Outlook on the Web is Becoming a PWA

Posted on November 25, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Office 365, Dev with 21 Comments

It’s finally happening: Microsoft’s web-based email app for commercial Office 365 customers is becoming a PWA, or Progressive Web App.

News of this change comes via a reader, Nick DeLena, who noticed that Outlook on the Web displays a PWA “Install” button in the Brave address bar. And sure enough, I’m seeing the same. I was able to view the site’s manifest file (accessed via the F12 developer tools) as well.

I don’t see an Install button when I use Microsoft Edge Beta. But the new Edge does see the manifest file, while noting that it couldn’t find a matching service work. Peter Whitehouse tweeted that does he sees an Install option in the menu of Canary version of the new Edge. So it’s coming to Edge as well.

What’s missing there, of course, is offline use. But just meeting the minimum requirements of a PWA is the first step. And as I theorized the other day about Outlook.com, the consumer version of Outlook on the Web, there are other indications that Microsoft is—finally—embracing PWA technologies in its main web applications. Hopefully, this is the start of something big.

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Comments (21)

21 responses to “Outlook on the Web is Becoming a PWA”

  1. ndelena

    PWA FTW!

  2. stevebrock

    Now if they'd only allow multiple accounts on Outlook.com, I'd be sold. I have three accounts I use. Mail is flawed but it does allow multiple accounts.

  3. coeus89

    Two questions

    1. Can i put add two gmail accounts on it?
    2. Does it have unified inbox like the android app?

    Whatever the answer this is a very positive development

  4. brettscoast

    This is good news indeed, we are getting there.

  5. Stooks

    Can someone please explain to me what the PWA version actually gets me over just using it in a normal browser??? I just do not get the hype. Yes I do understand it will look like a stand alone app vs a web browser tab but they are both just using the browser.

    Gmail, before PWA's, has had offline use for years. If Outlook.com got offline use (cant imagine needing it) I would assume that it would work with both the PWA and web versions.

    • CajunMoses

      In reply to Stooks:

      Stooks, good question!

      1. The primary benefit is to the entity that pays for the development and maintenance of the application. That's because the Android/iOS/Windows/Linux/etc. users of the PWA get the same, familiar user experience that they would if they were to download and install the application using an apps store or executable file; however, because a PWA is a WEB APPLICATION, only ONE VERSION of the application has to be developed and maintained. That one version will run on any OS platform that runs a Web browser that supports PWAs. Separate versions of the application no longer have to be written for every OS platform. The resultant development savings in time, effort, and expense is HUGE.
      2. Users of the application may also benefit in numerous more subtle ways. Obviously, they don't have to stress over whether and when an application will come to their OS platform of choice. They don't have to spend their cellular data downloading the app because PWAs are updated and maintained on the server like any other Web app. They get any benefits of going through an app store without having to go through an app store. There is a very consistent user experience regardless of which OS platform they and their associates are using.
      3. For the enterprise as well as the individual, as applications move to PWA, pure client-server computing becomes achievable for a larger proportion of users. This can result in considerable IT savings because a thin client device is much less expensive. Dollar for dollar, it's also much faster and more secure. But the really massive enterprise savings result because the ongoing level manpower required for support and maintenance drops to a small fraction of that required for, say for example, a fleet of Windows OS machines.
      • Stooks

        In reply to CajunMoses:

        Everything you listed is true of the web browser version.

        • CajunMoses

          In reply to Stooks:

          Stooks, that's a grossly misleading oversimplification.

          Before PWAs, using a Web app on a smartphone or tablet device generally offered a poor user experience compared to using a native app, primarily because the prevalence of native mobile apps precluded the frequent use of Web browsers on handheld mobile devices. PWAs free the Web app from the browser and now offer as good as or better experience on a mobile device in most use cases. Thus, PWAs enable a watershed moment by finally defeating the most potent incentive for developing separate, OS-specific versions of an app: Hence, "...There is a very consistent user experience regardless of which OS platform they and their associates are using."

    • datameister

      In reply to Stooks:

      Right now, probably just a nicer icon.

      Eventually it could work very nearly just like any desktop app such as the Windows 10 Mail or calendar apps, downloading mail for offline viewing, etc. More importantly PWAs are more of a standard now than the proprietary method Google originally used in the early days of Chrome.

      The hype is really just geeks being geeks though.

  6. mclark2112

    Works on my office O365 account on my Mac, I'll try at work tomorrow on the PC.

  7. rmac

    "Microsoft is—finally—embracing PWA technologies in its main web applications. Hopefully, this is the start of something big."

    100% totally agree.

    What is super exciting are signs (I believe) MS have finally realised there are currently too many .NET 'silos' for traditional .NET devs to contemplate following the simplicity of the .NET WebForms/Winforms promise back in 2000.

    ASP.NET, mobile, desktop, UWP, WPF, Cloud, IoT, AI - not to mention iOS, Android, and Linux variants via Xamarin - are several silos too many. It's time to rein them all in.

    A platform delivering on the simple PWA that runs everywhere will re-kindle the powerful .NET message.

  8. Omega Ra

    I see it on desktop, but not on mobile, though I do see add to homescreen...but that isn't exactly the same on Android it is?

  9. codymesh

    does it support push mail notifications?

    also, wrong hyperlink to Peter Whitehouse's tweet

  10. bart

    Can we have a hallelujah?!

  11. Winner

    For a minute I thought the headlines said "...becoming a PIA"!

  12. gartenspartan

    Office 365 inbox is working this way as well. Works great this way on a chromebook for example.

  13. skolvikings

    The install button appears on the right-side of the Chrome omnibox.

  14. safesax2002

    PWA shows up for me on Outlook.com (don't have O365).