Lookout! When to use Outlook Desktop vs. Outlook Web Access

Outlook is Outlook, right? Well, if only it were that simple. The problem is that there are two different ways our teachers can access their email from their desktops, and both can be called Outlook. During these first few weeks of school, I've noticed many faculty and staff using one version when they might be interested in the other. We'll dive into both interfaces here, so you'll be better equipped to make your own informed decision. 

Microsoft Office Outlook (Desktop Client)
This is the program that you open directly from your computer. It comes with our MS Office Enterprise edition and will most likely be found under Start, All Programs, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 (Sorry, 2003'ers, we're focusing on the newer, though not the newest option only). Once opened, ETHS users will automatically have their settings imported, and they should soon see their email on screen. With the desktop client, you also have quick access to your calendar, tasks, and contacts. ETHS users will have the global address list conveniently available whenever they send an email (click on To... or Cc...) and also when creating calendar invites. Since we are increasing our usage of SharePoint calendars, the ability (in 2007 only) to sync Outlook calendars with SharePoint calendars is a huge convenience for a growing number of users. But, what happens when we want to check email from home?

Microsoft Office Outlook Web Access "OWA" (through Internet Browser)
Since we don't have remote access to our school desktop computers from home, we can't access the desktop client of Outlook that is stored on our local machine. Instead, we can check our email through a web client program called Outlook Web Access. For ETHS faculty and staff, this is accessed through the "Check my mail" link found on the Staff Internet page of our website. Here, you'll need to sign into your account, and although the look and feel are close, there are some noticeable differences and certainly far less features when compared to the desktop. For example, the Global Address list is available, but you'll need to search instead of having the names appear automatically. You will notice fewer features when composing emails, including the inability to copy/paste images into your messages, and overall, the client needs a browser to function and just seems a bit clunky when compared to the desktop program. Some functionality like drag and drop can be restored by using Internet Explorer as your browser (sneaky Microsoft...) Nonetheless, OWA gives you access to your work email wherever you have an Internet connection, and for many who don't need the additional bells and whistles, this is often ample enough.  

When to use Desktop or OWA
As noted in the introduction, the precipice for this post was the observation that many faculty and staff may be using the Web version of Outlook and unaware that a potentially better option is available. When is either the better option? At school, when you are at your local desktop, I'd recommend you check out the desktop client if you haven't already. You won't need to login again, and you'll have nearly instant access to your email along with all of the additional features that come with the program. Outside of school, you can check your email best using Web Access, and although you won't have as many features at your disposal, you will have access to your email, the global address list, and your personal contacts.  

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