65 Reasons Why Outlook 2007 Will Suck

Posted by


It started with a small list of Outlook look-outs. But the closer I look at Outlook 2007′s second beta, the more I’m starting to worry. It’s worse than I thought. I know many people disagreed with my assessment of Outlook 2003 (what, with it sucking – though not sucking as much as Outlook XP). However, I’ve been partially vindicated.

The major shortcoming of Outlook XP/2003 was in combining the Exchange and Internet code into a single experience. The good news is: the team has rectified the situation in Outlook 2007 by enabling separate Exchange / Internet environments. Still, they’re not even close to being out of the “Approved by Pirillo” forest. Many of the items on the following list may seem superficial, but it’s obvious that nobody is paying attention to these details that (when added up) make for a disappointing ride that isn’t as good as one would come to expect from the second-most profitable area of Microsoft. I hold the entire Outlook team responsible for these usability nightmares and interface inconsistencies.

Remember, this list is an extended addendum to my original assessment of Outlook 2007 (and initial bug reports). I stopped at 65 this time because that’s how old I turned after compiling this list.

  1. Doesn’t render certain types of mail messages properly (like those sent from my blog). Seems to be Content-Type: text/plain; charset=”UTF-8″ that’s throwing it off. However, when I select the Options for that message, change nothing, then close the dialog, it tells me the message has changed and updates the window accordingly – showing proper hyperlinks.

