Software optimize

10 great new features in OWA 2010

Outlook Web Access can come in quite handy, but it's always been a little feature-deprived and difficult to configure. Now at last, OWA delivers a more Outlook-like experience.

I admit it: I'm an Outlook junkie. I live and die by my email. It's the primary way I get new business, submit my articles, receive feedback from readers, communicate with vendors, conduct personal business, and stay in touch with family and friends. I rely on Exchange and Outlook to deliver my messages and attachments to me (often hundreds per day), to organize them in a way that fits my priorities, and to manage them so that I can find them when I need them. I also depend on the calendar to keep me apprised of what I'm supposed to be doing and when and where I'm scheduled to do it.

I always upgrade my desktop and laptop computers to the latest version of Outlook as soon as it's stable (while still in beta) to take advantage of whatever enhancements have been added. Most of the time, then, I'm working with the latest and greatest that Microsoft has to offer. But there are times when I have to use someone else's system or a public computer to access my mail and calendaring information. Of course, I don't have to have the Outlook client installed to do that; I can use Outlook Web Access (OWA) instead. However, up until now, I've always felt a bit of a disconnect when using OWA. It works. It works, but not like Outlook. It was always clunkier and much less configurable, slowing me down in the processing of all those mail messages.

Enter Exchange 2010's implementation of OWA. Finally, the Web experience almost mirrors the Outlook client experience. In this article, I'll show you 10 improvements in OWA 2010 that make accessing your Exchange mail on the web a whole new -- and much better -- experience.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Conversation view

OWA 2010 provides the same conversation view and experience as Outlook 2010: By default, messages are displayed in threads so that all the messages on a particular topic are grouped. No more searching for a previous message to check what the response is referring to. When a new message in a thread comes in, the whole thread gets moved chronologically to the date/time of the new message. Conversation view has its benefits and drawbacks, but if you don't like it, you can turn it off. Just right-click Arrange By, scroll down to Conversations, and deselect Show Messages In Conversations.

2: Ignore option

If you belong to mailing lists, you'll appreciate this new feature in Outlook 2010, which you also get with OWA 2010. Sometimes, the group will engage in discussions that don't interest you at all. Now you don't even have to see them. Just select Ignore Conversation from the action menu and any further messages in that conversation will be automatically deleted. This can be a real time-saver.

3: Forward as an attachment

It's a little thing, but sometimes it's the little things that matter most. With OWA 2010, you can forward an email message as an attachment. This can come in handy if you need to forward a message to someone but don't necessarily want the person to open it immediately. You can create an original message where you can tell the person about the attachment -- or example, you might forward a message that possibly contains a virus to someone who provides technical support for you.

4: Delivery report

Another new option on the action menu is Open Delivery Report. If you've ever sent an important email and then agonized over whether it got to the recipient, this feature will be one of your favorites. You can search for messages you've sent to a specified recipient, messages you've received from a specified recipient, or messages with specific words in the subject line. The delivery report will show you on what date and at what time the message was submitted and when it was successfully delivered.

5: Same premium experience without IE

One of my pet peeves about previous versions of OWA was that to get the best experience, you had to use IE. It didn't work the same in other browsers, such as a Firefox. You got a "light" version of OWA instead. And if the only computer available to log on to the Internet was a Mac with just Safari as the browser choice, it was no fun at all. OWA 2010 supports the complete, premium experience on Mac OS X with Safari as well as with Firefox.

6: Integrated IM/presence information

OWA 2010 integrates directly with Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2, allowing you to see the presence status (available, busy, away, etc.) of other users within your organization and even engage in a chat with them. You can also engage in multiple chat sessions with different people at the same time.

7: Opening another user's mailbox

With Exchange 2003, you couldn't open another user's mailbox from OWA. With Exchange 2007, you could -- but it opened in a new IE window and you couldn't select the mailbox from the Global Address List (GAL). With Exchange 2010, you can select a mailbox to open from the GAL, and it "nests" into the left pane along with your default mailbox. OWA also remembers which mailboxes you opened and displays them when you log on the next time.

