A quick look at Outlook Web App improvements in Exchange 2010 SP1

Today Microsoft made public some of the new features in Exchange 2010 SP1 over on the Exchange Team blog. There’s a multitude of new features available and I encourage you to take a look. I’ll be publishing a few posts over the coming days on features I’m most interested in but to start off, I’m looking at the massive improvements to Outlook Web App.

One of the biggest improvements in Exchange 2010 was the cross-browser OWA compatibility and cleaner interface. In the past, this would have been it until Exchange 15 came out, giving the competition (i.e. Google) a few years to catch up and leapfrog Microsoft. Today Microsoft made it clear that no longer will they allow the competition to out-innovate them against Exchange, and they will continue to deliver benefits to customers in between major releases.

What’s new in the premium interface?

Basically – nearly everything! Although from quick glance you might mistake the SP1 OWA for RTM, it won’t take long to realise it’s had an overhaul. The simpler UI is cleaner and well.. feels more like a modern web app than previous versions which have tried hard to mimic a desktop app. It’s less cluttered, easier to navigate and looks a lot more sexy :-)

Enough anyway with the talk. Let’s get down to business and have a look.

Outlook Web App, Exchange 2010 RTM

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Outlook Web App, Exchange 2010 SP1

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As you’ll see the interface is a whole lot cleaner. There’s a breadcrumb navigation trail in the top left, just below the OWA logo to help you find where you are at a glance. The Exchange icon has gone – It’s just a simple tree menu. The structured lines separating the elements fade away and blend into the background. The icons have been refreshed and only what’s needed is present. If you look very closely you’ll even see that you can use checkboxes to select email. You don’t need to ctrl-click anymore, unless of course you want to!

The interface overhaul isn’t all that’s new. Also announced today were the following new features for OWA SP1 – A new set of themes, sharing calendars to the web and allowing the reading pane to be shown across the bottom.

Themes

Themes were an obvious omission from Exchange 2010 RTM, however in previous versions of OWA they have mainly been variations of the default theme but in different colours – apart from the Xbox and Zune themes – though I’m sure they weren’t overwhelmingly popular. I must say though, I am glad they didn’t rush these out. The new set of themes are absolutely amazing. I’m not going to reveal them all – that really would ruin the surprise but as a sneak preview here’s a couple of my favourite new themes and the new options button/themes picker:

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New Options button and theme picker

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Super Sparkle Happy theme

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Blibbet (Check out the retro MSFT logo!)

Calendar sharing to the web

An often requested feature from my users has been the ability to share their calendar with non-exchange users.  And now it’s possible. Below you see Google Calendar opening an Exchange 2010 SP1 calendar. Also, note which interface fits better on a small window and looks more modern…

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I’ll be following up Calendar sharing in more detail in my next post in a couple of days time – as it requires a little server configuration, and there’s more to show off.

Hope you’ve found this interesting. If there’s some more Exchange 2010 SP1 features made public over at the Exchange Team Blog that you’d like more information about let me know. If I can tell you, I will.

Steve

22 thoughts on “A quick look at Outlook Web App improvements in Exchange 2010 SP1

  1. I am used to managing my Inbox through .pst datafiles. We are moving to Outlook Web Ap Premium 2010. Can I drag and drop my messages onto my hard drive so that they are searchable with Google Desktop?

    • No, you need to have Outlook installed for that, unless Google made a connector to search OWA that I’m not aware of.

      The search facilities in OWA have improved a lot over previous versions, including searching within Office document attachments and similar, so you might not need it.

      Steve

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  5. Pingback: New themes available in Exchange 2010 SP1 « Steve Goodman's Tech Blog – The weblog of an IT pro specialising in Exchange, Exchange, VMware, Servers and Storage

  6. Thank you for the post. Definitely like the calendar view but looking at Google’s ui, it’s definitely missing a search box. Is it out of frame? Also, any chance of ow taking advantage of html5 offline storage?

    • Yes you’re right – it could do with search. Of course Google Calendars got it, and so has Outlook 2010. I wonder why it’s not been added to OWA?

      Oh, and as far as I can see, sadly it doesn’t have HTML5 offline storage. :-(

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