Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) technology was originally designed to sync Exchange-based data with mobile devices using standards-based web protocols. But with EAS getting more and more powerful, and providing push-based access to email, contacts, and appointments, Microsoft is now beginning to use it in its Windows-based email clients as well. So in Outlook 2013, you can now connect to any Microsoft account service using EAS instead of legacy connection types.

Note: Microsoft has also provided EAS client capabilities in its Metro-style Mail app in Windows 8.

So why is EAS such a big deal? It’s a de facto industry standard, and it keeps your data where it belongs—on the server, or “in the cloud”—where it can be accessed (synced) from anywhere at any time, using any connected EAS client. (These include smart phones, tablets, and now PCs.) Changes made anywhere are made on the server and are synced immediately to connected clients using push. And unlike protocols such as POP or IMAP, EAS works with more than just email. It’s the full meal deal.

Configuring accounts in Outlook used to involve a variety of technologies, and in the case of Microsoft’s own Hotmail accounts, it even required a separate add-on called Outlook Connector. With Outlook 2013, Microsoft’s premier desktop email and PIM (personal information management) client can be configured in the same way that you configure accounts on mobile platforms like Windows Phone, Android, and iOS (iPhone/iPad).

Microsoft provides EAS-based connectivity with all of its current email solutions, including Office 365, Exchange, Hotmail, and Outlook.com. But virtually all major email providers, including Google Gmail, support EAS as well. This is the preferred method for configuring an account in Outlook 2013, assuming that EAS support is available from the account provider.

Setting up an EAS-based account in Outlook 2013 is easy, since this application will correctly detect EAS settings and configure things properly in most cases. (And yes, you can of course configure multiple accounts of any kind, including EAS accounts, in Outlook 2013.)

If you’re running Outlook for the first time, you’ll be asked if you wish to set up the application to work with an email account during the initial configuration wizard. You can of course do so at that point. Otherwise, or if you’re adding additional accounts, you can click the File menu to display Outlook’s Backstage interface.

backstage

Then, click the Add Account button.

In the Add Account dialog that appears, simply leave it on Email Account and enter your name, email address, and password. For Hotmail, Outlook.com, Exchange, and Office 365 accounts, this should just work. You can verify that the account was created using EAS settings (and not POP or IMAP) by checking the “Change account settings” option when you see the Congratulations message. In the next view, you’ll see that Exchange ActiveSync was used

If you have a problem configuring an account this way, you can use the Manual setup or additional server types option during account set up (instead of the default Email Account option). For Hotmail or Outlook.com account types, using the following information during account set up:

Your Name: Your name as you wish it to appear in email messages

E-mail Address: Your full Hotmail or Outlook.com email address (i.e. accountname@outlook.com)

Mail server: m.hotmail.com

User Name: Your full Hotmail or Outlook.com email address (i.e. accountname@outlook.com)

Password: Your password.

I’ve configured Outlook 2013 with multiple EAS-based accounts—including Exchange 2010, Office 2013, two Hotmail accounts, and one Outlook.com account—and the setup and configuration has worked flawlessly.

If you’re a Gmail user—Google’s email service also uses EAS for mobile device connectivity—you will find that this account is configured by Outlook using IMAP by default, and thus only works with email. I’ve tried manually connecting to Gmail with EAS using the set up wizard, but it refuses to work. It’s unclear if this is on Microsoft’s or Google’s end, but I’ll try to find out. (Or you could simply switch to Outlook.com for its superior integration capabilities; I’ve been writing a series of Outlook.com tips over the past few weeks.)