Microsoft wants to make it easier to search and collaborate. 

Last week it improved the social collaboration abilities of Office 365 by upgrading Outlook Web App (OWA). This week, it's giving OWA more love by improving the OWA interface and navigation tree to make it easier to use, especially on tablets.

Discovering Content

In an interview with CMSWire, Cem Aykan , senior product manager for Microsoft Graph and Delve, noted that Delve users are initiating more sessions than ever on their mobile devices, but spending less time on each session. "What we have noticed is that we have less time to surface content to users who are looking for superior content experiences quicker as their sessions on their mobile devices are getting shorter," he said.

With Graph and Delve, this meant developing better search and discovery abilities. With OWA it means a better navigation tree.

Explaining the rationale behind the OWA upgrades, Will Holmes, senior program manager on the Exchange engineering team, noted in a blog post:

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.

Users of OWA should expect to see the upgrades within the next two weeks, a sign of the importance Microsoft is placing on the new social collaboration functionality.

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OWA Navigation

OWA Upgrades

Benefitting from the new functionality is easy through the existing OWA interface. Users can implement the changes by following the instructions on the blog Holmes wrote.

Holmes stated that the new view greatly improves discoverability, making its use on mobile devices considerably easier and providing a scalable framework on which future improvements to OWA can be introduced.

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OWA additional functionality

Like many of the recent Microsoft upgrades, the full OWA compliment will be delivered over months rather than weeks and will be extended to OWA for smartphones and other devices during that time. Holmes adds:

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. This is again another small Microsoft upgrade, but one that will make the use of its productivity apps a lot easier and more effective."

Put all the recent improvements together and you get a series of upgrades across the Office 365 platform that really beats its competitors into a corner, even companies like Google, which has been adding functionality at a steady pace over the past couple of years.

However, it is increasingly clear that Office 365 is not just a productivity suite to help workers achieve goals. It is also a core element of Microsoft’s overall business strategy built around the cloud. 

Title image by Eric  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.