Enabling Freedocs access through Outlook Web Access (OWA) 2003

What are FreeDocs?

The term Freedocs (aka Free or Floating Documents) is any document in an Exchange Mailbox or Public store containing a message class that starts with IPM.Document. FreeDocs are documents which have been dragged and dropped to a Mailbox or Public folder directly from within Windows Explorer or the Windows Desktop. FreeDocs are not just Word documents but can be any type of file such as a PowerPoint, Excel or even an InfoPath form etc.

FreeDocs should not be confused with documents attached to a message or post in a Mailbox or Public folder.

Enabling FreeDocs access through OWA 2003

As already mentioned accessing FreeDocs through OWA in Exchange 2003 has been disabled by default, this means that if you try to access FreeDocs via OWA 2003 you would get an error message similar to the one shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: OWA 2003 Error Message when trying to access FreeDocs

This is also the case if you have done an in-place upgrade from Exchange 2000 to 2003.

But fear not access to FreeDocs via OWA 2003 can be enabled relatively easy, you simply add a DWORD key named EnableFreeDocs under HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\MSExchangeWEB\OWA as in figure 2 below.

Figure 2: OWA 2003 FreeDocs DWORD registry key

When the EnableFreeDocs DWORD key has been added, it can be controlled through the four different values listed in table 1:






The default setting which disables the FreeDocs feature.



The FreeDocs feature is enabled but on back-end servers only.



The FreeDocs feature is enabled on back-end servers and on any front-end server matching the host header specified via the AcceptedAttachmentFrontEnds registry value.



The FreeDocs feature is enabled on all front-end and back-end servers.

Table 1: EnableFreeDocs DWORD key values

It’s also possible to enable and control FreeDocs through the OWA Web Administration tool, but as this is outside the scope of this article you might want to read more about the OWA Web Administration tool in Lee Derbyshire’s article: Microsoft Outlook Web Access 2003 Web-based Administration here on MSExchange.org.

Testing the FreeDocs feature

You can with OWA 2003 access FreeDocs in a Mailbox or Public folder either by using the direct URL such as https://mail.domain.com/public/Important/Cost_Calculation_2004.xls and https://mail.domain.com/exchange/testuser01/inbox/important/cost_calculation_2004.xls or simply by double-clicking on the FreeDoc in an already opened OWA session, see figure 3 and 4.

Figure 3: Listing of FreeDocs in a Public Folder through OWA 2003

Figure 4: Listing of FreeDocs in a Mail Folder through OWA 2003

Security considerations

Though it might be tempting to allow your users to use FreeDocs within your messaging environment, you should bear in mind that enabling the feature would be considered a security risk in some organizations, especially when speaking FreeDocs in Public folders. The reason is that users in your organization could place any type of document in a Public folder, including documents containing harmful code!

That was all for now, see ya!

Relevant reading

834743 – “HTTP 403 (Forbidden)” error message when Exchange 2003 users try to use Outlook Web Access to access a freedoc that is located in a public folder:

Microsoft Outlook Web Access 2003 Web-based Administration:

Exchange 2003: Outlook Web Access Web Administration:

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