Get Ready to Support a New Mail Client

Exchange admins can count on something new when they get back to work after the holidays. There’s a new email client in town, and it comes with all those new laptops and tablets that executives, geeks, and the very good girls and boys all got for Christmas. Windows 8 and Windows RT both come with a latest generation of Microsoft’s slimmed down email client (we miss you Outlook Express!!!) called, simply enough, Mail. Whether your users have new Windows RT tablets like Microsoft’s own Surface, or new Win8 laptops, they are going to want to hook Mail up to the corporate email system, and that means the support desk is going to escalate the first few calls straight to you. Better yet, you might get a drop off from one of those fine folks on mahogany row, and we both know telling them “no” isn’t the best response you can make.

So, knowing about Mail, how it works and what it takes to set it up, and having an article you can throw back at the support desk so they can tend to it themselves will all be helpful. And since mahogany row folks won’t take kindly to being punted down to the support desk, this might save you a little frustration too.

What Mail is

Mail is the latest iteration of a basic email client to come with a version of a Microsoft desktop operating system. As mentioned above, it comes with both Windows 8 and Windows RT, and is one of the new Windows 8 UI styled apps (or the interface formerly known as Metro!) As such, it focus seems to be on minimal menu bars and buttons, a touch-first interface, and basic functionality.

What Mail isn’t

While we can look at things like Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, etc. as being within the lineage of Mail, Mail has no obvious binaries in common with its predecessors, and no common interface or configuration steps. This is a brand new email application. It’s also not Outlook, so frankly, I expect that anyone running Windows 8 will use Outlook for the corporate email, and might consider using Mail for their personal email. Windows RT users don’t have any other options at this time other than webmail, so it’s the RT based tablets that will be the largest user population.

EAS, IMAP, and POP3-well two out of three ain’t bad

Mail is first and foremost an Exchange ActiveSync client, which is very good news for most of you. You will probably not have to do anything on the backend in order for users to start using Mail on all their new BYOD hardware. And if users already connect their personally owned mobile phones to your Exchange system, what comes next shouldn’t be a surprise to them, but since tablets may contain a lot more data, it won’t hurt to remind users that EAS policies will enforce screensaver timeouts and password requirements, too many bad password attempts might wipe the device, and that the company may choose to wipe the device should their employment relationship come to an abrupt end.

Mail also supports IMAP, so you can use it to connect to any corporate or personal email service that offers IMAP, such as Google’s Gmail, Microsoft’s Outlook, or other IMAP services from your ISP.

However, there is no POP3 support in Mail, so users whose legacy systems that only offer POP3 support will have to rely upon webmail. RT users will have to wait for a third party POP3 client to come out, while Windows 8 users can of course use Eudora, Thunderbird, or other POP3 client.

How to set up Mail on Windows 8 and Windows RT

There’s a great article already online at Microsoft’s website on how to set up the Mail app. The instructions are the same whether you are using Windows 8 or Windows RT, and I won’t try to rewrite the steps in this article. Here’s the link you want to review yourself, and also to send to first level support. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/web-apps-help/set-up-email-in-windows-8-mail-HA102834576.aspx

Troubleshooting Mail

There’s also a very handy article that goes over both setting up Mail (though not in as much detail as the previous link above) and troubleshooting when things don’t work. You can view that article at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2784275

It’s not all sunshine and puppy dogs though

Mail is a pretty nifty app for basic email functionality, but it is missing some key features that may surprise you. Check out the article at our sister publication AllSpammedUp.com for more on the things you want to be aware of when using Mail. It’s at http://www.allspammedup.com/2012/12/scammers-are-going-to-love-windows-8-mail/

Hopefully you are keeping up on your reading, and will see this before you see your first new device from a user. Send those first two links over to your Support Desk as soon as you do, so that they can start reading up too.

Written by Casper Manes

I currently work as a Senior Messaging Consultant for one of the premier consulting firms in the world, I cut my teeth on Exchange 5.0, and have worked with every version of Microsoft’s awesome email package since then, as well as MHS, Sendmail, and MailEnable systems. I've written dozens of articles on behalf of my past employers, their partners, and others, and I finally decided to embrace blogging and social media, so please follow me on Twitter @caspermanes if you enjoy my posts.

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