Controlling Access to Message Attachments Through OWA, Part 3

In the previous part of this article series, I showed you several different options for controlling how users are allowed to access attachments through OWA. In this article, I want to conclude the series by talking about a feature that’s new to Exchange Server 2007; Web Ready Document Viewing.

What is Web Ready Document Viewing?

If your users are accessing their mailbox through OWA, then you really don’t know where they are logged in from, or what the capabilities are of the machine that they are using. Web Ready Document Viewing allows you to ensure that users are able to open certain types of attachments, even if the application that is normally associated with those attachments is not installed.

For example, I have a very strict policy of never taking my laptop with me on vacation. However, last year when I visited the Arctic, I knew that someone was going to be E-mailing me an article that I had to review so that it could be published in a certain issue of a magazine. Needless to say, cyber cafes are a little tough to come by in that part of the world, but I did eventually find one, and was able to get my E-mail. Fortunately, I had the foresight to enable Web Ready Document Viewing, and I was able to view the document through a Web browser. The Internet kiosk that I was using did not have Microsoft Office installed, and had it not been for Web Ready Document Viewing, I would not have been able to do anything with the message.

Enabling Web Ready Document Viewing

Enabling Web Ready Document Viewing is pretty simple. To do so, open the Exchange Management Console, and navigate through the console tree to Server Configuration | Client Access. Next, select your client access server from the console’s top, center pane. When you do, the server’s OWA Web site will be listed in the lower, middle pane. Right click on the listing for this site, and select the Properties command from the resulting shortcut menu.

At this point, the Exchange Management console will display the OWA (Default Web Site) Properties sheet. Go to either the Public Computer File Access tab or the Private Computer File Access tab, and select the Enable Web Ready Document Viewing check box, as shown in Figure A.

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Figure A Select the Enable Web Ready Document Viewing check box.

As you can see in the figure, you have the option of forcing users to use Web Ready Document Viewing if a converter is available. If you choose this option, then users will have to open documents through a Web page rather than opening them with their associated applications.

There are several types of documents that are supported by default. Out of the box, Exchange includes support for Microsoft Office and for PDF documents. Office 2007 documents were not supported in the RTM release of Exchange 2007, but were added in Service Pack 1. If you want to see what types of documents are supported, click on the Supported button, shown in Figure A. Figure B shows the Supported Documents list.

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Figure B Clicking the Supported button reveals a list of supported document types.

The End User Experience

I wanted to wrap things up by showing you what the end user experiences when Web Ready Document Viewing is enabled for OWA. In order to do so, I have E-mailed myself a message containing Part 2 of this series as a Microsoft Word document attachment.  If you look at Figure C, you will notice that just to the right of the attachment, there is an option to open the document as a Web page. When I click on this link, the document is displayed within my Web browser, as shown in Figure D.

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Figure C Messages containing supported attachment types include a link that you can use to open the attachment as a Web page.

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Figure D This is what a Microsoft Word document looks like when opened with Web Ready Document Viewing.


In this article series, I have explained that you must carefully consider how you will allow users to access attachments through OWA. Otherwise, you could risk the exposure of sensitive information.

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