The product of a web developer with a little too much caffeine

Outlook Web Access via iPhone

with 14 comments

You may have seen my post a little while back about how I was starting to do some iPhone development for my job. For the most part the app is nothing more than a nice pretty front end to a handful of Web Services (hint: last blog post was along the same lines)

In any case, I’d rather my first attempt at iPhone development be a throw away project since I’m going to probably going to have to start over several times.

Learning Through Development

Whenever I offer up advice to a new programmer on what is the best way to learn programming I always say – “write a program that does something you want — you’ll learn a lot along the way and have motivation to finish it.”. Learning Objective-C was no exception for me.

Even though we use Exchange for our e-mail server at work, we don’t have the “Active Sync” enabled so you can’t link up with the iPhone through the built in e-mail application. So, instead, I decided to go a different route — use the existing Outlook Web Access and parse the HTML.

Picture 1

So with a couple of nice Regular Expressions and some HTTP calls we have a nice clean display of all the e-mails in my mailbox. Yep, that’s right — screen scraping via HTML… a little cheesy, but not bad since it works even if Exchange isn’t configured to allow it!

This was a perfect example of writing an application that met my need and allowed me to learn a new language at the same time… of course I’m not suggesting that I’m an Objective C expert or anything but at least now I can ditch my BlackBerry! 🙂

Hey, Who Puked On My Screen… Oh Wait, That’s Objective C

I’m definitely a spoiled programmer. Using .NET and C#/VB has definitely shielded me from some ugly languages out there. Objective-C is the kind of stuff that makes babies cry.

Developing iPhone is WAY different that anything that you have ever done in .NET. You’re adding all sorts of weird things like IBOutlet and IBAction so you can link them around all over the place — it is definitely a new experience. I’m going to have to write a ‘C# Developers Guide To iPhone Development’ to maybe save some other poor guy a lot of grief.

Still a .NET Guy

Getting into new languages and technologies on different platforms is always a good idea. You gain added perspective while increasing your skill sets (not to mention you look better on paper for your next job). Even if you don’t want to buy a Mac and play with the iPhone you can always tinker with a myriad of other languages on any number of free operating systems — Go do it!!

Don’t think that I’m converting – If anything using a Mac this much has solidified why I’m still die-hard Windows/ASP.NET/PC…

…But then again… MonoDevelop for Mac is looking kinda slick…


Written by hugoware

October 1, 2009 at 7:54 pm

14 Responses

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  1. Check out MonoTouch C# for the iPhone


    October 7, 2009 at 6:54 pm

  2. Nice post on screen scrapers, simple and too the point :), For screen scrapers i use python for simple things, but for larger projects like documents, files, or the web i tried screen scrape which worked great, they build quick custom screen scrapers, screen scrapers, and data parsing programs


    October 31, 2009 at 7:11 am

  3. How can I set up the OWA to come to my Iphone the way you did? Can you help me?


    December 21, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    • I’ve written some software that reads e-mail using the Outlook Web Access website and then formats them for a mobile screen but I haven’t found the best way to release this software.

      I was working on releasing the iPhone version of the software but haven’t been able publish it ($99 developer cost + $400 MonoTouch)


      December 21, 2009 at 3:31 pm

      • What’s up…

        there are a dozen or so employees at my workplace that are also trying to find a OWA app for their iphone to no avail. After months of searching, we have all given up.

        But surfing around the web I found your blog post. I almost want to get angry at you for not trying to publish this app – there really is nothing like it. There is currently a OWA app on the appstore for $8 but the reviews are terrible.

        You should really look into publishing it. I really think it would do great.


        March 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm

      • Thanks Luis,

        Aside from the cost of getting the developer license I also ran into the problem that I could only test on the older version of Outlook Web Access (I think it was 2003) – I wasn’t confident in releasing a product like this without testing it thoroughly in the newer versions as well.

        Of course, If I could find somewhere to get access to a newer version of Outlook Web Access then I would probably finish the project.

        Thanks for the comment!


        March 8, 2010 at 4:34 pm

  4. I am just on the point of going insane, I am programming for 4 years and I’m really new to Obj C and need to screen scrape the OWA for a project, I dont know where to start, I need to know how to parse HTML and write regular expression also. Is this all done with Obj C in xcode can you offer me some hep so I can get a start??? It would mean loads!! 🙂


    January 27, 2010 at 9:00 am

    • Send me an e-mail on the contact form on my website and I’ll share with you what I have.

      If you are good at programming (specifically Web Development) then you might try the route that I chose. I ended up writing a web site that handles talking to the OWA server and then rendering iPhone friendly pages. Instead of installing an iPhone app I just browse to this page (which works well… enough…)


      January 27, 2010 at 9:24 am

  5. I just submitted a ‘contact you’ form. Let me know if you didn’t get it, my internet connection is not the best where I am.

    Looking forward to talking more about how you got it done

    Thanks again


    January 27, 2010 at 9:48 am

  6. Forget Objective C – just use PhoneGap.


    May 21, 2010 at 5:50 am

  7. If you end up working on the OWA app for iphone, please publish an update on your work. I certainly would donate–and probably others.


    May 25, 2010 at 7:30 pm

  8. YES please publish this app. No kidding there are so many people fighting blackberry I carry mine just to get work email and would pay 20 bucks to have OWA access on my iphone that I know works.


    September 19, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    • I would pay that as well for an App that lets me access my OWA 2003. Please!!


      November 12, 2010 at 1:43 pm

  9. I have recently released an app similar to this into the app store, called Outlook Web Email (theres a free version to give it a try as well!). Instead of screen scraping though, it does everything with HTML calls, and can send/receive email, and I’m currently working on calendar items as well.


    May 4, 2011 at 12:06 pm

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