8: Side-by-side calendars

Another feature that's been on the OWA wish list of many Outlook users is the ability to open up a shared calendar and view it side by side with your own calendar. This is invaluable if you need to make plans that include coordinating your schedule with someone else's. You can share your calendar with other users of your Exchange 2010 server.

9: Exchange Control Panel (ECP)

In OWA 2010, the Exchange Control Panel replaces the Options page in OWA 2007. Users can do more with the ECP, such as creating and managing distribution groups, tracking their own messages, setting up retention policies for their messages, and updating the property fields information in their Active Directory user accounts.

10: Access to mailbox archives

OWA 2010 allows users to access archived mailboxes from within the OWA interface so that you can get access to the archived messages no matter where you are.


Check out 10 Things... the newsletter

Get the key facts on a wide range of technologies, techniques, strategies, and skills with the help of the concise need-to-know lists featured in TechRepublic's 10 Things newsletter, delivered every Friday. Automatically sign up today.

About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

33 comments
anthonymaw
anthonymaw

I think one of the biggest features of OWA 2010 is the ability for users to remotely wipe lost ActiveSync devices like that iPhone 4 you left at the bar or the iPad you left at the library....

Mark.Seger
Mark.Seger

Or am I missing something? I can't use the View menu right above the seach box to exit conversation view or to change my reading pane. Works great with IE though... -mark

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Does anyone else see the eventual expansion of OWA's capabilities to the point it will replace the desktop Outlook client as the default application?

HckrAdm2005
HckrAdm2005

Great to see these features. We have plenty of workers who work remotely and we currently use a VPN connection cause they hate using our current OWA client. With these new enhancements this may make our reason to going to 2010 much better and possibly save us a ton of money in VPN costs.

cantis
cantis

Frankly, I think Outlook and OWA continue to need help. I use Outlook at work but really find it a major pain - it' needs to have a generic 'archive' for items that I want to keep but don't specifically need to action in the known future. And I need to be able to quickly search to find old email (rather than multiple folders with the ineffective search it currently has) and it needs to have a better default conversation view. And yes, this is exactly what GMail has now...

FatNGristle
FatNGristle

Can anyone tell me if Exchange 2010, Outlook 2010 or OWA 2010 will allow administrative priviledges to be granted to another user to change the Out of Office message? or perhaps can it be done by a sysadmin from Exchange manager? On of our long standing issues with 2003 is that users go on vacation and don't set their OoO. Thanks

LegacyB4
LegacyB4

Don't forget some of the features (like #10 - Archiving) are only available with the Enterprise edition of Exchange 2010!

BrucePurcell
BrucePurcell

Well, who says MS doesn't learn? They've figured out from gmail that users WANT these features and they're finally putting them in! Actually, I've always liked OWA -- nice to see they're finally making it fully functional.

adrian
adrian

I always believed if it is so important to have all the features included in Outlook to run a business, which it is, then they should have been included in OWA from the start.

basket
basket

Well, Glad to hear the you love OWA 2010. But, Kerio Mail Server have all those great features for years that you are now experiencing. But, hey I'm really happy for you

Suresh Mukhi
Suresh Mukhi

10: Access to mailbox archivesOWA 2010 allows users to access archived mailboxes from within the OWA interface so that you can get access to the archived messages no matter where you are. I don't see how the above is possible. If I archive my mailbox at work, it's saved to my work PC's hard drive. When I OWA at home on weekends, how will it access my archive file on my work PC unless I keep my work PC on during the weekend?

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

The new features address some of the biggest reasons why most users including myself didn't like OWA. It's nice to see that MS is incorporating the some of the same functionality of outlook to OWA.

rbestany
rbestany

Zimbra has all of the features discussed (has had them for a while) and more but it costs 33-50% less than Exchange. Go figure.

