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Email for Staff and PhD Students: Using Outlook Web App (OWA)


Outlook Web App (OWA) is a version of Microsoft Outlook that works from your web browser and connects to the University’s Exchange system, which hosts email and calendaring for Staff and PhD students. OWA is an easy way of using your email and calendar, because there’s nothing to install or configure and you can use it from almost any web browser such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome.

Most of you will use OWA at least some of the time, for example, to check email when travelling. For some, there may never be a need to use anything else.  It’s available to you whether or not your computer has Microsoft Office installed.

We recommend that you try OWA for a while to see if it meets your needs. If you like it, there’s nothing else you need to set up!

Note that in Outlook, OWA and Exchange parlance, your mailbox is the term given to your complete collection of folders, including your Inbox.

This Guide describes the full version of OWA.  A simpler version called OWA Light is also available and is designed for use with older versions of some web browsers, and other browsers such as Chrome and Safari which have exhibited some incompatibilities with full OWA.   If you find the full version doesn't work properly for you, try OWA Light instead (the choice is available on the login page), but although broadly similar, it is not covered by this Guide.

Contents of this Guide

  1. Opening and Closing your OWA session
  2. The OWA window - an overview
  3. Sending a new message
  4. Replying and Forwarding
  5. Deleting and un-deleting messages
  6. Your mail folders
  7. Searching for messages
  8. Sorting the message list
  9. More information


Opening and Closing your OWA session


To connect to OWA from your web browser, click the Email link on the top right of the Sussex Staff Internal or Student Internal website.
NOTE: if you are using Chrome as your browser, you may need to click this link a second time.

 Staff Internal Email link

This opens up a Webmail login screen:

 Webmail universal login page

This is a universal login page, and depending on your status as a student or staff member, should automatically connect you to the correct webmail service for your email account: staff and PhD students should be connected to OWA, and undergraduate and taught postgraduate students should be connected to the original Webmail (RoundCube) service.

If you're using your own computer, we recommend that you click the More login options link, then select the Keep me logged in for longer (private computer) option before entering your username and password.  If you don't do this then you may find your OWA session cut short after only a few minutes of inactivity: this is a security measure used when you are assumed to be using a public computer.

Enter your username (for example ano23) and your password into the boxes provided, then click the login button.  NOTE: If you are using the Google Chrome browser, you may need to click the login button a second time.

The More login options link allows you to choose between webmail services (this is useful just in case the automatic connection doesn't work), whether you’re using a public or private computer, and whether to use OWA Light (a simpler version for use with older web browsers).

When you’ve correctly entered your username and password, a view of your Inbox should appear. If instead you see a message saying  “A mailbox couldn't be found”  then your account may not yet exist on the Exchange system—please contact IT Services for help.


To close your OWA session, click on the sign out link on the top right of the OWA window:

OWA Sign Out

The OWA window - an overview

The OWA window will look something like the image shown below.  Your name is shown at the top right.  The display is divided into sections called panes:

Main OWA window

The areas labelled here with numbers are (1) the Navigation pane, showing your folders and the selected folder; (2) the Message pane showing a list of messages in the selected folder; and (3) the Reading pane showing the contents of the selected message.

At the bottom left (4) there are links to other Exchange services (Calendar, Contacts and Tasks).  Just click the link according to the service you want:

OWA main screen bottom left

The Navigation pane

This is on the left side of the OWA window, and shows a list of all the folders in your mailbox.  At the top may be shown a list of Favourites, which are folders you use frequently and have marked as favourites so as to make them easily accessible.  Three (Inbox, Sent Items and Deleted Items) are already shown as standard. Your main mailbox folder is near the top, just below the Favourites, and is labelled with your name, for example Ann Other.

To open any mail folder, just click its name in the list.  Its contents will be shown in the Message pane.

For more information about the use of folders, see the section Your mail folders.

