Works with: Outlook

In keeping with Microsoft’s broader embrace of the trend called consumerization of IT, Outlook 2013 now integrates with several social connectors. This technology, which originated as a series of add-ons for Outlook 2010, lets users further blur the line between personal and work relationships by bringing their contacts’ activities and other data from popular social networks into Outlook.

And to be clear, these social connectors are not just about viewing your friends’ latest activities. Integration with popular social networks provides a number of useful features to Outlook, including automatic profile photos, an obvious and natural way to ask questions of those you trust, and a richer understanding of their presence: Where they are now and what they’re doing.

And while the social connectors in Outlook 2013 work much like their predecessors, the big difference this time around is that you don’t have to know about them, find them online, and install them manually in order to use them. Instead, you can connect to social networks directly from within Outlook.

There are a number of entry points for this functionality in the application. The most direct, perhaps, is from the People view: Just click the link titled Connect to a social network in the My Contacts pane. This launches a wizard which lets you select the networks to which you’d like to connect.

osc-02

Once you’ve made the connections you want, you can exit the wizard and you’ll notice a few changes immediately. For example, your previously bland contacts list in People will fill out with the profile picture your contacts have established for themselves on their own connected networks.

ppl

Social connections will also appear elsewhere through Outlook too. The most obvious will be via the People pane in the Mail view.

ppl-pane

Expand the view and you can see the latest updates from any connected social network(s).

ppl-pane2

If you’re familiar with the social connector in Outlook 2010, you’ll notice that the look of this pane has changed. But the basics are the same, and it appears as before (with email, meeting requests and other places in which you’re interacting with people).