  2. I appreciate the tooltips when you hover over a hyperlink, but why did you get rid of the status bar notification as well – that’s the way a browser works, ya know (with the hover’ed URL in the status bar).
  3. Why is there a 1px orange border surrounding the preview pane?
  4. Why is the distance between the Navigational Pane / Message List & Preview Pane, and the Message List / Preview Pane… completely different than the distance between the left-edge of the Navigational Pane and the edge of the window, the edge between the status bar and the lower part of the Navigational Pane / Preview Pane, etc.? If you’re going to pad stuff, at least pad consistently.
  5. “Type a contact to find” – shouldn’t that be “Enter a contact to find?”
  6. The drop-down arrow for the “Search Inbox” field is completely different from the drop-down arrow in the Views selection box and the Contact find selection box. Why? Fix it.
  7. Why is the border above the “Search Inbox” field thinner than the area below it? Fix it.
  8. Even with a blue background, the blue magnifying glass (with a plus next to it) has a crappy white border around it – like someone’s using a 256-color GIF with lousy transparency.
  9. I like the way the “Search Inbox” area drop-down fields work and look. Truly. You hover over an area that isn’t really marked, then it shows you that you can do something with it by changing the color of the button area to orange. Why not do this throughout the rest of Outlook – and if not, why not? And if you can’t do it anywhere else, for goodness sake – don’t do it here. The selection fields in other areas of Outlook are in sore need of updating – and you could do yourself a lot of UI cleaning-up if you applied this style throughout the entire client (including the New item windows).
  10. To-Do Bar should not have an X. I’ve hit it too many times on accident.
  11. To-Do Bar calendar isn’t middle-aligned.
  12. No easy way to recover from spam bin when using IMAP.
  13. Will there be a TweakOL available?
  14. Something in the engine is re-rendering my plain text, even though I’ve turned that “feature” off. Kill that feature entirely!
  15. Please make those orange bubbles less obtrusive. You have all this wasted space everywhere else, why must you waste that space, too? Can’t you just make it one of those side fadey tool tip things like what happens when you select text and then hover over it?
  16. Can you please make a setting that allows me to view the preview pane header like the message pane header?!
  17. Do I have to tell you every single time I receive an email that it’s okay to let the graphics load? Can I turn off that annoying feature?
  18. There’s already massive border padding in Windows, why are you adding even more padding in both the primary Outlook window as well as the individual message window?
  19. Sometimes I see the orange bubble, then it disappears quickly – but not so quick that I didn’t notice it!
  20. Oh man, the Quick Access toolbar customization is dumb. DUMB, DUMB, DUMB. I like the feature, but the implementation of customization is completely half-assed. You’re telling me that (a) I can only separate the items with an ugly separator instead of having the option for a clean space break, (b) I can’t drag & drop components from one side to the other, nor can I click and drag them up or down!? Come on, people – USE YOUR PRODUCT INSTEAD OF JUST CODING IT.
  21. You can hide some of the header information, but not all (the subject still stays, and there’s no place to tweak that font used). I like how the line disappears – there shouldn’t be a line there in the first place. However, the line reappears with other system messages (“Report Rendering Problem”). Is it on or is it off? What are you doing here, people?
  22. Any chance you could hire someone talented and give us a new set of icons to choose from? Not talking about most of the visible interface – those icons look fine. I’m talking in the customize icon area. And while I’m at it, why don’t you freakin’ hook into my default ICO application on the system for editing?! Pixel by pixel is fine – IF YOU’RE LIVING IN 1988!
  23. Why don’t the Junk mail options work well in an IMAP folder? You deleted a message, but I can’t unmark it as “not junk.”
  24. The translation plugin is freakin’ amazing. Why doesn’t a dictionary/thesaurus setting for US English?
  25. Clicking on help produces a browser window with the inspid IE information bar.
  26. The new configuration windows / options panel isn’t as smart as the rest of Office/Outlook. I can’t hover over every option to get an idea as to what it’ll do if I toggle it. It’s annoying to see it on some, and not on others – especially when I don’t know what the hell one thing does over the other.
  27. Why can I only choose black or blue for my interface – where’s a color/saturation/hue slider?! Don’t tell me you don’t have one. FWIW, the blue skin makes the interface much more tolerable. The black reaaaaaaally needs some work. Still, why aren’t either colors translucent like the rest of Windows. Oh, I remember – because Outlook thinks their UI rocks. :P
  28. Sometimes, a vertical scrollbar appears in a message / preview pane, when there’s no ability to scroll up or down.
  29. If Firefox is my default browser, I can’t use the updates feature. :(
  30. Why can’t I mark more than one message as spam – at one time? Why do you assume that it’s just a domain or specific email address that I’m trying to block? There’s obviously more telling information in a message – and some messages won’t allow me to add them as safe because they don’t have what Outlook believes they need. Again, Outlook is showing its ineffectiveness in regards to spam blocking. You want a good program to base yours on? Take a look at SpamBayes – it’s open source, don’t worry.
  31. When replying to a message, why must you insist on placing more padding on top of the HR dividing the response area with the message being responded to? If you really, truly have graphic designers on this team – they need to go back to school. This is just inexcusable. If you don’t have true graphic designers on this team, hire them stat.
  32. Can you please “Favicon” the RSS feed folders for usability reasons!?
  33. When selecting a range of items, one should be able to see the most recently selected item in the preview pane – not stick on the first one’s preview.
  34. Love the vertical fade in HTML messages (between emails). Again, why isn’t this color configurable? That, and why doesn’t it include the —-Original Message—- part, too? :P If you’re going to do it, do it – don’t just do part of it.
  35. If you want to talk about great reformatting features, take a look at OE-QuoteFix – and make it happen in this version of Outlook. Color code text, man – but for heaven’s sake, don’t base it on your lametastic text word-wrap feature. http://home.in.tum.de/~jain/software/oe-quotefix/
