The new design for the Outlook.com web service is out of beta today, and with it comes a much-requested Dark Mode option.

Outlook.com comes with an optional Dark Mode feature. According to the Outlook.com team, Dark Mode is amongst, if not the most highly-requested featured for Microsoft’s web mail service, which counts approximately 400 million active users. Here’s how to switch from the default color scheme to the shades of gray that generate panel contrast.

Dark Mode is a more-pleasant way to read your email on Outlook.com, especially if you’re in a low-light environment or simply prefer interfaces that are less bright. It’s available on the new Outlook.com experience, formerly known as the Outlook.com Beta experience.

Microsoft explains:

One of the most crucial principles we had when designing Dark Mode was to minimize the amount of eye strain that people felt. Many email clients on the web today advertise a dark mode, but we learned from interviews with others and our own usage that having the reading pane be on-light while the rest of the interface was left on-dark often made the experience worse than if the full screen were left on-light.

Taking 2017’s much-praised Halloween theme for Outlook.com as a starting point, the team has redesigned the colors and code “multiple times” for the web app’s Dark Mode.

How to enable Dark Mode on Outlook.com

Microsoft unveiled this new theme following a major redesign effort on Outlook.com that began trickling down to select users back in March 2018. Starting today, the new Outlook.com design is no longer in beta—and with it comes the highly-requested Dark Mode!

TUTORIAL: How to enable Dark Mode on macOS Mojave

Here’s how to turn it on…

1) Using your Microsoft account, log in at Outlook.com.

2) If you don’t see Outlook’s new design, click Try the Beta.

3) Click the cog wheel icon near the top-right corner to open the Quick Settings panel.

4) The relevant toggle should appear right under Theme selection.

Outlook's Dark Mode is currently limited to the default blue theme.

Click the Dark Mode option listed in the menu to instantly switch to a darkened interface.

Microsoft says that Dark Mode will eventually be available for any Outlook.com theme

TIP: To see an email in its original formatting, click “Turn on the lights”. This should prove particularly helpful in situations when an email is difficult to read in Dark Mode.

While we did spot several inconsistencies—to briefly mention the Contacts pane and the Skype chat popups that still feature a white background—we expect those omissions to be addressed fully as Dark Mode over time becomes a fully-fleshed Outlook feature.

How Dark Mode on Outlook.com works

You’ll notice that Outlook.com’s Dark Mode is more of a gray appearance than black.

Example screenshots showcasing the various aspects of Dark Mode on Outlook.com

First and foremost, Dark Mode colors email messages you receive in a way that preserves both the readability of the original message and the intent of the original sender. Dark Mode is also applied across the Calendar, Contacts and Photos sections.

Example screenshots showcasing the various aspects of Dark Mode on Outlook.com

While Microsoft’s tests showed that a light gray background in the reading pane decreases eye strain, they went on to settle with a dark background for any emails that the user receives.

Here’s why:

One of the most crucial principles we had when designing Dark Mode was to minimize the amount of eye strain that people felt. Many email clients on the web today advertise a dark mode, but we learned from interviews with others and our own usage that having the reading pane be on-light while the rest of the interface was left on-dark often made the experience worse than if the full screen were left on-light.

At the time of this writing, Dark Mode only supported the default blue theme.

While there’s no word on whether they’ll implement Dark Mode as a true Outlook theme, Microsoft did say that “there would be a dark experience for all available themes in the future.”

TUTORIAL: How to enable Dark Mode on YouTube

In beta since Augus 2017, Dark Mode on Outlook.com is now ready for prime time. Keep in mind that this feature works in Safari, Chrome and other popular browsers.

Example screenshots showcasing the various aspects of Dark Mode on Outlook.com

If your browser is unable to support the Dark Theme feature on Outlook.com, consider using Microsoft Edge. For those wondering, Microsoft first debuted Outlook.com 6 years ago as a replacement for the aging Hotmail service.

Example screenshots showcasing the various aspects of Dark Mode on Outlook.com

Outlook.com Dark Mode screenshots courtesy of Microsoft observer Richard Hay

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