CORRECTION: Exchange 12 Outlook Web Access–Main New Features

This is a revised version of the bulletin we published on December 19, 2005. We've reissued the bulletin to clarify our comments about large folders and correct our comments about showing resource availability.

We recently got a demo of the new version of Outlook Web Access (OWA) being prepared for the Exchange 12 release. We saw a build slightly newer than the version being shipped to a select handful of pre-beta testers in Microsoft's "technical preview program."

The best new features are:

  • Unified messaging is supported.
  • When addressing a new message, a best guess is displayed as you type. This "typedown" functionality is nothing new to users of conventional clients, such as Outlook, but it is new to OWA12. It's based on the most recently used addresses, rather than GAL lookup.
  • When choosing a time for a meeting, the interface for suggesting times is now much clearer and easier, and echoes improvements made in Outlook 12.
  • The meeting attendee picker has been enhanced to separate out resources, such as meeting rooms. It makes it easier to choose a room or other resource, based on its location and availability.

Further enhancements we'd like to see are:

  • When looking at a folder containing more than 50 messages, the view is split into separate pages. It would be better if OWA showed a continuously scrollable, virtual viewport onto a large list. Outlook and other Ajax Web clients such as Scalix Web Access and Yahoo Mail can do this with good performance, by loading just enough of the list to display and then preloading the next items in the background.
  • OWA12 displays inside an unmodified Internet Explorer window. In other words, it doesn't disable IE's toolbars, menus, address bar, etc. This can be confusing and distracting for newer or occasional OWA users. Again, other Ajax clients hide these elements, and even display their own menu bar. The behavior could be made configurable so that power users can reenable IE's decoration, but it would be better if these elements were hidden by default.

... Richi Jennings

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. To comment, first join our community.