The Message pane

There’s a selection of menu items and tools at the top:

OWA Message Pane Tools

Toolbar item
What it does
 OWA New Message tool button Starts writing a new email: see Sending a new message
 OWA Delete Message button Deletes the selected message: see Deleting and un-deleting messages
 OWA Move Message button Moves or copies a message to another folder
 OWA Filter tool button

Allows you to choose types of messages to display

 OWA View button

Allows you to change the layout of the OWA window

 OWA check for new messages

Checks for newly-arrived messages

 OWA Search tool Allows you to search for messages (see Searching for messages)
 OWA Show Advanced Search icon Opens an Advanced Search dialogue
 OWA Arrange-by button

Allows you to sort messages according to different criteria - see Sorting the message list (the label of this tool will vary according to your selection)

 OWA Message order button  Reverses the order of the sorted messages (the label of this tool will vary according to your selection)

The Reading pane

The bulk of this area shows the content of the message currently selected in the Message pane.  At the top are shown the title of the message, who it's from and to, whether any attachments are present, and some tool buttons:

 OWA Reading Pane

Sending a new message

To start a new message, click the New tool button at the top left of the Message pane.  This opens a new window like this:

New message window

Click in the To box to enter the email address of your main recipient(s). As you start typing the address, OWA should either complete the address or show a list of similar addresses from which to choose, based on the addresses you've used before.

Alternatively, click on the To... button itself to open the address book (this will include the Global Address List, or GAL, together with your own personal Contacts lists) in which you can search and select addressees.  See the Using the Address Book section below for more information.

You can also click in the Cc box or click on the Cc... button itself to enter or select addresses of secondary recipients to whom you want to send a copy of your message.

The To and Cc boxes will already be filled if you are replying or replying-to-all, but you can add extra addresses to these boxes if desired.

Enter a short title for your message in the Subject: box (this will already be filled if you are forwarding or replying).

Type the text of your message in the large empty pane below the Subject box.  If you are replying or forwarding, the original message text will already be shown, and you type your own text as required, in the blank area above this.

The tool bar at the top of the window provides a number of functions:

Tool icon What it does
OWA Send button Sends the email
OWA Save button Saves a copy to your Drafts folder
OWA Attach File icon Attaches a chosen file to your message
OWA Insert Picture icon Inserts a chosen picture into your message
OWA Address Book icon Open the Address Book
OWA High Importance icon Marks this message as High Importance
OWA Low Importance icon Marks this message as Low Importance
OWA Insert Signature icon Inserts your Signature text
OWA Options button Selects and sets options
OWA message format chooser Sets either Plain Text or HTML as your message format
OWA Help icon Opens the OWA Help window


Replying and Forwarding

With the required message on display, click on...

OWA Reply to sender only  - to reply to the sender only, or
OWA Reply to all recipients   - to reply to the sender and all other recipients, or
OWA Forward message   - to forward the message to someone else

The section Sending a new message (above), explains how to compose and send, so this includes replies and forwarded messages.

Deleting and un-deleting messages

Click on the message you want to delete in the Message pane, then either click on the Delete button in the toolbar, or press the Delete key on your keyboard once.  The message will disappear from the list, but it won't yet have been removed from your mailbox: deleted messages are moved automatically to the Deleted Items folder.  As such, they continue to occupy space in your mailbox and use your mail quota.

To remove a message completely and release mailbox space, you must either open the Deleted Items folder and delete individual messages or selections of messages within it as required, or you can right-click on the Deleted Items folder and then click on Empty Deleted Items in the pop-up menu so as to empty the folder completely.

To recover a deleted message, you need only open the Deleted Items folder, right-click on the required message, then select Move to Folder... from the pop-up menu.   This will provide you with a list of your folders, from which you click the required folder and then click the Move button.

You can also recover a message that you had deleted from the Deleted Items folder itself.   Such messages are kept in an area of Exchange called the dumpster (referred to in OWA as the Recoverable Items folder) for up to 28 days after deletion.  Right-click on the Deleted Items folder, then click on Recover Deleted Items in the pop-up menu.  This provides a means to recover messages from the dumpster.

Your mail folders

You will find your email much easier to manage if you store related messages in folders of their own.   This is much better than leaving everything in your Inbox, which can become unwieldy and almost impossible to manage if too many messages are allowed to accumulate in it. 

Creating Folders

To create a new folder, right-click on your account name (shown at the head of your list of folders) and click on New folder... in the pop-up menu. Then enter the desired name in the box and click OK.   The new folder will appear in its correct alphabetical position in the list.  Folders can be named in always any way you like, but some characters may not be permitted in folder names.

