Microsoft's beta is a smarter inbox with more GIFs

It's the start to a program that lets you try unfinished features.

Microsoft already lets you preview versions of Windows and the Xbox interface before they're finished, so why not its email service? Sure enough, you're getting that chance. The company has launched an beta program that gives you a peek at future designs. The first preview is a whopper, too -- it's a significantly updated design that improves both search and your ability to express yourself.

The centerpiece is a smarter inbox that offers search suggestions as you type, so you can quickly recommend a restaurant or add flight details. You don't have to be stone-cold serious, though: there's also an easier way to find "expressions" like emoji and GIFs if you want to have some fun. There's also a refined photo interface that puts all your sent and received images in one place, and a "modern" conversation style that helps you handle attachments.

You'll only have to flip a toggle to turn the beta features on or off, but don't count on seeing it right away. It'll take a few weeks before everyone can experiment. Even so, this beats waiting weeks or months for features that you know you could appreciate right away.