Microsoft Finally Adds an Undo Send Feature to OWA

OWA splash screen

OWA Copying from Gmail? Never…

In June 2015, Google made the “Undo Send” feature an official part of Gmail. In fact, Undo Send had been available since 2009 as a Google Labs add-in and it was curious why Google took quite so long to give their imprimatur to Undo Send. Well, Microsoft took even longer to decide to introduce an equivalent feature into OWA. Undo Send finally made its appearance for Office 365 users in early January 2017. Like its Gmail counterpart, OWA’s Undo Send allows you to wait for up to 30 seconds to make your mind up that a message should really go.

Take Your Time

Undo Send works by implementing a delay before OWA transmits an outbound message to the server. During this period, the message stays in the Drafts folder and can be recalled by clicking the Undo button (Figure 1). When the delay period elapses, OWA sends the message is transmitted to the server. It’s all very simple and straightforward.

OWA Undo Send in action
Figure 1: How Undo Send works in OWA (image credit: Tony Redmond)

Control over Undo Send is available through the Automatic Processing section of OWA Options (Figure 2). You can decide whether to enable the feature and if yes, what delay to use. The minimum delay is five seconds and the maximum is 30.

OWA Undo Send Settings
Figure 2: The Undo Send controls in OWA options (image credit: Tony Redmond)

The warning that messages will not be sent if you close the browser or put the computer to sleep is logical. As noted above, messages stay in the Drafts folder until the delay elapses, so if OWA loses its connection to Exchange Online for any reason (like closing the lid of the computer to put it to sleep), the message stays in the Drafts folder until the connection is restored and the countdown restarts.

Two other points are of interest. First, you can navigate and interact with other messages while an outbound message is in its recall period. Second, message recall is only available for messages created inline. If you use a separate window to create and send a message, you cannot recall it. Apart from Microsoft not completing the feature, there’s no great logic behind why this might be so.

No PowerShell Control

I have not found a PowerShell cmdlet to control the Undo Send setting for a mailbox. Just about every other mailbox option is controllable via PowerShell, so this is a regrettable oversight by Microsoft.

Why Delay?

The reason why people like to delay the transmission of email is that it gives them a last chance to reconsider sending a message. Many a note has been written in anger or a state of passion that should never be dispatched. Telling your boss exactly what you think of their fatheaded schemes is one example of a message where a pause to send might save a career. Sending a message containing some confidential content to the wrong address is another.

Modern email systems are so efficient and fast at processing messages that the server-based Recall Message function implemented in Outlook desktop clients is largely worthless. By the time that you realize recalling a message is a good idea, the recipient has probably opened and read the message. Message recall only ever has a chance of working if everyone’s mailbox is in the same Exchange organization and uses Outlook. Control ceases and all chance of recall vaporizes once messages reach mobile clients or transfer via a connector to another email system.

Building the delay into the client is the right approach. The user can see the countdown bar advance and knows that the time to recall is expiring. If time runs out, so be it.

Setting a ten-second delay seems like a good step. Few communications are so time-critical that a ten-second delay will make any difference. If you want “high-velocity” communications, you might be better using the chat-based interaction in something like Microsoft Teams and accept that mistakes can occur.

No On-Premises Implementation (yet)

The Undo Send feature is not yet available for on-premises Exchange mailboxes. Because it’s a client-side OWA feature, it wouldn’t surprise me if Undo Send finds its way into a future cumulative update, but probably only for Exchange 2016.

Stop, Consider, Send

It is genuinely surprising that Microsoft has taken so long to introduce Undo Send to OWA. Perhaps Microsoft wanted and planned to replicate Outlook’s Recall Message feature in OWA. If so, I am glad that sense prevailed and that OWA implements Undo Send in a way that works well. My happiness would be complete if Microsoft would only give us some way to control the feature via PowerShell.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

Want to know more about how to manage Office 365? Find what you need to know in “Office 365 for IT Pros”, the most comprehensive eBook covering all aspects of Office 365. Available in PDF and EPUB formats (suitable for iBooks) or for Amazon Kindle.