Microsoft today announced some interesting changes coming to its Outlook.com email service, including a simpler version of the popular Sweep tool and improved Search. These features will begin rolling out to user inboxes over the next few weeks, the firm says.

Simpler Sweep

Sweep is one of the best features in Outlook.com, and according to Microsoft, it's also pretty popular, and is used about 7.5 million times each week. If you're not familiar with Sweep, you should take a look, as it can be used to move or delete emails from a single sender, create a cleanup schedule for certain kinds of emails, or create email rules.

Now, Sweep is getting simpler while not losing any of the existing functionality. So instead of the menu you see now, Sweep will become a button that triggers a pop-up, resulting in fewer clicks to achieve the same end: A cleaner inbox.

Improved Search

Search is obviously one of the more common activities in Outlook.com and the coming update to the service will improve Search so that when you search for a contact—the most common type of search—it will show all of the email exchanges with that person, regardless of which folders the emails are found within.

They're also adding search criteria so you can do things like search for only those emails that included an attachment.

Finally, you'll be able to archive email in search results more easily, using a prominent Archive button in the top navigation bar.

Categories change

Outlook.com has supported categories for a while now, and looking over the changes here, I'm thinking this is very minor: They're simplifying the Categories drop-down somewhat so that you can categorizing multiple emails using a link rather than a button. Doesn't appear to be a major functional change.

Move To improvement

This one is more meaningful. In Outlook.com today, you can select one or more messages and then use the Move To navigation drop-down to choose a folder. But with the coming update, you'll be able to select one or more messages and then optionally use a "Move all email from..." choice that will move not just the selected messages, but all messages in the current folder from those senders.

More...

In the post Clean out your inbox with improved Sweep and Search on the Outlook Blog, Microsoft describes a few other interesting Outlook.com features, though I'm not sure they're new and/or related to the web experience. But you can check out that post for the full list.