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Microsoft Outlook is one of the most popular email applications around the world. In large organizations, the comprehensive directory feature, ability to schedule meetings and manage task lists can be very helpful. However, you may well wonder if your Outlook account can be accessed over the web like Gmail. If you are looking an Outlook web based email option, then Outlook Web Access (OWA) is the answer to your problems. OWA comes in two major flavors depending on what web browser one is using: Outlook Web Access and Outlook Web Access Light.
Note: Microsoft renamed the latest version of its web based email program to "Outlook Web App," but this new version is not widely used in many organizations yet. One of the differences in Outlook Web App is that it performs the same in most major web browsers.
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Outlook Web Access
Requirements: Outlook Web Access (i.e. the "full version" of Outlook web based email) requires Internet Explorer.
Capabilities: In addition to email, Outlook Web Access gives you access to your address book, calendar, and task list.
To get the most out of OWA, you will need to learn how to properly configure your Outlook Web Access options. Configuring those options will help you to control the amount of spam you receive and common email issues. Once you have set up those options, let's have a closer look at Outlook Web Access.
OWA displays your email Inbox by default, but you can also easily see all your other email folders such as Sent Mail, Drafts and Deleted Items. There is also a "search inbox" tool to help you find old messages. The experience of using email in OWA is comparable to using Outlook on a PC in most respects; however, the lack of drop down menus across the top of the screen may confuse some users. Fortunately, you can get around this problem by learning some OWA keyboard shortcuts:
- Ctrl + N: Opens a new email.
- Ctrl + R: Replies to the selected email.
- Ctrl +Shift+R: Replies to the sender and all others (i.e. "Reply All") in an email.
- Alt + S: Sends the current email.
- F7: Checks the spelling in the email
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Outlook Web Access Light
Requirements: Outlook Web Access Light is the only option available for non-Internet Explorer web browsers (e.g. Firefox, Safari, and Chrome).
Capabilities: Outlook Web Access Light can be thought of as a "minimal" Outlook experience. It does not have all the functions of Outlook Web Access or the traditional desktop version of Outlook. The user interface is also arguably less appealing.
Outlook Web Access's non-email capabilities are unfortunately limited. The Calendar cannot be displayed on a weekly or monthly basis, for example. This limited view makes it difficult to plan anything other one day at a time. Users can still send Meeting Requests, book resources and use their calendar however. In comparison to the desktop version of Outlook or Outlook Web Access in Internet Explorer, Outlook Web Access is lacking. If all you need to do is send and receive email, OWA Light will suit your needs.
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Outlook Web App, http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/2010/en/my/outlook-web-access.aspx
Outlook Web Access Features, http://help.ic.utoronto.ca/images/File/Exchange/OWA_features.pdf
Image Credit: Screenshot provided by the author