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Using Internet Explorer for Outlook Web Access (OWA)

If you signed up for Microsoft Exchange, you can access OWA (Outlook Web Access). OWA is the cross-platform, web-based application that allows you to access Exchange accounts online. It’s the way Microsoft provides webmail capabilities for Exchange.

The Microsoft OWA web interface has two versions: OWA Premium and OWA Light.

Which version you’re presented with is based on which browser you use.  OWA Premium is only accessible when using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser.  If you’re using any other browser, you’ll end up using OWA Light.  As the name Premium suggests, this version most closely replicates Outlook’s high-end functionality and experience. The Light version has reduced functionality and looks different from the OWA premium version.

Check out a video demonstration of OWA Premium from Microsoft.

The first question we get when folks try to use OWA in another browser is usually, “Why doesn’t OWA Premium work in non-Internet Explorer browsers?”

There is a reason for two versions. No, it’s not part of a widespread plot by Microsoft to force us to use their product for full OWA functionality. According to the Microsoft Exchange Team’s blog, (scroll down to the last section called “Why doesn’t Premium work on Firefox?“).

You may be wondering, “What’s in the premium version that’s not in the Light version?” Quite a bit, actually. Here’s a list of what OWA Premium includes that the Light version does not (from the Microsoft Exchange team’s blog):

  • Tasks module
  • Task-specific properties (only the text of the task items can be seen)
  • Search for mail items (you can only search Contacts and the Address Book)
  • Reminders
  • HTML composition (no HTML editing or formatting options, only text composition)
  • Flags and Categories
  • Weekly view in Calendars (the daily view is the only view)
  • Free/Busy grid for Appointment/Meeting Scheduling Assistant (only “Suggested Times” are given)
  • Print
  • Spell Check
  • Conversation View
  • Account Quota information
  • Recover Deleted Items
  • Calendar month view
  • Add/edit distribution lists
  • Public Folder access
  • S/MIME features
  • Add/edit rules
  • Open Other User’s Mailbox (with special permissions)
  • View Shared Calendars, Tasks, Notes, Contacts, Inbox, Inbox subfolder and Sent Items (with special permissions)

As you can see, there are some major collaboration features available in the OWA Premium version. This is the major reason we suggest using IE. In addition, there are some added abilities of OWA Premium that you may not know about.

Have questions about these special capabilities? Ask us.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Carl Davison.

Carl Davison has been in the technical support and customer service arena since 1992. First in auto repair and auto parts and then in the Telecom and Cable industry. He went on to do support with the Rackspace Email & Apps division, which he joined in August 2008. Since April 2012, he has been a Social Media Specialist on the Rackspace Social Media Team. He loves personal development, entrepreneurship, writing, marketing, advertising, copywriting and public speaking. He enjoys spending time with his family and building gaming computers.

Connect with Carl on Twitter: @carljdavison.


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