Improving Outlook Web App options and settings

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Will Holmes is a senior program manager on the Exchange engineering team.

We offer you lots of options and settings so you can manage Outlook Web App (OWA) the way you want to.  But what good are all of these controls if it takes too much time to find them? The OWA engineering team is always looking for ways to make features and settings more discoverable and intuitive. With that in mind, we’re excited to announce that, beginning this month, you’ll see that OWA options and settings have moved into a new navigation tree.

Early feedback overwhelmingly indicates that the new view improves discoverability, provides a cleaner user interface, enhances the experience for tablet users and delivers a scalable framework to let us add future OWA settings with minimal disruption.

What’s changing?

As has always been the case, to find the options and settings you need to customize your OWA experience, you click the gear icon in the upper corner of OWA (pictured below).

Improving Outlook Web App options and settings 1

As you can see in the drop-down menu, multiple options are available.  Today, clicking individual options in the list, or clicking the Options link, opens a pane (pictured below) where you find what you clicked and where you can find the rest of the options and settings that are available to you. Different users might see different options and settings choices depending on how their administrators have configured their experience.

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Going forward, when you click an item in the drop-down menu or the Options link, under the gear icon, you’re taken to a new interface (pictured below), where all the options and settings are now available in a single, streamlined, navigation tree on the left.

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Click any of the options in the left navigation pane to return to the corresponding settings in the right settings pane. You can see an example of this when you click Automatic replies (pictured below).

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In the coming months, these improvements will be extended to the Outlook Web App for Devices mobile apps—both on tablets and smart phones. On tablets, you’ll have access to the full set of options that are currently only available to users accessing OWA through the browser. On smart phones, you’ll have access to the options and settings best suited to that layout.

When will I see these improvements?

We’ll start rolling out these changes over the next few months. At first, you’ll see the new view with all the Mail, Calendar and People settings. The few options that we haven’t added to the new left navigation tree will still be accessible through the drop-down menu, accessed when you click the gear icon. They will also be accessible through an Other link that you’ll find if you scroll all the way to the bottom of the new left hand navigation (pictured below).  Clicking Other will open the old user interface, where everything you have access to is still available.

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In the near future, we’ll take advantage of the new navigation model and add general settings that work across the Office 365 suite—this will include settings like contact information, themes and notifications.

We considered waiting until the end of the year to move everything at once, but feedback from users about these changes was so positive that we decided to begin rolling them out now.

We’re excited about this improvement and hope you’ll find the new OWA options and settings easier to find and more streamlined than ever.

—Will Holmes