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Checking Messages using Outlook Web Access

Outlook Web Access (OWA) allows you to check your messages over the Internet from any computer. OWA works with Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher for Windows, and also works with Netscape, Opera, and others browsers on Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and even Solaris platforms. ITS, however, recommends using the latest version of Internet Explorer to take full advantage of the features available in OWA.

Regardless of which browser you decide to use it must have 128 bit encryption. If you have trouble opening your account check to make sure that your browser has 128 bit encryption first. You can do this by clicking 'Help' on the toolbar and then choosing 'About [Your Browser Name]' from the drop down menu. The information on encryption should be displayed. Most current browsers support 128 bit encryption.

Accessing OWA

  1. In order to access email attachments in OWA you may have to change your security settings if you're using Internet Explorer
    • Open Internet Explorer
    • Click 'Tools' and select 'Internet Options' from the menu

    • Click the 'Advanced' tab and scroll down to the 'Security' section
    • Make sure that 'Do not save encrypted pages to disk' is unchecked

    • Click 'OK' and then close and reopen Internet Explorer
    • You should now be able to open email attachments within OWA

  2. To access OWA enter the address: into your browser
    • If you are prompted with a security certificate pop-up, click 'Yes' [Internet Explorer] or 'Continue' [Netscape] to proceed
    • Enter your RIT Account name in the 'RIT Computer Account' box. Enter your RIT Account password in the 'Password' box and click the 'OK' button

      Note: Netscape users must enter their RIT Computer Account as "Main\RIT Computer Account", without the quotes.


      Note: If you're using a browser other than Internet Explorer for Windows you will not have the option of a Premium or Basic connection to OWA. Other browsers will only receive a 'Basic' connection. Some features that are not available with a basic connection are: spell check, the reading pane and rules. For a full list of the differences between a Premium and Basic connections please click here
    • You may receive a 'pop-up blocked' notice if you're using Internet Explorer or another browser with pop-up blocking capabilities. This is normal and you should allow pop-ups for this site. Certain Exchange items such as the calendar or tasks are viewed as a pop-up in OWA. In Internet Explorer the pop-up blocked notice will be displayed as a yellow banner, located just under the toolbars

    • Right click the banner and select 'Always Allow Pop-ups from This Site'. For other pop-up blocking applications please follow the instructions pertinent to that software package.

  3. You will find that the OWA client looks very similar to Outlook 2003. Below is a screen shot of what it looks like.


Understanding the Layout of OWA

There are certain features of OWA that are available with Internet Explorer for Windows and may not be available within other browsers. Within this document these will be noted, in red with the letters (IE), where applicable.

One such feature is the availability of using a 'right click' to view pop-up menus in certain areas of OWA. Below are samples of the pop-up menus you will see when right clicking a folder or an email item.

  1. The furthest left hand pane of your screen allows you to browse through your folders for email, contacts, etc. You can view nested folders (IE) such as the 'Mail to Save' subfolder, which is directly under the 'Inbox' in the image to the right. In other browsers these 'nested' folders may be viewable as a link within the mail folder it's nested under.

    • The icon with two arrows creating a circle at the top of this pane allows you to refresh your folder list and the button directly to the right of this allows you to hide or show your folders list (IE).
    • In other browsers you may only be able to see a shortened list of the Exchange items. Some other browsers will display a link 'Folders', which you should click to view the entire list of Exchange items.

    • At the very bottom of this pane is the OWA Button Bar, which gives you access to other OWA features, such as 'Rules', (IE) 'Options' and 'Public Folders'. Except for 'Rules', these options may be accessed using other browsers as well.

    • You can close this pane by clicking on the upside down triangle ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **directly above it

  2. The center pane allows you to view your messages in a list and the right pane (IE) is the 'Viewing Pane'.

    • By default you can only view 25 mail items per page and the arrows directly above the messages ** PLEASE DESCRIBE THIS IMAGE **should be used to toggle between pages.
    • The 'Viewing Pane' may be moved to the bottom of the screen or turned off by clicking the 'Show/Hide' button (IE) , which is located in the toolbar above your messages.



