New OWA Becomes The OWA on July 22

The new OWA has been generally available since February 2019. Office 365 Notification MC184484 brings the news that Microsoft will start the process of making the new OWA (Outlook on the Web as Microsoft Marketing insists on calling the browser client; most normal people call it Outlook Web Access) the default from July 22. Apparently, removing the toggle switch to allow people to move back and forth between the old and new interfaces counts as an added feature, so it’s on the Office 365 Roadmap (Figure 1).

Removing the opt-in toggle in OWA counts as yet another new Office 365 feature
Figure 1: Removing the opt-in toggle in OWA counts as yet another new Office 365 feature

New OWA Still in Development

Since first introducing the new OWA, Microsoft has gradually rolled out new functionality like dark mode, a new Office 365 Groups management interface, and supporting categories as favorites. On July 3, Microsoft posted a list of what they consider to be highlights in the new OWA together with some things that are coming. One new feature that struck me is “expressions” or the ability to past graphics into email to clutter up mailboxes even more. I guess we need some more help to fill Exchange Online’s massive 100 GB mailboxes.

Before being too critical about features like expressions, you must always remember that OWA serves both business (Office 365) and consumer (Outlook.com) users and features that seem odd in a business context often make absolute sense for consumers. “Joyful animations” is an example of a consumer-centric feature that probably wouldn’t influence a CIO (but it might make them happy on their birthday).

Joyful animations are one of the consumer-centric features in the new OWA
Figure 2: Joyful animations are one of the consumer-centric features in the new OWA

Development continues to add new features and because there are still parts of the old OWA that don’t appear in the new, such as being able to see address lists and the ability for users to manage their own distribution lists [update: this feature was due to be available to targeted release tenants on July 3 but some provisioning issues stopped the code being delivered to all. The problem is now fixed.]

Another gap, but one likely to affect fewer users, is that the new OWA doesn’t load the add-in needed to process messages captured for review by Office 365 supervision policies. In this case, the easy (and better) answer is to process these items in the Security and Compliance Center.

Timing

In terms of when all this happens, Microsoft says: “We will start rolling out the new Outlook on the web as the default experience on July 22nd to Targeted Release customers, and following with non Targeted Release customers on August 3rd, the roll out will be completed for all customers by the end of September 2019.”

The one caveat is for Tasks, where people who use the older form of Tasks (aka “the classic Tasks experience“) will continue to see that for now. Those who moved to the new To-Do based Tasks interface will continue to use it (Figure 2). Apart from the UI, the giveaway is the URL https://to-do.office.com/?fromOwa=true. Apparently, a “later communication” will bring news about the toggle that moves users back and forth between the other OWA components and To-Do. Stay tuned for developments on this front.

The New OWA connects to To-Do to display tasks
Figure 2: The New OWA connects to To-Do to display tasks

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