A Banner Notification Difficult to Ignore?
I’m unsure what to make of the news in MC264090 (updated July 1) telling us that Outlook (and OWA) users on Windows 10 will soon see a clickable recommendation to install the Outlook in Edge extension (currently in preview). The recommendation will appear in “any Windows browser” (if using OWA) or in Outlook desktop (presumably Outlook click to run rather than Outlook perpetual). The recommendation is dismissible but annoying and can appear a maximum of three times “in each app” before it is “suppressed permanently.” Those who use both OWA and Outlook can therefore see the banner six times, which is something to look forward to.
If you succumb and install the extension, an Outlook icon appears in the Edge menu bar (Figure 1). It has access to the site because the user grants consent to access their mailbox.
Bringing the Power of Outlook to an Edge Icon
According to Microsoft 365 roadmap item 82036, “The Microsoft Outlook browser extension brings you the power of mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks using an icon in Microsoft Edge. Quickly access your Outlook work account or your Outlook.com or Hotmail account without switching to another tab or app. The extension will be available in the Chrome Store soon as well.”
Apart from anything else, the roadmap item tells us that the Outlook extension will also be available for Chrome users, presumably again on Windows 10 (and likely Windows 11, since that appears to be Windows 10 with a new skin).
The reason why I am conflicted is that I don’t see the point in the extension. If I want to use OWA (and I do), I open a tab in the browser for OWA and keep that tab open. I can then do whatever I want with email, tasks, contacts, and the calendar. It’s like using the “peeks” available in Outlook desktop to get an insight into data. Being able to overlay the calendar when processing email (Figure 2) is mildly interesting and enough to convince me to keep the extension, but it’s not something I use heavily.
Apart from the calendar, the extension can peek into your mailbox, tasks (including any To Do list), and contacts. Within the mailbox, you can select any folder, but you cannot select another mailbox, including your archive mailbox. The extension allows you to select different calendars to view. However, this part doesn’t work so well in the preview and was inclined to freeze. You can also access a limited selection of OWA settings. For instance, you can set an auto-reply message. And if you want access to the full functionality of a section of OWA, the extension can open into a tab. Just about the only thing which is missing is Project Moca.
Blocking the Clickable Recommendations
Although the Outlook extension doesn’t float my boat, I can see how it will work for others. The real question for tenant administrators is if they want to block the display of the recommendation banner by using the Office Cloud Policy Service (OCPS) to set “Recommend the Microsoft Outlook Extension” policy to ‘Disabled’ (Figure 3). OCPS settings affect both OWA and Outlook for Windows.
According to MC264090, a future update to Group Policy templates will support the block too in Outlook by setting the RecommendOutlookExtension system registry (DWORD) value at HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Office\16.0\outlook\options to 0 (disabled).
Good for Some
Targeted release is due in July and tenants need to act before July 30, 2021, if they don’t want users to see the clickable banners. Before deciding, try the extension yourself to see if you think people will find value in its use. If not, go ahead and block. If you do, let people see the banners and install the extension if they wish.
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