The main toolbar is located directly above your messages and will vary, depending on the Exchange object you are accessing and which browser you are using. This section will provide information for the toolbar associated with mail folders in Internet Explorer. Moving your mouse over each button reveals what they are.

  • Clicking on the upside down triangle next to 'Messages' allows you to sort your messages by sender, unread messages, etc.
  • If you click the 'New' button a window will open allowing you to create a new email message. If you click on the upside down triangle directly next to it you can choose to create a new mail message, folder, contact, etc.

  • The next button over allows you to move or copy the item you have highlighted. A window will open that allows you to select the folder you would like to move or copy the item to.
  • The 'X' button is used to delete whatever you currently have selected.
  • The following 3 buttons allow you to 'Reply', 'Reply to All' or 'Forward' the message you currently have selected.
  • The button for checking new messages can be clicked periodically to view any new messages you may have received while using OWA. You will also receive a 'New Mail' notification in the lower right hand corner of your screen (IE) by default, unless you turn this off in 'Options'.

  • The 'Search' button allows you to search through your Exchange mailbox for email items to or from specific persons and by subject matter and key words.
  • The 'Address Book' button allows you to open the address book and search the 'GAL' or your own 'Contacts' list.

    In OWA for Exchange 2000 you could only use the address book to search for persons in the GAL. With Exchange 2003 you can search for persons within your own contacts list too. (IE)

    Note: Only the top level 'Contacts' folder will be searchable. For example if you have sub-folders in 'Contacts' for friends and family these contacts will not show in the address book and you will not be able to search for or resolve against their addresses. 

    You can, however, view them in OWA. In other browsers these sub-contacts folders may be viewable as a link within the Contacts folder.


You can manage your e-mail messages by using 'Rules' to automatically perform actions on incoming messages. After you create a rule, Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access applies the rule to messages that arrive in your Inbox. For example, you can automatically forward all messages sent by a specific person to your manager when they arrive in your Inbox. (IE)

Note: A rule in gray type can't be modified by Outlook Web Access because its conditions can't be interpreted or it doesn't specify an action.

A rule in red type contains an error related to the folder you want the rule to move or copy the message to. Select the rule, click Modify, and then correct the rule.

Creating a Rule:
  • In the OWA Button Bar, click Rules.
  • In the Rules screen, click New.
  • In the Rule Name box, type a name for the rule if you want to give the rule a specific name. If you leave this box blank, Outlook Web Access will generate a name from the rule criteria you specify (for example, "Sent only to me").
  • In the Edit Rule dialog box, specify any or all of the following conditions:
  • To base the rule on who sent the message, type the alias or e-mail address of the user name or distribution list in the From field contains box. To find the person or distribution list in your organization's address book or your contacts, click Address Book .
  • To base the rule on words in the subject of the message, type the words in the Subject contains box.
  • To base the rule on the importance setting of the message, select the importance in the Importance is menu.
  • To base the rule on who the message was sent to, type the alias or e-mail address of the user name or distribution list in the People or Distribution List box. Separate two or more entries with a semicolon (;). To find the person or distribution list in your organization's address book or your contacts, click Address Book .
  • To base the rule on messages that are sent only to you, select the Sent only to me check box.
  • Specify what to do with the message.
  • To move the message to a folder, select Move it to the specified folder, click specified, and then select the appropriate folder in the Move/Copy Item dialog box.
  • To copy the message to a folder, select Copy it to the specified folder, click specified, and then select the appropriate folder in the Move/Copy Item dialog box.
  • To delete the message, select Delete it.
  • To forward the message to someone, select Forward it to, and then type the alias or e-mail address of the person or distribution list in the adjacent box. Separate two or more entries with a semicolon (;). To find the person or distribution list in your organization's address book or your contacts, click Address Book . By default, a copy of the forwarded message is kept in your Inbox.
  • Click Save and Close.

