In the first part of this series I looked at the basics of creating an Outlook Group in the Office 365 Mail client and I also highlighted the components of the created Group. In this post I’m going to look at how the Group looks in and interacts with Outlook on a PC as well as in the Android Groups app.
NOTE: I’m using Office 2016 for the Outlook portion of this demo, the Groups feature in Outlook is only available with the Outlook client from Office 2016.
Outlook displays Groups in much the same fashion as anything else is displayed in Outlook, there is a Group listing on the left hand side of the Outlook screen:
And when you expand Groups you can see the Groups that you are currently subscribed to:
Clicking on the Internal IT Group lights up a whole lot of things!
As you can see, it’s the same listing that we saw in the Office 365 Mail client. And, by definition, the links go to the same places.
While everything looks like it is contained inside Outlook it actually is not and Outlook (along with the various links) is smart enough to pass you off to the appropriate program depending on the link you click.
Clicking on Files actually connects you to the document library (labeled as OneDrive) up in your tenancy and it opens in your default browser:
Clicking on OneNote will either open up OneNote Online OR your local OneNote program but the source of the OneNote is from O365 (I’m doing this on a machine with OneNote installed so I get the full OneNote experience):
And I’m going to create a page here so that we can see it from other devices later in this post.
By now you’re probably getting the drift, Groups are pretty simple to set up and use. And it’s easy to find the data you want as it is all contained within the Group and within Outlook (as a launching point). Another thing to note is that you can also initiate the Group creation process from Outlook, it is pretty much the same process as I highlighted in Part 1 of this posting series. To initiate you right-click on the Groups link then click on New Group. You’ll then get prompted through the process in much the same fashion as through the O365 Mail client:
I’m not going to complete the process but as you can see, it is the same as the process detailed in Part 1.
Now to switch gears a little bit. To this point I’ve been focusing on how things work on PC’s or through a browser but, as we all know, nowadays it’s all about being able to get at your needed data with any device that comes to hand. And Groups are no exception as there is a Groups App for both iOS devices as well as Android devices! I have an Android phone and an Android tablet so I’ll show some of the experience on Android.
I have logged into the Group on my phone and, as you can see, all of the bits and pieces are available from the main screen.
I click on the Files link and my document library shows up:
And, as you can see, the file that we saw in the library earlier when we browsed from Outlook is also available on the phone via the App.
If I go back to the main screen in the app and click on the Notebook icon I see this:
And to prove this is a two way street I’ve “inked” the page on my phone (gotta love the SPen on my Note 4!).
Connecting back to the OneNote from Outlook I see this:
This is very cool stuff! Now I really can use any of my devices to both access and create information that I can share with the rest of my team and that they can share with me. I’m not bound to a single device or a single class of device (eg a PC), I can collaborate on the go and my team can see and access the information that I update in any of the Group apps pretty much in real time as I create it. I could be sitting in the office at my PC, I could be on the couch at home with my tablet or sitting in a waiting room somewhere with my phone and I can use any of those devices to collaborate. And, best of all, I or a colleague can spin up a Group as and when it is required.
The Groups App is being continuously “polished” for iOS and Android so if your phone or tablet interface looks a bit different from what I’ve demo’d here, well that’s okay and all part of the new “Agile” Microsoft. I think the App (and the Outlook support) along with the whole concept of “Groups” within Office 365 is one of the most empowering features that Microsoft has released as part of the overall Office 365 suite of applications and services. It is a powerful tool for anyone or any organization that wants to leverage the investment they have in their O365 subscription. I urge you to roll up your sleeves and get a little “messy” by diving in and investigating how Groups could work for you. (Small Business, are you paying attention? This is your tool! Run with it!!)