12 reasons why I ❤Outlook on the web (owa)

OutlookheaderAfter many years of using the Outlook desktop app at work, I now find myself using the web app more and more. Partly this is because the majority of our workforce only uses the web and mobile apps, so knowing the web app is important to provide support, but partly because it is starting to grow on me.

Why would someone prefer the limited options of Outlook on the web over the full functionality of Outlook desktop?

1. You can select the colour scheme that works for you

In my organization, we allow everyone to select their own theme. After 35 years of corporate multinationals with a “Brand Police” 🙂 it was a bit of a shock to discover that my current employer does not think it is that important to have the same Office365 top bar in our house style colour for everyone. It is the default, but if you prefer something else, that is fine.

This means that everyone can choose what works for them:

  • a few colleagues have chosen black, “because it is least distracting”
  • one of my colleagues loved and applied the rainbow unicorn theme at first sight
  • I change once every few months and usually go for something colourful
  • many people have never changed their default bar
  • and everything in between

Seriously, it looks so much nicer and more colourful than that boring grey-and-blue desktop and those cluttered wiry icons! (Yes, I know I can minimize the ribbon)

Outlookdesktop1
Desktop. Booooooring! 🙂

Outlookwebapp
Web app. Nice and colourful! BTW, who will I see at Ignite the Tour Amsterdam? 🙂

2. You can visually separate your personal from your group mailbox

We suggest those who have a group mailbox, to select a different theme for their group mailbox than for their own mailbox, so they can easily see in which mailbox they are. You can’t do that in the desktop app!

3. You can “like” an email

This sounded trivial when I first encountered it, but it is actually a nice feature. I frequently see that “like” in my notifications when my colleague has read one of my proposals for a text or something, but also when I have sent someone an answer to their question.

That like is often sufficient. It means people have read it and appreciate it. They do not need to send another email to say that.

Outlookweblike
Instead of hitting Reply, why not send a “like” if that is all you want to say?

4. It supports charms and coloured emoji

Again, very trivial but it is a nice touch.
The charms are added automatically to an event when you add a certain word in the title-field. They display on your agenda in the web app, but not in the desktop app.

You can also add a charm after creating the event. Just rightclick on the event in your agenda and select “Charm” from the menu.

Outlookwebcharm2
If you like to add a charm (icon) to your event you can do so – in the web app only.

And, as mentioned in an earlier post, you can use coloured emoji in folder names or other texts of the web app, but they are displayed in black-and-white in the desktop app.

5. You can pin an email to the top

This is very useful if you want to keep an email top of mind – and top of inbox. For instance, I have an email with directions and participants, for when I give a training in a few weeks. I do not want to have to search for it – and I can easily delete it after the event.

outlookpin
Just hit that pin to keep it on top of your mail.

I am sure that Outlook has a Quick Action or so to keep track of these emails, but pinning them to the top is very easy!

6. Easy interface

In the web app, if any action or setting is not on the page itself, it is in the Outlook settings. Simple!

In the desktop app actions can be on different tabs on the ribbon, or sometimes they are hidden and need to be added to the ribbon first.
And for settings, there’s the File tab which gives you a number of buttons and a gazillion tabs and options under the button “Options”. Pfff, complicated!

Yes, you can do much more with Outlook desktop, so the extra complexity is understandable, but until now I have not missed anything while working with the web app. I do not feel a big need to use Voting buttons (I would use Forms!) or to delay sending an email or…

7. Sweep

Sweep is a neat way to clean up. Per sender you can determine where to move their mails and when. I use this to delete newsletters and RSS-feeds after 10 days. If I have not read them by then, I never will and now I can rest assured they will not pile up.

Sweep is in fact a limited form of Rules. You can create a Rule (in both apps) that does the same. But Sweep is just there, readily configured!

outlooksweep
You will find Sweep on the top bar. This is the setting I use for newsletters and RSS-feeds.

8. Three options to change a recurring meeting

This has been a life-saver for some of our secretaries. If you want to edit a recurring meeting, there’s always the question: do I change this for all instances, including those from the past, or do I stop the meeting and create another?

outlook recurring meeting 1
In the desktop app, you can only change one meeting or the whole series – changing the series means you are also changing the history.

In Outlook on the web you have the additional option to change “This event and all following events”. This means you can keep your history intact and just make changes to future events. So, if you are an Outlook desktop user but want to change only events in the future, switch to the web version and make the change there!

outlook recurring meeting 2
You have more options, including only making changes to future events.

9. See all email attachments on one page

Outlook-files
The Files link. Hello!

Not sure if this is widely available yet, but bottom left you will now see a little paperclip. If you click it, you will see all attachments from emails on one page, allowing you to quickly find that one document of photo without having to go through each email. You can filter the results on file type and date, and you can preview, download or email each document by clicking the ellipses to the right of the file name.

Outlookfilesresult
You can toggle between photos and files, but also filter on file type and time range.

 

It may be so convenient that it will not help people to clean up their mailbox though. 😦

10. RSVP to a meeting request without opening the email

In Outlook web app, invitations show an RSVP-button in the title field. It also shows immediately if there is a conflict. You can accept or decline from the inbox interface, without opening the full email. BTW, this is also available in the mobile app – really nice!

Outlookaccept
Outlook shows your availability, and if you click RSVP you get a popup with response options.

 

11. Nobody blogs about it 😁

A blogger needs to find a niche!  I search the internet frequently for answering user questions or issues, and it is really hard to find stuff about the web version as the desktop app is featured all the time. Many bloggers who write about Outlook write about the desktop version exclusively.

So, I have decided to include some more Outlook web app stuff for all those organizations where people are not desk-bound. But I would be happy if someone could point me to another blogger who writes about this topic.

12. Just in case 🙂

Originally this was titled “10 reasons”, then I found two new ones, so I think it is a safe bet to save one item for anything new that pops up!

Conclusion

Outlook on the web is, in my humble opinion, much more visually appealing and easier to work with than the desktop version. It even has a few cool options that the desktop does not have! It may have “limited functionality” but for someone who is not a heavy user, it works perfectly.

Do you prefer the web version as well? Any option I forgot to mention? Or are you enamoured of the desktop?

4 thoughts on “12 reasons why I ❤Outlook on the web (owa)

  1. Jim February 9, 2020 / 4:13 pm

    It you still cannot group emails by categories. That’s a deal killer for me.

    • Ellen van Aken February 9, 2020 / 6:24 pm

      Hi Jim, Good to know that! I do not miss it myself, but good to be aware that this might be a thing. Thank you!

  2. Tim February 10, 2020 / 8:59 pm

    95% Outlook full client. Address book is more difficult to use, and I don’t believe you can use quick steps in OWA. I organize almost all email using quick steps.I use OWA whenever I’m off the company domain, or when I need to update my notifications since you can setup to text your agenda in the full client. It is probably our implementation, but OWA is slow.

    • Ellen van Aken February 10, 2020 / 9:42 pm

      Thanks, Tim! You are correct, quick steps are not available. I personally do not use them, so I do not miss them, but I can imagine Outlook Online will not be your favourite option. I have not experienced slowness but we indeed get that feedback from our colleagues sometimes. Cheers, Ellen

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