Rules created with Microsoft Outlook

When you choose to create or modify a rule, Outlook Web Access checks your Microsoft Exchange server for rules you created using Microsoft Outlook.
If you use rules in Outlook, Outlook Web Access may interpret them differently depending on the version of Outlook you used to create them. In fact, some rules created with earlier versions of Outlook are incompatible with Outlook Web Access. For information about compatibility limitations, see the section below that pertains to your version of Outlook.

Outlook 97 and Outlook 98

Rules based on message importance aren't supported. If you use Outlook Web Access to create a rule based on the importance setting of an incoming message, you won't be able to use the rule from Outlook 97 or Outlook 98. Rules that specify more than one word in the message subject aren't supported. If you use Outlook Web Access to create a rule that examines the subject line of incoming messages for multiple words, the rule will retain only the first word specified when you view it from Outlook 97 or Outlook 98. Outlook 97 doesn't support rules that perform an action on messages sent only to you. Also, Outlook Web Access doesn't support Outlook 97 rules that include the specification "sent directly to me." Rules with conditions or actions that Outlook Web Access can't interpret, or rules with no action specified, are displayed in gray type. If you use Outlook 97, make sure your mailbox contains at least one rule created with Outlook 97 before you use Outlook Web Access to create additional rules. Otherwise, Outlook 97 won't recognize the rules you create with Outlook Web Access.

Outlook 2000 and Outlook 2002

If you create, modify, or delete rules in Outlook Web Access, any rules you disabled in Outlook 2000 or Outlook 2002 will be deleted. Rules with conditions or actions that Outlook Web Access can't interpret, or rules with no action specified, are displayed in gray type. If you open the Outlook 2000 or Outlook 2002 Rules Wizard after creating or modifying rules in Outlook Web Access, you will be warned about a client-server conflict. To preserve the rules you created in Outlook Web Access, select Server in the message box.


Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access provides several ways to customize program features, functionality, and appearance. To access your options click 'Options' on the OWA Button Bar or in your folder list. The following list briefly discusses each of the options in OWA for Exchange 2003.

Note: You must click the 'Save and Close' button at the top of the window in order for any changes to occur.
  1. Out of Office Assistant
    • The Out of Office Assistant generates automatic replies to e-mail messages that you receive while you're away.
  2. Messaging Options
    • Change the number of mail items displayed per page (IE)
    • Change notification options for new messages (IE)
    • Automatically include signatures in outgoing messages
    • Change the default font for outgoing mail messages (IE)
  3. Reading Pane Options (IE)
    • Allows you to mark messages as read when they are displayed in the reading pane
  4. Check the spelling in your outgoing messages (IE)
  5. Email Security (IE)
    • You can help make your e-mail messages more secure by using a message encryption protocol called Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (S/MIME). With S/MIME you can digitally sign your messages to help protect them from tampering while in transit. The digital signature also certifies to the recipient that the message is from you. You can also encrypt the message contents to help prevent unauthorized recipients from reading the message.

      To use S/MIME with Outlook Web Access, you must have the following:
      • Microsoft Windows XP or Windows 2000.
      • Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or later.
      • A computer that allows you to download and install the S/MIME Control.
      • Valid digital certificates for sending digitally signed e-mail messages or receiving encrypted e-mail messages.
  6. Privacy and Junk Email Prevention
    • Under Privacy and Junk E-mail Prevention, select the Filter Junk E-mail check box.
    • To add or modify e-mail addresses or domains in your junk e-mail lists, see Manage junk e-mail.
    • Block external content in HTML e-mail messages. To prevent Outlook Web Access from downloading Web beacons (explained below) select the Block external content in HTML e-mail messages check box.

      HTML messages you receive can include links to external content, such as pictures or sounds. These links aren't the kind that are underlined and that you click on. They are references in the HTML source code to an external location on the Internet, such as a Web site. When you open or preview the message, your computer downloads the external content so that the picture can be displayed or the sound played. This is typically done by legitimate senders to avoid sending large messages.

