The new Outlook Web App (OWA) released today for smartphones and tablets with a purpose to "give Exchange users access to their mailboxes from anywhere through the same Outlook UI and functionality they already know and love," Microsoft said in a blog annoucing the launch.
Microsoft says, desktops, tablets and phones have different User Interface (UI) requirements. To ensure people get a consistent experience across all their devices the OWA application knows how to scale the UI to different screen sizes and across touch, mouse and keyboard input:
- "For screens found on laptops or larger devices, OWA projects a UI optimized for mouse and keyboard input. We refer to this mode as "Desktop."
- For tablet size screens, OWA projects a UI optimized for touch input. We refer to this as "touch-wide."
- For phone size screens, OWA projects a narrower UI for touch. This is "touch-narrow.""
OWA has a new design language that gives it a fresh, modern look that aligns to Windows 8, Windows Phone and the rest of the Office 2013 products.
"To help users avoid context switching, we also added email inline compose in the main window. Users can pop out certain compose forms, or change a setting to have all compose forms pop out automatically," Kristian Andaker, principal group program manager of exchange, notes.
Inline compose also comes with an improvement in draft management. It's now easier to see in the inbox which conversations have unsent drafts, helping you remember to finish and send that email you started working on yesterday before leaving work. And, the Forgotten Attachment Detector notifies if you forgot to include an attachment.
You can also drag-and-drop of files from the desktop easily attach files to emails.
"Although we have spent a lot of time ensuring the default colors of OWA will feel great, different people have differing tastes, so the OWA capability of selecting a different theme has been enhanced with more themes that affect more aspects of the UI for a more delightful experience," adds Andaker.
In addition to the new User Interface, OWA also has "offline support." "You can now launch OWA in the browser and start working even if there is no network connectivity. The work you do while disconnected is automatically synchronized the next time connectivity is restored," Andaker explains.
"You can enjoy OWA offline in IE10+ (using HTML5's IndexedDB for storage), Chrome 17+ (with WebSQL) or Safari 5 (also using WebSQL)."
As part of the new Office cloud app model, the new Exchange includes a platform called "Outlook Apps," which a 3rd party can host somewhere on the Internet, and which Exchange end users and administrators can easily and safely integrate into the Outlook experience.
You can go see what Outlook Apps are currently available for use with the Office Customer Preview in the Office Store.
"Administrators have a lot of control over what Outlook Apps they allow their users to use, or promote to their user populations. Outlook Apps work in Outlook 2013 for the Windows desktop and in the new Outlook Web App on desktop, tablets and phones."
For example, "the Bing Maps Outlook App activates when there are one or more addresses present in the email or calendar item body text. Another example is the Groupon by PowerInbox Outlook App which shows up only for emails sent from Groupon. LinkedIn's Outlook App activates on all email, showing information from the LinkedIn social network about the people on the email thread," explained Andaker.
Although some OWA users have dense calendars which are best viewed in day or week view, most of our users only have one or a few meetings or appointments entered for each day, making their calendar most suitable for viewing through a monthly or agenda view. To give a great default calendar experience to this majority of users, we have added the new "MOGENDA" calendar view to OWA, combining MOnthly and aGENDA view.
Like Outlook, OWA now supports simple entry of calendar items and to-do's by typing right on the calendar. Users get quick, glance-able day and item "peeks".
All information about a person from contacts, Global Address List (GAL) and LinkedIn in one place. Also, "the new OWA, uses Accessible Rich Internet Application (ARIA) to make the OWA Premium desktop UI mode accessible through screenreaders, for high contrast needs, keyboard-only navigation needs, etc," adds Andaker.
Managing OWA is very similar in Exchange Server 2013 to what it was like in Exchange Server 2010 and Exchange Server 2007, with OWA settings being set on the Internet Information Server (IIS) virtual directories on the Client Access Server (CAS) and in OWA mailbox policies.
Monitoring to ensure OWA service continues undisrupted has also changed significantly in Exchange Server 2013.
You can try out the latest release by signing up for the Office 365 Customer Preview Small Business Premium or Enterprise plans.