New Public Folder picker arrives in Exchange Online

Few months back, the Exchange team announced a new and improved Public Folders experience in OWA. This included the ability to add Calendar and Contacts Public folders to Favorites directly via OWA, as well as a redesigned PF picker dialog. The original blog announcement can be found here.

Now, these improvements have finally arrived to Office 365/Exchange Online. My first impressions however are not all positive. Sure, the new dialog is way better compared to the older version – it offers a lot more screen estate, it clearly designates the different folder types and it’s just prettier. While I would’ve preferred a working double-click action in order to add/remove a folder to/from Favorites, I can see why the team decided to go with the button only. But there’s lot more unintuitive behavior than just that:

  • You don’t get any indication that a particular folder is already added to Favorites, which makes it very easy to try to add it a second time
  • While you do get an informational message upon adding new PF to Favorites, no other visual indicator exists in the picker itself. Again, makes it easy to repeat the action and get an error
  • Related to the above – the other visual feedback you get upon adding a new PF is the adding of this new entry under the Favorites group on the left Navigation pane in OWA. However, the pane is actually dimmed in the background, which makes it a bit hard to spot said feedback. In addition, even upon unsuccessful attempts a new entry will briefly be visible on pane, and quickly removed (really unnecessary IMO)
  • The error messages themselves are very blank and unhelpful. We pretty much always get the same “We couldn’t add the public folder to Favorites. Please try again.” error, regardless of whether we are trying to add an unsupported PF type, or a folder that is already added, etc.
  • Similar to the above, I would like to see a proper guidance or at least a hint that explains what adding Calendar PF from within the Mail OWA page, or a Contacts PF from the Calendar OWA page, will result in. It will certainly be confusing for the end user, especially combined with the error messages which will appear should they decide to click the Add to Favorites button a second time
  • It is not possible to remove a PF from Favorites within the Picker interface. Instead, you have to do it via the Navigation pane in OWA

Overall, the new picker leaves a lot to be desired, which I guess is OK for a version1. For all its shortcomings however, the simple fact that it allows us to add Calendar or Contacts PF types to Favorites directly via OWA is enough to mention it as an important addition to the service 🙂

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