Office 365

Introducing a new way to share files with Outlook Web App

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Today’s post was written by Rebecca Lawler, program manager on the Outlook Web App team.

We’re thrilled to announce two new ways to share files with Outlook Web App (OWA) and OneDrive for Business that make it much simpler to share and collaborate:

  • When you send an email in OWA, you can easily insert a link to a file on your OneDrive for Business cloud drive instead of attaching the file itself.
  • When you send an attachment from your computer or device you can now automatically upload the file to your OneDrive for Business cloud drive and share the file as a link to that location.

Now when you send files to others, instead of having to open the attachment, make edits and then send the document back to you, everyone can simply open the document directly from the link and make edits in a single draft. This means the people you’re working with will always see the latest changes, and you can avoid confusion over multiple versions. It also allows multiple people to make changes to a single document at the same time using the Office clients or Office Online.

When you use OWA to share files stored on OneDrive for Business, recipients in the To: and Cc: lines automatically are given permission to view and edit the file. But it’s also easy to change the permissions on the file directly from the email message.

Here’s how it works:

The process begins when you choose to add an attachment to your message.

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The files on your OneDrive for Business are available for you to choose from, including your recent files and files that have been shared with you.

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You can also choose files from your hard drive. Once you select a file, no matter where it is currently stored, you can choose how you want to send it out—either as a link to OneDrive or as a traditional attachment.

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If you choose to attach a file currently stored on your hard drive and select Share with OneDrive, the file automatically uploads to your OneDrive for Business in a folder called Email Attachments.

When you send a file via OneDrive, the attachment appears the same as if the file was attached in the traditional manner, except there is a cloud icon within the file icon (as depicted in the PowerPoint icon in the image below), and you will see under the file title the permissions that will be granted to recipients.

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The OWA gives all recipients access to edit this file in the cloud by default, but you can also manage the permissions for each file while composing your message.

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When people receive your message, the shared file looks just like any other attachment. Here’s how the cloud attachment looks to recipients in OWA.

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When files shared with OneDrive for Business are viewed in a client besides OWA, the recipient will see a tile for that file in the body of the message.

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Either way, the recipient simply clicks the attachment to open it.

Sending files in this way is simple and easy. OWA for devices also fully supports this new OneDrive integration, so you get these benefits on iPhone, iPad and Android phone. For those of you on the run and accessing your email from your phone, you now have easy access to all your OneDrive for Business docs when sending messages, so it’s easy to include them in your messages, no matter where you are.

This is the latest in a series of enhancements we’ve made to the document collaboration experience in OWA for Office 365 users, such as improvements we rolled out a few months ago that make it easier to edit and reply to documents you receive.

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Collaborating with OneDrive for Business attachments

Let’s look closer at how collaboration with documents gets better with this new OneDrive integration. With OneDrive for Business, you can do real time co-authoring using Office Online in the side-by-side view in OWA. Since the file is stored in the cloud, all recipients can make changes to the document at the same time without creating multiple copies of the file.

When you receive a message that contains a OneDrive file as an attachment, simply click it to go to the new Side-by-Side view.

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You can now edit the file directly in the Side-by-Side view. Just click EDIT AND REPLY to modify the file. This allows the file to be opened in the edit mode so that you can both edit the file and reply with an email message.

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Collaborating on attachments in email has never been easier. With OneDrive files, you can do real time co-authoring using Office Online in this side-by-side view from OWA. Since the file is stored in OneDrive, all recipients can make changes to the document at the same time without creating multiple copies of the file.

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You can also choose to open up the document in the Office clients without losing any of the benefits of using OneDrive. You’ll still be able edit the live version of the doc at the same time as your teammates. No matter how you choose to collaborate, OWA makes the process easy and intuitive.


Frequently asked questions

Q. When can I start to use these new features?

A. We have already started rolling out these new features to some Office 365 customers and is expected to be fully available by November.

Q. If I send a file shared on OneDrive to someone and they forward the message onto someone else, will that person automatically get access to the file?

A. When the forwarded message is sent using OWA, the new recipients are automatically granted access to the file.

Q. Will this feature be supported in Outlook client as well?

A. Currently, this OneDrive for Business integration is available in OWA, OWA for iPhone/iPad and OWA for Android phone (pre-release). We are working to bring it to the Outlook desktop client in a future version.

Q. What happens if a send a file stored on OneDrive for Business to someone outside of my organization?

A. The person outside your organization receives two emails: the email you sent with the OneDrive for Business attachment (which could include other people), and a guest invitation email, if this is the first time they’ve had someone in your organization share with them. They’ll need to click the guest invitation link and sign in with a Microsoft account (or create one) first and then they’ll be good to go.

Q. Does sharing a OneDrive file work with a distribution list?

A. OWA automatically grants permissions to distribution lists with less than 100 members.

  1. will similar features apply to sharepoint online files as well?

    • Right now, this just applies to files in OneDrive for Business. We’re investigating future integration with Team Sites.

  2. Just to clarify, it does NOT add (share) permissions for EXTERNAL users. Otherwise works like a charm!

    • Uh, and what about some love for Windows Phone? Neither Outlook or the mobile OWA supports sending files as link to OneDrive 🙁

      • Regarding Outlook desktop and Windows Phone: We deliver most features first to Outlook Web App as it is fastest way to get new features in your hands. This makes it easy and quick for us to deliver those same new features in OWA for Devices (our app for iPhone, iPad, and Android). We do aim to bring similar features to the Outlook desktop client and Windows Phone.