      However, junk e-mail senders use the downloading of external content by your computer to verify your e-mail address as "live." Once they know there is a real person associated with your address, you can then become the target of more junk e-mail. External content used to identify you in this way is called a Web beacon.
  7. Appearance (IE)
    • You can change the color scheme in OWA
  8. Date and Time Formats
    • If you're traveling in a differnt time zone you may want to update OWA. If you do not update the time zone the time of the messages you've sent will be incorrect. By default it is set to Eastern Standard Time.
  9. Calendar Options
    • To set the day your calendar displays as the beginning of the week, select the appropriate day from the Week begins on list.
    • To set the times Outlook Web Access will display for each business day, select the appropriate times from the Day start time and Day end time lists.
    • To select when Outlook Web Access will begin numbering weeks for the current year, select the appropriate option from the First week of year list. The week numbers are displayed in the date picker window in Calendar. If you don't want weeks to be numbered, select Do not display week numbers.
  10. Reminder Options
    • To receive reminder messages before your appointments and meetings, select the Enable reminders for Calendar items check box.
    • To receive reminder messages for tasks that are coming due, select the Enable reminders for Task items check box.
    • To also be reminded with a sound, select the Play a sound when a reminder is due check box.
    • In the Default reminder list, select the amount of time before the item occurs that you would like to receive a reminder.
  11. Contact Options
    • To set RIT's address book as the first place to search, select Global Address List.
    • To set your personal contacts as the first place to search, select Contacts.
  12. Recover Deleted Items
    Deleted items are recoverable only 30 days after deletion.
    • On the toolbar, click View Items.
    • In the Recover Deleted Items dialog box, select the item you want to recover. Hold down CTRL or SHIFT to select multiple items.
    • To return the selected items to your Deleted Items folder, click Recover on the toolbar, or click Permanently Delete to permanently destroy the items.

