Changes to Outlook Webmail

What is changing?

The school district’s webmail service has been updated from OWA (Outlook Web App) to Outlook on the Web (OotW??). The email server is also being upgraded.

OotW sounds confusing, what can we call it?

Let’s just go with GVSD Webmail.

Who is affected?

All staff who use their web browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) to manage their district emails, calendars and/or tasks.

I use the Outlook desktop program does this affect me?

Nope. Business as usual for you.

I liked OWA the way it was, why are we changing?

Microsoft changes the layout and features of its products from time to time. Customers who use their products are at the mercy of their whims.

What do the changes look like?

Let’s dig in…


The sign-on screen for GVSD WebMail has been modified slightly; it now looks like this:

Switching between Mail/Calendar/People/Tasks

Microsoft has gone the way of the waffle and now uses the waffle/chocolate bar icon familiar to G Suite users as the location to store Outlook’s sub-applications.

Reading & Organizing Email

Reading email is fairly similar, but there are some changes to how it can be organized before/after reading.

Turning off Conversations

Users can sort the mail in their inbox using filters. By default Outlook Webmail shows all messages organized by Conversations. Conversations organizes emails by into threads, so that a series of emails with the same subject line are kept together. However, not all users find this useful. If you’d like to change the settings:

  1. Click on the Filter menu located at the top of the Inbox
  2. Under Show as select Messages instead of Conversations

Quick Actions

With individual items users can hover over the message preview in the second column to get several quick actions, including the new Pin feature which keeps the email at the top of the column.

The Action Bar

In addition to the quick actions, the new Outlook webmail has redesigned the top of the screen to include an Actions Bar that includes a few new features, along with the old standards.

  1. Search: Search has moved to the far left of the screen. When a search is entered a new view is launched with parameters to help narrow the search. This view makes searching a little easier than it was with OWA.
  2. Junk: This action reports junk and phishing attempts to Microsoft, but it does not alert the IT for Learning team. Please ignore this function, and instead forward suspicious emails to, so that our team is aware of a threat that may impact other users. (Full instructions on forwarding messages here.)
  3.  Sweep: This action allows users to create a set of rules for incoming emails from a specific sender. For example, if a user gets a daily message from a blog they follow and they want to delete the message daily Sweep can create a rule to only keep the latest message in the inbox.
  4. Categories: This action allows users to create categories with coloured tags. There are a pre-populated set of categories named as colours. They can easily be edited/deleted to match a user’s preferences.
  5. Ellipsis: Additional actions are available by clicking on the ellipsis.

Composing Email

Creating a new email in Outlook Webmail opens into a different looking text editor with the formatting options listed along the bottom, rather than the top, and a few additional icons that were not present in OWA.

  1. Clicking on the “To” (and or “Cc”) button opens a separate screen where a user’s contacts are listed, as well as listings for all the users and groups in the district directory.
  2. The images icon allows users to copy pictures into the body of the email.
  3. Emojis are now easy to find and add to an email.
  4. Hide/show the formatting palette by clicking on the A with a paintbrush icon.
  5. Additional actions, including the Insert signature function and the ability to Set importance are found by clicking the ellipsis at the top or chevron at the bottom.

Replying to email

When users reply to an email a smaller box appears in the right hand column, so that the message thread can still be viewed. Clicking on the formatting palette icon (4) will show more formatting options. The main difference is that clicking the ellipsis/chevron (5) does not produce the same actions as it does for new mails. To see these options open the reply box into a new window by clicking the expanding arrows icon at the top of the box.


The calendar view is fairly similar to OWA. Users still add new items from the top (or by clicking in the calendar’s grid), but the action bar presents two notable new options.

  1. Adding a new calendar is easier than before using the dropdown menu on the action bar. Users can import calendars from a file (ex. ICS), a link or another user/group in the directory.
  2. Users can send an email invitation containing a link to their calendar.
  3. Use the links on the right-hand side to change views between day/week/month.