Tuesday, August 7, 2012

EHLO: I am Exchange 2013 – OWA on an iPad

Hello everybody, I am back with another article on Exchange 2013. This time I wanted to talk about OWA (Outlook Web App), and specifically about the improvements made to OWA when using a tablet device. In my case it is a 1st generation iPad (this would fall into the category of “keep your friend close, and your enemies even closer Winking smile).

You might all ask why OWA on an iPad when one can use ActiveSync? Well in my case I have been forced to use OWA on my iPad because the rest of the household forces me to.

Let me explain: Avanade requires a pin code for devices that connect with Active Sync, and since the iPad is the family device I was getting complaints that they all need to enter the pin code to use the iPad (all = my wife and 2 kids). Besides this, my 7 year old kept on trying to unlock the iPad using a wrong code which resulted in a remote wipe, which basically grounded their precious iPad for a whole day (until I came home from work and restored it from backup. Good to know the policies do work though Smile). As you can understand, any resistance, or claims that the iPad is my device, or that they should just remember the pin code, are all futile here. So I was doomed to using the OWA on my OWN iPad! Which any of you who ever tried it know is a painful experience. The Safari on the iPad only supports the light version of OWA:

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Here is what it looks like:

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Reading a message is bearable, but composing a new message or replying is quirky. The interface is not touch-friendly at all, and you end up zooming in and out in order to just press a correct button.

I have actually come across 2 cases by now where a customer has decided to block the ActiveSync for the users (because they do not want any mobile devices connecting at all), and they offer OWA for mobile users. Anyone trying to use OWA on their phone (no matter how large the screen is) is a lunatic, but it kind of works for a tablet.

Here Comes the Sun” - OWA 2013

In their new version of Exchange Microsoft completely redesigned OWA and made it into a true Web App! It has become User Friendly, Touch Friendly and really fast. It also has a subset of features that the OWA 2010 light version did not have at all.

When I logged in for the first time into OWA 2013 on my iPad it took some time and I got a message from iOS stating that the Web App needs more space to work asking me to increase the default 256 MB to 512MB (I guess this is RAM, and I think this is only specific to the first generation iPad). And then you get to see this:

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It’s like entering a different dimension. There is a large enough message list and a preview pane which automatically formats the message so you do not need to scroll sideways. As you can see there are Windows Phone like buttons on top for “Unread”, “flagged”, etc… And they are huge, by the way there is no way you can miss even if you have very thick finders. Basically the Metro User experience is all over here.

On the left bottom (to the left of the search button) there is a sort “windows” button, when pressing it you end up here:

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Metro all over: from here you can jump quickly to 4 sections depicted in the tiles. Note how the Calendar tile is larger then the rest, just like on the Windows Phone, because it is important!

We go first to the Calendar – day view:

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Top row allows you to jump to different day, while the bottom row (middle) allows for switching to week and month view:

Week view: see how the current day is marked with a blue stripe (Sunday in my case)

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on the left there is a button that will pop up the current month:

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And here is the month view: Note the 22nd is marked to identify the current date

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The bottom bar on the right has the “+” sign which will allow you to create a new calendar entry

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Simple clear interface, and hitting “more details” gives you even more options, i.e.reminder, attendees, notes, etc…

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Now back to the Mail: Every message has inline buttons for reply/forward and mark read/unread. But you can also hit the famous 3 dots button on the right bottom of the dark grey bar which will popup a nice menu.

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Pressing the inline Reply/Forward button will show you a menu with Reply, Reply to All and Forward – nice and big for extra fat fingers

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The contacts I am skipping for now, but you can do the usual stuff there all touch friendly and all. I do want to show you the settings page though: There are only two sections there, one for setting the automatic replies: Extremely Important!

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and the other one for the Time Zone settings:

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And the last screenshot to show the parallel with Outlook 2013 – how unread messages get a blue vertical stripe to indicate that the message is unread:

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That’s it for now, As you can see the Outlook Web App has become extremely mature and can be used on almost any browser. Bellow is the list of OWA features available per browser

Supported browsers on desktop and laptop computers

In the table below, the following definitions apply:

  • Best: All Outlook Web App features are supported.
  • Good: Most Outlook Web App features are supported.
  • Light: The browser displays the light version of Outlook Web App.

