft release this new feature?

This feature ought to bridge the gap between Dynamics 365 App for Outlook, the future of Dynamics 365 and Outlook integration, and the legacy Outlook add-in Dynamics 365 for Outlook. In case you forgot, Microsoft announced earlier that they would continue support for Outlook add-in (Dynamics 365 for Outlook), after receiving overwhelming feedback about the depreciation of the add-in.

The announcement itself went as next:

Since this announcement, we have received overwhelming feedback from customers, partners, and the Dynamics community around the need for the Outlook add-in. Additionally, we understand that some feature gaps in Dynamics 365 App for Outlook prevent it from being a viable replacement for the Outlook add-in. As a result, we are reversing the deprecation of Dynamics 365 for Outlook.

We want to enable customers who are on older versions of Dynamics 365 to be able to upgrade and not lose core functionalities that their business has come to rely on.

What does this mean?

This announcement means that we will continue to release Dynamics 365 for Outlook with new versions of Dynamics 365. As a result, customers upgrading to a new version of Dynamics 365 will have the same Outlook integration experience as in previous versions.

The Outlook add-in will also continue to be fully supported in current and future versions of Dynamics 365, and bugs will continue to be fixed. Additionally, we are making improvements to the performance and reliability of the Outlook add-in to ensure fewer problems for customers.

From a functionality standpoint, all current scenarios will continue to be supported; we are not planning to add any new features.

What does this mean for Dynamics 365 App for Outlook?

We are still increasing our investment in Dynamics 365 App for Outlook. This means fixing the functionality gaps between the Outlook add-in and Dynamics 365 App for Outlook, so customers have a viable alternative for core business scenarios.

The reversal of the deprecation of Dynamics 365 for Outlook does not change the fact that COM add-ins (like Dynamics 365 for Outlook) are an older and slower technology. Dynamics 365 App for Outlook is based on newer Office add-in technology. This is an area where the Outlook team is also investing heavily. Unlike COM add-ins, Office add-ins do not have any code physically installed on the user’s device or on the Outlook client. They are easier to deploy and maintain, much more reliable, and work across platforms.

We encourage our customers to adopt Dynamics 365 App for Outlook, which is a modern Office add-in, and hope that those who have already migrated are able to see the benefits of this modern user experience in terms of interaction as well as deployment.

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