SgtPappy
SgtPappy

I'm just curious, what part of the VPN is costing so much? I can build you a very secure VPN for about $300. OpenBSD and a 9 year old PIII with 512MB of RAM. I've got 23 remote users using it everyday and I haven't rebooted it in 9 months. Works flawlessly.

SgtPappy
SgtPappy

I'm not sure what you mean by generic archive. I archive all mail I want to keep. If I don't want to keep it I delete it. Windows Desktop Search 4.0 and Outlook 2003 searches your entire mailbox and if you tell it to it will index all of your archived files. You can then type the word "the" in the search field and it will show you every email that contains the word "the". What better search functionality do you want? I haven't used the conversation view yet so I can't comment.

SgtPappy
SgtPappy

End users can set the Out of Office message from within OWA 2003. So if they forget to change it when they leave the office they can do it using OWA. There is a little options icon in the lower left window pain that will allow you to do this.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

With administrative privileges it is possible to grant yourself mailbox rights to an account. Once you have mail box rights just configure a new profile in outlook that is for the user and log in. It will be just like they are logged in so you can configure the out of office for them. Bill

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

This discussion is just about the web client. Does the Kerio web client provide all these same features? Bill

wshi
wshi

... for archiving.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Exchange 10 now contains mailbox archive options.

timbstoke
timbstoke

this is a great feature for reporting malicious content, when support need to see the headers. Normal forwarding deletes the header, and this will save our helpdesk guys having to talk the end user through attaching the mail so the headers are preserved.

tr
tr

If you suspect an email contains malicious code, and if your support team is capable of dealing with it, they should ask you to send them a copy... as long as you tell them about it! Again, if they are capable of dealing with it, they can analyze the attachment and determine a way to prevent additional instances from getting through the email servers. I would NOT send the email as an inline forward or to someone without first telling them it's coming. I would also not send it unless they requested it and have confirmed they can handle it without spreading the infection.

SvenVdS
SvenVdS

I think the author means mails that might contain malicious links. That way, you can explain in the body not to click the link right away. Same goes for links to sites NSFW ;)

shane.byrne
shane.byrne

Does it allow me to use OWA to subscribe to rss feeds - this is a big deal as we have 15000 users who only get OWA, not Outlook itself and many want to subscribe to RSS through their email but cannot with the present version??

eclypse
eclypse

Zimbra costs less than Exchange up front, but their licenses cost money each year - $35/license/year. This is not a requirement for Exchange - sofware assurance is optional. When we ran the numbers (and we really liked Zimbra), it was cheaper to buy Exchange over a three year period (IIRC - could have been five years). Not only that, when we started the process, their Blackberry support was in beta and not too good. Not sure how it is currently - I see they have it as GA now. At any rate, we really tried hard not to be an Exchange shop, but given what we were trying to do, it was the most bang for the buck and it worked with those horribly proprietary Blackberry devices.

cantis
cantis

The Archive idea is really a GMail thing - I have lots of email that I don't need to seriously worry about but might need at a later date, so in GMail I throw it into one big archive, maybe adding tags. GMail's built around this idea of archiving actually. If I need it later I search for it - this is in contrast to the file folder metaphor that is used in Outlook. What I want is a button that just 'archives the message', and doesn't need me to move it to one or more folders. I've never used Desktop Search and may have to try it out. (I use Google Desktop to fix that problem) but my point is really that 'out of the box' the search in Outlook is horrible. Most outlook users are like you, they haven't used conversation view, mostly because it isn't the default - once you get a look at what a good conversation view could be like (GMail again, sorry I don't work for them, really) you might try it in outlook - and be disappointed - as I am.

Suresh Mukhi
Suresh Mukhi

So I assume this is an online archive? Does it still stay on the server?

JCitizen
JCitizen

which was great for our remote dial-up offices. We run the servers and lock them down on our side, so things are pretty secure. We were careful to install good policy and AV/AS solutions at those remote sites to help prevent man-in-the-middle problems.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I've never been able to bring myself to try a web-based e-mail application. Security concerns? Desire to maintain a low profile?