Monthly Archives: October 2013

Integrating Outlook Web Access (OWA) and SharePoint 2013

SharePoint 2007 and SharePoint 2010 had a series of Web Parts dedicated to surfacing and interacting with an Exchange mail account directly from a page in SharePoint.

Overview of the Outlook Web Access Web Parts (for SharePoint 2007 and 2010)

If you are not familiar with the functionality here’s a quick overview (this info is taken from the official Microsoft help documentation http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint-foundation-help/working-with-outlook-web-access-web-parts-HA101810215.aspx)

There are five Outlook Web Access Web Parts. These can be used with Microsoft Exchange Server version 2003 to 2007:

  • My Calendar
  • My Contacts
  • My Tasks
  • My Inbox
  • My Mail Folder

These Web Parts are most useful for your My Site, because only you (or someone who can log into your Exchange e-mail account) will be able to see the information from your folders. If you put one of these Web Parts on a shared site, other users will see the Outlook Web Access logon screen in the Web Part.

My Inbox Web Part on My Site

Each Web Part displays the information from a folder in your email account, so you can choose the information you want to show on your site. The Web Parts make it easy to show specific information, such as tasks, without showing all of your Outlook information. If you want to have full Outlook functionality on your SharePoint site, you can use a Page View Web Part linked to the URL for your Outlook Web Access server.

All of the Outlook Web Access Web Parts provide two-way communication with your Exchange Server e-mail account: Changes you make in a Web Part appear in Outlook.

What’s the Story with OWA integration in SharePoint 2013?

I was somewhat surprised when SharePoint 2013 arrived and all the Outlook Web Access web parts were missing. Had this been an oversight by Microsoft and they would reappear again in a cumulative update for SharePoint? It appears not.

On further digging Microsoft actually dropped support for the OWA web parts (in SharePoint 2010) if your mail was hosted in Exchange Online (Office 365). From the Exchange Online Service Description document:

Exchange Online supports Outlook Web App Web Parts via the PageViewer control in Microsoft SharePoint Online and Microsoft SharePoint Server, or via manually configured URLs. Built-in SharePoint OWA Web Part controls will not work against Exchange Online

The statement above alludes to an alternate method using the Page Viewer control (which to be honest I’d prefer to the OWA web parts which didn’t have the full functionality of the OWA interface). The idea behind using the Page Viewer web part is that OWA is just a web interface to your Exchange account served up at known URLs. So just wrap these in a iframe (Page Viewer web part) and you will have your full OWA interface embedded inside a SharePoint page. For a step by step guide of how to setup the Page View control to connect to Exchange Online (OWA) take a look at this article by Jesper_Osgaard.

So fast forward to SharePoint 2013, can we still use the Page Viewer web part technique? My experience so far has yielded mixed results.

More often than not the Page Viewer technique gets tripped up with security issues. I think the underlying issue is that an Internet Explorer session cannot handle authenticating with multiple domains at the same time and it just so happens SharePoint Online and Exchange Online reside in different domains.

This isn’t to say it flat out doesn’t work. Here’s a screenshot to prove it (no smoke and mirrors or Photoshop involved I promise). But I just didn’t find it stable enough to recommend it as a viable solution.

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On reflection it would seem that Microsoft wasn’t able to iron out the complexities of integrating OWA content and SharePoint content in the same Internet Explorer session. If they could, then surely that would have provided better integration for the native SharePoint Site Mailboxes that were introduced in SharePoint 2013 (Exchange 2013). When a SharePoint Site Mailbox is provisioned, a mailbox is created in Exchange (for the SharePoint site) and a link is placed on the left navigation of the SharePoint site. When you click on the link you don’t get the mailbox content embedded in the SharePoint page (as you might expect and have hoped for!). Instead it launches a new Internet Explorer window (new IE session that can authenticate with a different domain) and opens the OWA URL directly to the mailbox. There’s essential no integration with the SharePoint UI other than a URL link.

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Making the most of the Top 50 SharePoint Blog Sites

 

cameron-dwyer-top-50-sharepoint-blogs-awardDynamics 101 recently compiled a list of the top 50 SharePoint Blog sites.I’m very honoured that my blog site made the list, and humbled that the community feels that my site contains such useful SharePoint information. Thanks for the recognition.

This list got me thinking… how can people best utilize these resource sites? I’m sure that there are some of you out there that are already subscribing to or monitoring these sites to stay ahead of the latest SharePoint news. For those not quite at this stage yet I have the following tip.

Get new content delivered directly to you from the Top 50 SharePoint sites as soon as they are published… for free!

The “magic” we are going to use to make this happen is actually fairly old technology, RSS feeds. I haven’t checked all 50 sites on the list but most (if not all) support RSS feeds. What this means is that the site exposes a list of articles as they get published on the site that you can subscribe to. This subscription mechanism is standards based (RSS). This means you can use any RSS compliant client application to receive the feed.

There are many popular RSS feed readers available (and lots of them are free). But since I spend much of my time in Outlook I’m going to show you a seldom used feature of Outlook – it actually has a built in RSS feed reader.

While it’s not the best feed reading application out there, it does have some nice benefits:

  • If you already use Outlook for email, you don’t have to worry about starting up and checking a separate application for reading RSS feeds.
  • It’s familiar – blog articles delivered by RSS feed look and feel very similar to receiving email messages. They are stored in special Outlook folders (with an unread count), individual articles look like email messages with a title, date, source, and you can read them in preview pane or open them full screen just like reading an email.
  • Article content can be stored in your Outlook pst file so it’s available offline to read in your downtime.
  • Read/unread marks work the same as email to keep on top of the articles you have read
  • You can arrange the articles into a folder structure similar to arranging and managing your email
  • You can also assign categories just like on email
  • [My favourite feature] – You can assign follow up tasks and notifications. So if you see an article come in that you really need to do something about set a follow up task next week (by right-clicking | Follow Up | Next Week) and Outlook will remind you about it in a weeks time when you have long forgotten about it!

How to Subscribe to RSS Feeds in Outlook

There are several ways to add RSS feeds to Outlook (including directly from browsing a site in IE). The method I’ll use here is a bit more manual but it works in more scenarios and gives you more options and is probably the most reliable method.

Start by browsing to the site you want to get the feed from in any browser (IE, Chrome, whatever)

Find the RSS feed icon and click on it. The icon is usually orange in color and looks fairly similar on most sites (below is a screenshot of the RSS feed icon on this site).

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Clicking on the RSS feed link should take you to the actual feed URL. The formats vary widely as to what this will actually look like. Keep in mind this is for the feed reading client to make sense of, not you.

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Copy the URL to the clipboard and then switch back to Outlook and we will add this URL as a new RSS feed.

In Outlook you should see an RSS Feeds folder under your Mailbox

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Right-click on the RSS Feeds folder and select Add a New RSS Feed…

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Now paste the URL into the New RSS Feed dialog and click Add

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You can now click Yes to complete the process or click Advanced… where you have the opportunity to set more options regarding the consumption of this feed.

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Advanced Options dialog.

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Once you’ve added the feed you should see a new folder under RSS Feeds in Outlook. New articles from this feed will be delivered directly into this folder (just like email arrives in your inbox).

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