You can also create a folder within another folder (that is, a sub-folder):  just right-click on that folder and follow the same procedure.

Folders containing sub-folders have small triangles to the left of their names, like this: OWA Folder with subfolders.  If you click on the triangle, the folder opens to reveal the sub-folders within it.  You will notice the triangle change appearance: OWA folder open with subfolders - you can click on the triangle again to hide the subfolders.

Deleting Folders

To delete a folder and all its contents, right-click on the folder and click on Delete folder in the pop-up menu.  Click on Yes to confirm this.

Moving messages to folders

You can move a message into a folder in two ways:

Either: Right-click on the message, then click on Move in the pop-up menu.  This provides a dialogue box in which to choose the folder to which to move the message.

Or: Hold down the left mouse button on the message, then drag and drop it onto the chosen folder in the Navigation Pane.  You may first need to scroll the Navigation pane to make the destination folder visible.  As you drag your mouse over the folder list, wait until the chosen folder is highlighted before releasing the mouse button to move the message.

You can move a whole range or selection of messages, either by using SHIFT-click (hold down SHIFT while you click) to select a block of messages, or CTRL-click (hold down CTRL while you click) to select a number of individual messages, before using your preferred means of moving the messages.

Searching for messages

With any folder open, you can search it for messages matching certain criteria.


There's a Search tool at the top of the Message pane:

OWA Search Tool

At first, the Search box may show Search Entire Mailbox (as shown above) as the searching location.  This means your Inbox and all your folders and subfolders would be searched, which could take a long time, so you might prefer to change this: click on the arrow as shown above, and another menu will appear:

OWA Search location chooser

Here you can choose where you want to search: click on This Folder, This Folder and Subfolders or Entire Mailbox as required. If you want any of these to be the standard search location, click on Set Default Location and select one of the items from the menu.  Once you've made your choice, this will be the standard search location each time you use Search.


Enter your desired search text in the box where the searching location is shown (your typed text will replace the label).  You can type anything, such as a name, or one or more words.  Then click the magnifying glass symbol or press Enter to start the search.  In the example below, we're searching for all messages containing the word Exchange:

 OWA Search

All messages which match your searching text in any way, will be listed, and you will need to scroll through them to find what you want.  Because of this, you should try to narrow down your search by using the most distinctive search text as possible.

Note that while the results of the search are on display, the magnifying glass symbol in the Search box will have changed to a red X.  Click on this to cancel the Search display and revert to displaying all messages:

OWA Search


Click on the chevron symbol  to open the Advanced Search dialogue:

OWA Advanced Search The display changes to show the various options for searching:

 OWA Advanced Search options

 If you use the Results In: option, click on the menu box and choose which parts of the messages you want to search:

 OWA Advanced Search options

 If you use the From option, click on the menu box and select either From or Sent To:

OWA Advanced Search options
If you use the Category option, click on the menu box and select one of the categories shown:

OWA Advanced Search options

When you've chosen your options, enter the search text into the box at the top and click the magnifying glass symbol, as described earlier in Basic Searching.

You can close down the Advanced Search dialogue by clicking on the reversed chevron symbol .

Sorting the message list

 You can sort the list of messages in the Message pane in various ways:

  1. Click on the tool.
  2. From the drop-down menu, choose a category (Date is selected by default):

  3. As soon as you click the required option, the message display will be sorted according to the chosen option.
  4. You can click the option to the right (its label will change according to the Arrange by option chosen) to reverse the sort order, whether alphabetically, date and time or numeric order, according to the sort key you have selected.  For example, if Date is the chosen option, the option label will be Newest on Top.
    Note that if you click this option, the position of the scroll bar will change according to the position of the currently-selected message, and you may need to scroll to the top or bottom to see the first or last message in the re-sorted list of messages.

Note that only the message display is sorted.  The order of messages as stored in your mailbox will not change.

More information

IT Services maintains its own collection of OWA questions and answers in the Frequently Asked Questions section, so please take a look there if this Guide hasn't provided all the information you needed.

Microsoft's online information about OWA can be found at



created on 2011-10-26 by Andy Clews
last updated on 2013-10-15 by Andy Clews