    • Vasil,

      Great point! A nice to have for OneDrive is a predefined policy placed on documents allowing some for external use. Example: Marketing material approved by marketing department can be attached and sent out to external recipients without issue.

      – Carl

    • Hi Vasil, guest access permissions should be working. I see you’ve started a conversation about this in the Office 365 Technical Network – let’s continue discussing it there.

  3. Hi and hope you can help me as I am now unable to attach any documents to the mails I am sending use OWA whereas previously I had no problem.

    The briefing above is helpful but my OWA is not working as described. When I try to attach a document it opens on ‘Recent’ and there are no documents. My Files contains a folder ‘Shared with Everyone’ but no files are visible. ‘Shared with me’ contains no file and clicking on Computer does not produce any result at all so no drive is visible.

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks

    • Bob,

      We are not aware of an issue like what you are describing.

      Can you please create a support question on the Office 365 Community here: Our support team will be able to contact you and help resolve the issue. We appreciate you trying out this new feature.

  4. Really need to be able to pull files out of Sharepoint. Onedrive is nice but a lot of workflow goes via sharepoint so not having that feature is still a big limitation. You have to go back to desktop -> sharepoint -> attach, or on mobile phones it might not even be possible.

    • Thanks @GrumpyCat for the feedback. User who want to share docs from SPO will still be able to manually copy/paste a link as they do today. We’re investigating future integration with SharePoint/Team Sites.

  5. Is there a way to disable the feature? Some of our users do not want to click through 5 options to add an email attachment.

    • Seconded.
      We send a lot of email attachments every day and this is just an unnecessary annoyance.
      (We had a resoundingly negative response from our clients when we asked about using OneDrive to send them their documents, so it’s not even an option for us).

      • I third this request.. I don’t use OneDrive and now I have many extra clicks to attach a file from my laptop.. its just a painful user experience now..

        • I have the same issue. The extra clicks are painful. Anyone found a way to disable this?

          • Totally Agree. What a pain in the ass. Has anyone found, or has Microsoft responded to, the way to disable this?

    • My users are highly frustrated by this change and they want it reverted. What’s the best course of action to take to lobby for this feature to be disabled or at least an option to disable?

    • I’d like to be able to disable this, too. Too many clicks for something our users will never use.

    • Thank you for your feedback @Calen (and others in this thread). Although this feature makes it a lot easier to share and collaborate using OneDrive for Business, we do understand not everyone uses it at this time. We are working on ways to streamline the attachment flow for those users and reduce the clicks to attach a tradition document.

  6. When sending an email it would be helpful if the “Insert>Attachments or OneDrive files” was separated out into “Insert>Attachments” and “Insert>OneDrive files”.
    This new combined option just adds a lot of extra, highly annoying, clicks for those of us who do not want to use OneDrive for attachments.

    • I have the same request. Please separate the “OneDrive” option, or add a feature to disable it completely.

      • Thank you @abbottanalytical & @socalben – this is one of the options we are exploring. From my note above – this feature makes it a lot easier to share and collaborate using OneDrive for Business, but we do understand not everyone uses it at this time. We are working on ways to streamline the attachment flow for those users and reduce the clicks to attach a tradition document.

  7. This new feature has just arrived to our Office 365 suite, something that we had missed when we opted-out from Google Apps.
    Despite from that, this OneDrive attachment feature has a huge flaw: It does not have a “Search” form, so those who use OneDrive in a thorough way -as users at my company does- cannot find anything but their last accesed files.
    I really hope Microsoft to take these brand new additions a bit more seriously.

    Kind regards.

    • @Gregorio – Glad you like the direction we are going. Thanks for the feedback – this is one of the things we are evaluating. We are committed to improving this feature moving forward and will take this feedback as part of our planning.

  8. How can I disable this feature? I don’t need it and it’s a pain in the butt for me. Whenever I try to attach a file from my computer, I don’t always get the option to choose to send as an attachment in the email. Sometimes I have to click on it several times (like 10) before I FINALLY get the option to choose. It would be a lot easier to not have the option but to be able to send as an attachment like it was before this feature was added.

  9. Is it possible to disable this annyoing feature? I don’t want to make several clicks (instead of one) to attach a local file. I don’t use and don’t want to use OneDrive.

  10. I like the concept but it seems either not well thought through or rushed into production.

    The initial Insert drop-down should list Attachment and OneDrive Link commands separately, as I believe a user will know which method they wish to use right from the start. This will overcome the complaints about the number of clicks to carry out a simple attachment.

    For me it will be really useful if it also works with Team Site Document Libraries.

    At the moment, the recent panel is headed OneDrive>Recent, but in fact it lists all recent files from Team Site Document Libraries as well as OneDrive recent files. I chose a recent file that I had saved into a Team Site Library, and although it seemed to grant access to the file to my (external) recipients, they cannot access it.

    The recent list also needs to show the location of the document, to ensure I am linking to the correct file.

    I also believe the default permission for a linked OneDrive file should be read-only, forcing the user to choose to permit edits, though this option should be exposed so that you don’t have to click on the ellipses, then click on Manage Permissions, choose a permission, click OK – once again too many clicks.

    • @Colin – Thanks for the good ideas, please keep them coming. These are all things we are exploring to improve the experience. From my note above – this feature makes it a lot easier to share and collaborate using OneDrive for Business, and we will constantly iterate to make it even better.

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