Basic vs. Premium

Feature Description Outlook Web Access Premium Outlook Web Access Basic
Logon/Logoff Improvements
Logon page New customized form for logging on to Outlook Web Access'includes cookie-based validation where the Outlook Web Access cookie is invalid after user logs out or is inactive for predefined amount time. Yes, with choice of using Outlook Web Access Basic. Yes, but only allows use of Outlook Web Access Basic.
Clear credentials cache on logoff After logoff, all credentials in Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 (SP1) credentials cache are cleared automatically. Yes, in Internet Explorer 6 SP1. No
Public or shared computer and Private computer logon options To provide organizations with more protection, two logon page security options can be used. The private option can be set to provide a longer period before user is logged off because of inactivity. Yes Yes
General User Interface Improvements
User interface updates New color scheme, reorganized toolbars. Yes, plus newView menu, default user interface font, and bidirectional support. Yes, but only one color scheme is available.
Item window sizing During an Outlook Web Access session, item windows open at the last window size set by the user instead of always opening at 500x700 pixels. Yes No
Item window status bar A status bar is now available on item windows so a user can see URL of hyperlinks in e-mail messages. To view the URL, move the pointer over the hyperlink. Yes No. Items do not open in a separate window, however the status bar is still available.
View Improvements
Two-line mail view New view orients message list vertically instead of horizontally; works well with Reading Pane. Yes No
Reading Pane (previously called the Preview Pane in previous versions of Outlook Web Access) Resizable Reading Pane now appears to right of message list by default; attachments can be opened directly from Pane. Additionally, user has option to determine if items are marked items as read when viewed in Reading Pane. Yes No
Mark as read/unread Command enables users to mark unread messages as read or vice versa. Yes No
Quick Flagging Command enables users to assign follow-up flag to messages. Yes No
Context Menu Context Menu available in mail view; special context menu also available on quick flag. Yes No
Keyboard shortcuts Common actions such as new message, mark as read/unread, and reply and forward are available when focus is in message list. Yes No
Items per page Users can determine how many items appear per page in E-mail,Contacts, and Tasks views. Yes Yes
Mail icons Icons display state and type of messages. Yes Yes
Deferred view update The view is auto-refreshed only after 20 percent of messages are moved or deleted from a page, not after each deletion. This results in increased performance. Yes No
Navigation Improvements
New Navigation Pane Unified user interface contains module shortcuts, full folder tree, refresh item count button, customizable width. Yes Shortcuts only
Search folders Outlook-created search folders are displayed in folder tree. These must be created in the Outlook Online mode. Yes No
Notifications New e-mail and reminder notifications are displayed in Navigation Pane. Yes No
Public folders Public folders are displayed in new window. Yes No
Log Off option on toolbar Log Off option is now on the view toolbar, not in the Navigation Pane. Yes No
Mail Workflow Improvements
Spelling checker Spelling checker is provided for e-mail messages. Yes No
New addressing wells New integrated look; easier deletion of recipients. Yes No
Global Address List Properties sheets Property sheets now display name, address, and phone information for resolved Global Address List (GAL) users. Yes. Available in received items, draft items, Check Names dialog box, and Find Names dialog box. Yes; only available in received items and draft items.
Add to Contacts Users can add resolved recipients in received mail or drafts to main Contacts folder. Yes, feature in Properties sheets or context menu on resolved names. No
Send mail from Find Names Users can send new messages to addresses found in the Find Names dialog box when it is opened from an e-mail view. Yes No
Open Find Names from message Users can open Find Names from a message and use it to add new recipients to a draft message; also used to add recipients to a contact distribution list. Already available in previous versions of Outlook. Yes
Contacts in Find Names Users can search main Contacts folder in Find Names. Yes No
Sorted results in Find Names and Check Names The results in Find Names and Check Names now are sorted in alphabetical order. Yes Yes
Auto signature Users can create a signature that is automatically included in e-mail messages. Yes, HTML-based formatting; also on-demand insertion. Yes, plain text formatting; no on-demand insertion.
Default mail editor font User-customizable default font is provided for e-mail editor. Yes No
Navigate after delete Users can open the next or previous item after deleting an item. Yes No
Read receipts Users can use or ignore read-receipt requests. Yes. Users can also send receipts even when the option is set to ignore requests. Yes. Users are not able to l send receipts when option is set to ignore requests.
"Web Beacon" blocking Users can control options for blocking external content in e-mail. Yes Yes
Attachment blocking Administrator options restrict access to some or all attachments in messages. Yes Yes
Junk mail filtering Options to set up safe- and blocked-sender lists. Yes Yes
Sensitivity Infobar Sensitivity information is displayed in Infobar. Yes Yes
Reply/Forward InfoBar Reply/Forward information is displayed in InfoBar. Yes Yes
No indenting replies The reply header and reply body are no longer indented. Yes Yes. Outlook Web Access Basic never indented.
Reply to messages/posts in Public Folders When accessing public folders through a front-end server, users can reply by e-mail to messages or posts in public folders. Yes Yes
Encrypted/signed mail Sending and receiving encrypted and/or signed e-mail is supported. Yes, Internet Explorer 6 on Microsoft Windows 2000 or later. No
Rules Improvements
Rules Users can create and manage server-based e-mail-handling rules. Yes No
Task Improvements
Personal tasks Users can create and manage personal tasks and receive reminders for these items. Yes Yes, but no reminders.
Calendar Improvements
Reply/Forward Meeting Requests Users can now reply to senders of Meeting Requests and/or forward Meeting Requests to other users. Yes Yes
Attendee reminder Attendees can set own reminder times from received meeting requests. Yes No
View Calendar from a meeting request Attendees can open Calendar from a meeting request. Yes No
Customized meeting cancellation notice Users can now provide a response in a meeting cancellation notice. Yes Yes
Attendee reminder Meeting attendees can set their own reminder times from meeting requests. Yes No
View Calendar from Meeting Request Meeting attendees can open their Calendar from a meeting request Yes Yes
Performance Improvements
Bytes over the wire Fewer bytes sent over the wire from server to browser. Additionally, when data is sent from the server to browser during initial logon has been reorganized to speed up rendering the Inbox. Yes Yes
Compression support Administrators can configure compression support for Outlook Web Access and provide a performance improvement of nearly 50 percent for most actions on slow network connections. Yes, when accessed with Internet Explorer 6 SP1 + Q328970 or later. Depends on the browser.