Desktops and laptops: Outlook Web App features available by Windows operating system and browser combination

Web browser

Windows XP and Windows Server 2003

Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008

Windows 7

Windows 8 Release Preview

Internet Explorer 7

Good

Not available

Not available

Not available

Internet Explorer 8

Good

Good

Good

Not available

Internet Explorer 9

Not available

Best

Best

Not available

Internet Explorer 10

Not available

Not available

Best - plus offline access

Best – plus offline access

Firefox 12 or later

Good

Good

Best

Best

Safari 5.1 or later

Good – plus offline access

Good – plus offline access

Good – plus offline access

Good – plus offline access

Chrome 18 or later

Good – plus offline access

Good – plus offline access

Best – plus offline access

Best – plus offline access

Note: In previous versions, Outlook Web App had a built-in spell checker. In Exchange Server 2013 Preview, Outlook Web App relies on the web browser for spell checking, which Internet Explorer prior to version 10 doesn’t provide.

Desktops and laptops: Outlook Web App features available by non-Windows operating system and browser combination

Web browser

Mac OX X v10.5

Mac OX X v10.6 and v10.7

Linux

Firefox 12 or later

Best

Best

Best

Safari 5.0.6

Best – plus offline access

Best – plus offline access

Not available

Safari 5.1 or later

Not available

Best – plus offline access

Not available

Chrome 18 or later

Best – plus offline access

Best – plus offline access

Best – plus offline access

Note: Operating system and browser combinations not listed display the light version of Outlook Web App.

Supported browsers for tablets and smartphones

You can use the web browser on a tablet or smartphone to sign in to Outlook Web App. The available Outlook Web App features depends on the operating system and browser combination in use, as follows:

  • Best: All Outlook Web App features for smartphones and tablets are supported.
  • Light: The browser displays the light version of Outlook Web App.

Tablets and smartphones: Outlook Web App features available by operating system and browser combination

Device

Minimum memory

Application

Support

Windows 8 Release Preview tablet

512 MB

Web browser

Best

iOS 5 or later for iPhone

512 MB

Web browser

Best

iOS 5 or later for iPad

512 MB

Web browser

Best

Android 4.0 smartphone or later

512 MB

Web browser

Best

Android 4.0 tablet or later

512 MB

Web browser

Best

All other smartphones and tablets

Not applicable

Web browser

Light

Note: iPad version 1 devices have 256 MB of memory. Outlook Web App requires 512 MB of memory; therefore, it's not supported on version 1 iPads.

I guess I have just proved the last statement wrong Devil

See you in the next article

12 comments:

  1. Great info. Just the solution I was hoping for on my iPad. Everyone in our house uses it so I don't want my (private) email resident on it.

    I use a hosted Exchange provider and they won't upgrade to Exchange 2013 until well after the release.

    In the meantime, i.e. right now, is there ANY 3rd party app developed for iPad that provides an 2013-OWA-like email interface?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not aware of anything out there that makes OWA 2010 bare able on an iPad. I use the Webmail+, which is not worth the money because only extra you get as opposed the safari on iPad is the fact that you can save the password. But the rest is the same as in Safari.
      Perhaps this is a good menu for you to move to Office 365. They will be upgrading as first trust me. You can take exchange online only and t prices are really competitive.

      Delete
    2. What you also may try is using outlook.com. Go ahead and creat a free account, this is basically good old hotmail, but you'll be surprised what they did with the interface and how it works on an iPad. You can even use your own domain I believe via domains.live.com (if that still exists).

      Delete
  2. i am testing the 2013 OWA - and i have more than one calendar.
    everytime when i logon back to OWA, i must re-check the additional calendars to see them. does anybody has the same problem? is there a fix for this issue?

    thank you,
    mike

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think this is also the behavior in OWA 2010, I'll have to test... But are you testing RTM bits or preview version of Exchange 2013?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Mike, just tested, this is expected behavior!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Isn't it possible to see the Archive with OWA on iPhone? (Exchange 2013)

    thank you

    ReplyDelete
  6. No unfortunately the Online Archive is not accessible via OWA on an iOS device

    ReplyDelete
  7. Sure it is, on the iPad with Safari i can see it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oh that is then really nice, I have iPad ONE, and perhaps this is the reason I do not see the archive :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Where is the task list?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Unfortunately you can. Not access the task list!

    ReplyDelete