Contacting Microsoft about making Microsoft Outlook emails linkable via AppleScript automation

We encourage Hook customers, and others who would like Microsoft Outlook for Mac emails to be linkable to request and/or vote for the following feature on Microsoft’s website. If you know a Microsoft MVP, please ask them to consider using one of their tickets on this. In your request, we encourage you to link to this webpage.


Summary

In sum, we request that as part of Microsoft Office 365 Feature ID 88537 “Support for AppleScript in the New Outlook for Mac”, Microsoft provide Outlook for Mac functions to get get the RFC-5322 compliant email ID and subject of the currently selected or open email, and a function to open an email by its ID.

Rationale and feature specification

Several email applications for the Mac (such as Apple Mail, MailMate, AirMail and Postbox Mac app) support linking via automation. These apps provide an API (AppleScript) for the user to do the following, which we also request that Microsoft Outlook support:

  1. Get the RFC-5322 compliant email ID of the currently selected or open email, if any.
  2. Get the RFC-5322 compliant email subject of the currently selected email or open email, if any.
  3. Given a RFC-5322 compliant email ID, search in the user’s email database for an email that matches that ID; if one is found, then open or select the matching email.

Please note that it is not sufficient to provide an API that uses Outlook’s ephemeral/proprietary email ID (which is all that Outlook’s previous AppleScript dictionary provided, unfortunately). That’s because those IDs were not the RFC-5322 compliant ID of the email. Outlook for Mac’s previous email-IDs:

  1. Do not survive after the user offloads and reloads his email in a macOS account.
  2. Cannot be used between different users, even if they both have a copy of the same email.

The RFC-5322 compliance is universal and persistent: it is the same for every user that has access to that email, in every Outlook instance or other email account, whether that user sent or received it. It can be used by different email client applications (e.g., Apple Mail and MailMate). This allows different users to reference the same email by using the RFC-5322 compliant ID. Of course, the user can only get and use email IDs for emails to which the user has access.

The requested feature effectively enables users to compose hyperlinks to emails, through automation and with software like Hook. In Hook’s case, it appends the ID to the hook://email/ URL.

Microsoft could validly choose to provide methods that include or use the RFC-5322 compliant ID along with other information, e.g., a outlook:// URL, _as long as it is possible to parse out the RFC-5322 compliant ID.

Providing this feature would align Microsoft with the Manifesto for Ubiquitous Linking, which was originally signed by 25 Mac developers, professors, and other influencers. It has subsequently been signed by many users and developers. This manifesto encourages developers to make their software linkable, which requires exposing information that identifies the items managed by the software via automation (like AppleScript).

Please note that strictly speaking AppleScript is not required. For instance, command line or x-callback-url APIs could be provided, as long as the API language supports the three functions above.

This topic is also discussed here: Hook with New Outlook Design – Discussion & Help – Hook Productivity Forum. Also relevant is What’s a Linkable App and Why Does Linkability Matter? .

Support for Microsoft

We at CogSci Apps Corp. are leaders in hyperlinking and interapp communication on Mac.

The CEO (Dr. Luc P. Beaudoin) and CTO (Brian Shi) of CogSci Apps Corp](https://CogSciApps.com) are available to act as consultants to Microsoft, to help Microsoft understand the benefits and requirements of what we are proposing. Beaudoin and Shi have been doing R&D in this space since 2002 and 2003 respectively. Beaudoin is also adjunct professor of Education and of Cognitive Science at Simon Fraser University. Beaudoin in 2020 published a chapter on the subject that is the basis of the Manifesto for Ubiquitous Linking. Beaudoin is also the editor of the Manifesto for Ubiquitous Linking. He has also been a leader in specifying RFC-compliant element management systems.

Extra points

We should point out that Microsoft Word and Powerpoint do provide information through which its files can be identified. That’s good.

Microsoft 365 Feature ID 88537 details:

Please see Microsoft 365 Roadmap – Latest Updates | Microsoft 365.

AppleScript is a language used to automate the actions of the MacOS and many of its applications. We will add support for this feature in the new Outlook for Mac.

  • Feature ID: 88537
  • Added to roadmap: 12/8/2021
  • Last modified: 12/8/2021
  • Product(s): Outlook
  • Cloud instance(s): GCC, Germany, GCC High, Worldwide (Standard Multi-Tenant), DoD
  • Platform(s): Mac
  • Release phase(s): Current Channel, Current Channel (Preview), General Availability