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Microsoft Outlook .vs Outlook Web Access .vs Outlook Express

Updated on February 13, 2008

What's the difference between the three?

Here's a little information about Outlook Web Access vs Microsoft Outlook vs Outlook Express. (Then there's always Entourage for Mac, but that is not included in this post)

Other than their names, they are not related (except for the fact they are all Microsoft products) and they are NOT different versions of the product we all know as Outlook. This always seems to be a source of some confusion.

As a virtual assistant dealing with a variety of clients using any one of these, it's good to know the difference.

I welcome your comments at the bottom of this page. How many of you out there found this helpful? Did it clear up this sometimes cloudy subject?


1) Microsoft Outlook - the PC desktop application that is usually packaged with Microsoft Office. This is the full-featured product with the most bells and whistles and is the ideal product for business use. This is what many 3rd party providers create products for - addins. This is on your PC and the data is stored on your PC.

It can be used to pull email down from ISPs (pop and imap accounts) AND can also pull information down from an Exchange Server if one is available to you. Microsoft Outlook in the Exchange Server environment has the most bells and whistles of all, complete with seamless sharing of information between users, booking resources (conference rooms), Out of Office Assistant, centralized Public Folders, remote access capabilities, the list goes on.

2) Outlook Web Access - a feature of Exchange Server. It's NOT the "web version" of Microsoft Outlook. It's a way to work with your Exchange mailbox via the web. Has always been more limited in features than Microsoft Outlook, although with each new version of Exchange Server Microsoft has GREATLY improved functionality to be more like Outlook the desktop application. I'm not even sure a web-based application can be as functional as a Windows application. That's all programming stuff totally out of my realm. Anyway, Outlook Web Access = Exchange Server.

Exchange Server is a premium Microsoft server product for managing mail, etc. It's a fairly expensive solution to implement and maintain, and is usually used by companies with more than just a couple of users. If you are a small company looking for the functionality of Exchange server, but can't afford the big upfront pricetag, consider a hosted Exchange solution. A small monthly cost, but it can have it's drawbacks.

In an Exchange Server environment, it is where the data is stored: your mailbox, ie. inbox, contacts, calendar, etc. You have two products that have the ability to gain access to your Exchange mailbox, Outlook the desktop application found in Microsoft Office, and Outlook Web Access. Well, there's always mobile phones/devices that can pull data down from an Exchange Server, but you know what I mean.

3) Outlook Express - a free product that comes with Internet Explorer. It is NOT the "trimmed down" version of Microsoft Outlook. It has the least functionality and features of the three (after all, it is free.) Can be used to pull email down from ISPs (pop for sure, I don't know about imap). Many use this for home usage. It has some other features similar to Microsoft Outlook, but not many. The one thing that makes this stand apart from anything else is its ability to access newsgroups using NNTP. It's what I used years ago before Google groups came on the scene. There are some 3rd party addins for Outlook Express.

I hope this information is helpful.


Andrea Kalli Virtual Trainer and Assistant, LLC

Screenshot of Microsoft Outlook 2007

Screenshot of Outlook Express

Screenshot of Outlook Web Access


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    • profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago

      Hi Andrea, For years I have resisted using Office Outlook for I always prefer to have the .dbx files of Outlook Express and that can be separately saved/ copied/backup by its filename rather than an entire profile as .pst file. Can you can help me to save a specific folder out from the Outlook profile? Thank you.

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      priya 5 years ago

      can we add an https account in outlook.

    • profile image

      Amit Bansal 5 years ago

      Hey ,,Thanks for this great information..

    • profile image

      andreahughes 6 years ago

      Hello Andrea,

      I just came across your post. I have a problem with receiving e-mail in my Outlook Express but not my Outlook Web Access. No problem sending e-mails, just receiving them. I just happened two days ago. Any ideas??

    • profile image

      Manish Arora 7 years ago

      Nice description!!!

    • profile image

      vaibhav 7 years ago

      thanks andrea

      this information is very help full

      i want to know that there is any diffrence between owa & outlook 2007

    • profile image

      brindha 7 years ago

      thanks andrea.

      for the explanation. the idea of using screen shots showing the three applications was helpful.

      keep writing

    • profile image

      sundeep 8 years ago

      thnk you. tht was helpful

    • profile image

      Tariq 8 years ago

      Thank you...that was very helpful

    • profile image

      Jayne 8 years ago

      thanks so much Andrea,you helped me clear the air about this three.More grace to your elbow

    • profile image

      Rashid 8 years ago

      You information is upto the mark...thnaks

    • profile image

      Cnu Choudari 8 years ago


    • profile image

      dinakar 8 years ago

      Thanks a lot Andrea.I was trying to figure our the difference between thse three and you have cleared most of my doubts.

    • Andrea Kalli profile image

      Andrea Kalli 9 years ago from Aurora, CO

      Ronnie - are you talking about wanting training?

    • profile image

      ronnie 9 years ago

      i think its better to have like a virtual scrrenshots so that people can navigate it thru the that they may i have ideas on how this softwares and application works

    • profile image

      vasu 9 years ago

      simple ang good article

      thanks for ur information

    • Andrea Kalli profile image

      Andrea Kalli 9 years ago from Aurora, CO


      Perhaps there's a filtered view happening in your Outlook Web Access? Otherwise, both Outlook on an Exchange Server and Outlook Web Access should be looking at the same mailbox.

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      sHIVA 9 years ago

      Nice article .. Simple and informative...

      It will be better, if you provide some info or links to info, which describes , how to configure OutLook Express with imap server and exchange server

    • profile image

      Benjamin 9 years ago

      Andrea Hi, Thanks for the light, I just got an understanding of this issue. But I have a problem, there r more mails in my ms outlook and the mails available in outlook webacess is fewer. Any reason for that.

    • Andrea Kalli profile image

      Andrea Kalli 9 years ago from Aurora, CO

      Great idea about putting up screenshots. Thanks for the advise.


    • vreccc profile image

      vreccc 9 years ago from Concord, NH


      Good info. Were you able to find a video or a picture or two for this Hub? I think it would be helpful to the reader.

      I became your fan.


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      Cindy Gaffen 9 years ago

      Andrea, thanks for this information. I use MS Outlook. I never knew the difference between it and Express. Yesterday, a client asked me to figure something out for her in Outlook Express. I found out that it couldn't be done.

      Now you have further educated me as to why. Thanks again.