Microsoft Retires the Board View from the OWA Calendar

Project Moca to Outlook Board to Fast Deprecation

MC554157 (May 12) announces the retirement of the board view in the Outlook calendar. Well, the OWA calendar because the board view never existed in the Outlook desktop calendar, unless you count the Monarch client as an Outlook desktop client.

The origins of the board view come from Project Moca. In 2020, Moca seemed like a nice way for people to organize different pieces of information drawn from different sources on a board, kind of like pinning bits of paper to a pinboard. After going through a preview phase while Microsoft figured out where Moca might fit inside Microsoft 365, eventually Moca turned up as a new board view for the OWA calendar in mid-2021.

Low Usage for Boards

Getting on for two years later, Microsoft’s famous telemetry must show that the usage of boards remains staggeringly low. At least, that’s what I anticipate the data indicates because I have never been asked a single question about this aspect of OWA, and that’s despite writing several articles on the topic. I have several boards (Figure 1), but I haven’t used them in months. The fact is that the board view seems to have been in a sad state of disrepair for quite a while. No new features appeared and no-one in Microsoft seemed interested in curing the obvious quirks that sometimes emerged when moving items around a board. Software that stays static is always in trouble unless it’s a COBOL program running tax software from the 1970s.

An Outlook board with pinned items
Figure 1: An Outlook board with pinned items

Many Ways to Take Notes

Another truth is that there are just too many ways to take notes available in Microsoft 365. Some like the simplicity and mobile access of To Do; others like OneNote. And now Microsoft is preaching the wonders of the Loop app. Over the long term, I could see a consolidation in the OneNote/Loop space with the newer application winning because of its better synchronization capabilities and its roots in SharePoint Online. But we shall see.

The End of Boards

In any case, the guillotine descends on boards on June 26, 2023, or roughly six weeks from the announcement and just before the end of Microsoft’s FY23 fiscal year. By Microsoft standards, retiring an Outlook feature in six weeks is very fast and is further testimony to its low usage. Boards are no public folders, something that Microsoft has been trying to dump since 1987 or thereabouts.

Microsoft’s advice to users is confusing. On the one hand, they say that there’s nothing that users need to do. Boards will simply disappear on the designated date. The items linked to boards remain in place and can be accessed from their original location. For instance, when you create a note on a board, Outlook stores the underlying item in the Notes folder of your mailbox. Outlook Notes is another application that hasn’t received much tender loving care from Microsoft in the recent past, but at least the data is there and can be copied and pasted into a more up-to-date and functional digital notebook.

Option in OWA Settings to export board data
Figure 2: Option in OWA Settings to export board data

On the other, Microsoft recommends going to the Privacy and Data section of Outlook (OWA) options to export board data (Figure 3). I shouldn’t bother. In a decision surely taken by a developer without supervision, OWA outputs the board information in JSON format to a file called boards.json. I wonder what target the developer had in mind when they contemplated how to export the board data?

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12 Replies to “Microsoft Retires the Board View from the OWA Calendar”

  1. Got any good suggestions for alternates? I have been using boards to display a public folder calendar, notes, weathers on a screen posted in the centre of my department. now it is going away i need an alternate, and not sure what other “dashboards” can even access a public folder calendar.

    1. No suggestion that comes immediately to mind. Sorry. The data is all available, so you could use Graph calls to fetch the data and after that it’s a matter of displaying the items as you wish.

  2. Sad to see this go. even though many alternatives exist, they don’t actually.

    I liked the combination of: Timezones + Weather + Files + Hyperlinks to company internal sites, etc. It was very visual and useful.

    Onenote or MS planner is not a viable alternative

    1. Agreed, I used to to gather links, notes, & contacts for smaller projects in one space. Everything else I tried requires multiple clicks or multi step navagation. This was such an easy & fast way to navagate, make quick notes, and delete anything that was no longer necessary. I am so sad about this 🙁

  3. 100% disagree that it wasn’t used. You may not have used it because you didn’t have a daily schedule like many in-office workers do. That was the biggest draw to it!

    1. My assertion was based on the knowledge that Microsoft telemetry usually drives such decisions. In the context of 400 million daily active users, even 1 million very eager and productive users simply doesn’t move the needle.

  4. I am sad and slightly angered that Microsoft is shutting down this feature. How does Microsoft assess that this feature has low usage? Is it because no one complains and logs issues against it? Maybe that’s because the calendar board view works bug free and integrates well with other apps like Outlook and Calendars. What else can you ask from a feature? From what I’ve seen, the next best alternative is Trello for boards, but it doesn’t integrate as well. I hope Microsoft will reconsider this decision.

  5. My experience using Boards was fraught with problems. Items like links and notes wouldn’t refresh, or simply showed spinning wheels when I opened the board. There’s nothing more frustrating than opening the view, and not being able to see what you put there previously.

    That being said, I’d really like to have that feature, or something like it in the future. For now I’ll drop back to OneNote.

  6. Hello, I could not find a way to export the json file, I tried to open it via notepad, and well it did not work.
    Is there an easy way out ? thank you in advance

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