MS Outlook Functionality on Android 

Tags: Admin, O365, How To, Security, Virtualization, Productivity


After switching from Exchange 2010 to Office 365, I thought it would be a good time to move away from Symantec's TouchDown for Smartphones app for the Android platform. In the end, Touchdown is my preferred app despite its end-of-life announced July 3, 2017 with support ending July 2, 2018. See As of November 16, 2017, TouchDown is still available on the Google Play site, but I don't think you can buy it.

Personal Needs

I don't know about you, but here are the Outlook features I find useful to have on my phone:

  1. Email
  2. Calendar
  3. Notes
  4. Tasks

Products Evaluated

  1. Gmail. If you have an Android phone, you have a Gmail account which can connect to Office 365 to show your email and tasks. Gmail allows subtasks, but the MS Office 365 tasks has categories, reminder times as well as due times and a lot of other functionality that I like to use.
  2. Tasks & Notes for MS Exchange does not show email. I had high hopes for this nicely-done application, but it does not remember my task order. More on that below. Also, any "snoozed" tasks or calendar reminder notifications immediately reappear on phone reboot. I sometimes snooze task items for days or weeks because it is easier than setting a new due date for recurring items.
  3. Android Native Calendar App shows calendar and tasks, reminds you of upcoming appointments on your calendar as directed. No email here.
  4. MS Outlook for Android shows email, calendar items, files and contacts. No tasks nor notes.
  5. I had a quick look at Symantec Work Mail on the Google Play store, but did not install it. The screen shots look a lot like TouchDown. In 2015, it had some positive reviews, but the most recent reviews all complain that configuration fails.
  6. I installed Touchdown on my past three phones. It fulfills my needs listed above, but it is not without flaws.

Why Touchdown?

I've been using Touchdown for years and am used to its quirks. It remembers notifications that have been snoozed. If this app is ever revived, maybe I'll do a post on how I configure and maximize its usefulness.

Password changes

The default setup of Office 365 requires users to change their passwords every 90 days. Using a mix of applications means updating the password on most (all?) of them. One app means one password change.


  1. As mentioned above, Symantec has designated this product as end of life. Despite this being available in Google Play, the "TouchDown Professional License" application is not available which means you get the 20-day, full-featured evaluation version, not a good long-term solution for new users.
  2. Touchdown does not honor nor support changing tasks order like the Outlook desktop client, but I have not seen any other app that does – more on this below.

What the Heck Symantec?!

I went through a few frustrating weeks of evaluating the apps, at times getting several simultaneous notifications from the different applications I had logged into my o365 account. The Touchdown app is by far the most expensive, but for US$20, it is so worth it for me. Symantec's "Work Email" does not have the end of life designation, but it also appears to be abandoned, its last release being nearly a year ago November 18, 2016.

PC Magazine wrote that Symantec bought Touchdown from NitroDesk in 2014 for the security software on the Android platform which makes sense.

There is certainly a void to fill here. Maybe I'll try writing my own Android app if Touchdown goes away.

Exchange / O365 Tasks Order

A long time ago, I wrote a VB macro for my own personal consumption for Outlook to insert new tasks below any completed items at the top of the task list by changing the "Ordinal" property of the task appropriately (functionality which I had written into a BRIEF editor macro last century). In the desktop version of Outlook, the "Ordinal" property is used as the tasks sort order when you choose "none" in View Settings.

No app that I tested shows tasks in the order that I put them. Even worse, some apps show all the tasks together, even those in subfolders. The author of "Tasks & Notes for MS Exchange" app explained it this way, "The problem is that Microsoft does not let you sync this manual order attribute. So you can arrange tasks in Outlook but it will never sync to any other client.

If I add such functionality in the app it would kept be only locally and not synced to the server. Users would complain the feature is (incomplete)."

Sigh. When I'm away from my desk, I often want to see what order I put my tasks in, and mark them complete as I do them.

I do have a solution

My current set-up just a little convoluted. I run the Outlook desktop client on a virtual machine on one of my servers. By using remote software on my phone, I connect to that computer and see my task list in the correct order. I use Ericom's AccessToGo RDP client remote, an excellent Android app which has let me log into servers and quickly address issues in a pinch.

Note that remote desktop functionality in general requires a "Pro" or server Microsoft OS version. Other set-ups like GotoMyPC should also work, but it does require that you be logged into a computer running Outlook desktop client.

Posted by AndyGett on 17-Nov-17
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