  36. When sending messages in text, is it possible for you not to break a line that contains a lengthy URL past the minimum word wrap length? Sure would save the world some frustration when trying to click on broken hyperlinks.
  37. I’m experiencing the same weird random lockups as I experienced in Outlook 2003. This should never happen again. Ever. EVER. The entire Outlook client will freeze – stop working – and I have to wait at least a few seconds before gaining control again. If you don’t FIX this PROBLEM, there is no way in HELL I’m going to upgrade or recommend anybody else upgrade. This is absolutely inexcusable window behavior – especially when I’m not doing anything when it locks up!
  38. I really hate to say it, but the more I dig into this version of Outlook, the more I see the same old crap that I’ve been complaining about for years. Outlook 2000 may not be as pretty as Outlook 2007, but it’s also not smothered with all of these inconsistencies and fundamental flaws. I’m tired of talking to a brick wall here. And don’t feel bad – the Windows Mail team has made more leaps backwards than you have.
  39. Any chance of detecting text-based messages and JUST wrapping the broken URLs without wrapping (poorly) the entire message?
  40. Sometimes dialogs with toggles allow me to turn off the feature permanently – yet others don’t. Why? Why are you doing it in some instances and not for others? Do you have something against uniformity? For example, the first time I use CTRL+Enter to send a message, you ask me if I want to do that from now on (duh), and let me toggle that setting without having to dig for it. Yet, when I keep deleting items in a folder, you ask me to confirm that I want to delete everything without also giving me the option to never see that dialog again. Consistency, people – consistency. And don’t tell me that you just don’t have time for it – how long has it been since the last version, and who the hell is doing QA with this?
  41. Why is Outlook still not threaded to the point where I can be deleting a folder over there, and still typing a message over here. Uh… can’t we do that? And if not, why not. I’m not expecting a miracle, I’m just expecting for this to happen in this version.
  42. Where’s the “find and replace” icon in the ribbon? I can’t find it, ironically enough. :P [15 minutes later] There it is, on the Format ribbon. Because that’s what I think of when I’m thinking I want to find something – that I want to format it. Yeah, it makes sense – IN MY VERSION OF BIZZARO OUTLOOK.
  43. If I correct a misspelling by right-clicking on the misspelled word and correcting it, why doesn’t it add that correction to the autocorrect database? Wouldn’t that make sense, huh? I know you have the AutoCorrect menu, but that’s not as convenient as the first correction area.
  44. Enough with the warnings about switching between HTML, Text, and Rich – I get it already. Let me turn that damn prompt off. And while I’m at it, why does that warning dialog look different from all the rest?
  45. Using the phrase “Payload Sharing” in Outlook is a bad idea. Viruses and worms have “Payloads.”
  46. Okay, you’re separating each section of the Nav pane with a collapsible header – not bad. So, why aren’t you allowing the bottom section to be collapsible as well? Get rid of the DAMN horizontal rule, man – especially when you’re handling sections differently elsewhere in the same freakin’ space!
  47. Subject / Location / Start Time / End Time labels are not vertically aligned properly in respect to the corresponding fields. This is in a new Calendar Event window.
  48. Why, in the Calendar Event window, are the drop-down arrows in the buttons (for location, for example) somehow larger than the down arrow in the scroll-bar. Why are they different sizes? Who thought of that?!
  49. For some odd reason, the Note still looks like it did in Outlook 2000 – even the icon is from Outlook 2000. LOL!
  50. Why don’t you have my Internet FAX vendor available in your list? I’ve been using them for years. “Webley” works just fine as an Internet FAX, yet… they’re not meeting some invisible set of criteria? If this is a pay-to-be-listed service, then please remove it from the version of Outlook I’ve already paid for. I’ve got my vendor, and either you don’t want to work with them, they don’t want to work with you, you don’t know about them and I can’t add them, or there’s something else happening here.
  51. Why are the To / CC / BCC buttons center-aligned, when no other button in Outlook’s new item window is? If you feel you’re wasting space, then make the buttons shorter – but be consistent, please.
  52. Why do you place more padding before the right edge of a button in a new item window than you do on the left – the left padding is non-existent, which looks sloppy.
  53. The “Subject” label in a new email message window isn’t properly (vertically) aligned with its respective field.
  54. Is that an old stopwatch icon in the new Journal Entry window?
  55. Changing the Status in a new Task to “Waiting on som…” I don’t know what comes next, as it’s completely truncated – with no earthly way of discovering what it is you’re waiting on. “Waiting on som… place to call my own?” Perhaps it’s “Waiting on som…. ebody else to fix this problem.”
  56. Why are the divisions between areas in a new Contact window different from the divisions in a new Task window? Tasks use blue in between, and Contacts use gray on the same line as the section name. Uh, consistency.
  57. Why do inner-window elements flash when I resize a window? It’s happening all over Outlook, in just about any window that can be resized. “What’s that flashing?”
  58. In the primary window’s title bar, you call it “Microsoft Outlook.” That’s fine, but then when I try to close a window, the title bar for that dialog claims it’s “Microsoft Office Outlook.” Which is it, folks? What am I using here – Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Office Outlook or Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 Edition Pro Plus Bonus Inconsistency Edition?
  59. Why does one dialog tie up the rest of Outlook? Seriously, sometimes those confirmation dialogs get hidden / lost / buried – causing me frustration in trying to surface the damn thing before I can move on with my routine. Can’t tell you how many times Ponzi’s called me over to her computer to fix this PROBLEM. So, are you going to FIX this problem?
  60. Shouldn’t the thumbnail in the tooltip for the Office clipboard be true to what’s on the clipboard?
  61. Why is the Search button in the Research panel still XPish and green? Shouldn’t that be a blue boob of sorts?
  62. Are you considering issuing a usability / UI service pack along with your security service pack? If not, why not – do you think this is just good enough, or is nobody else expecting you to be better than you think you already are? Sorry for being so crass, but I’ve been complaining about these things for over half a decade now. I’m not even asking for that many new features – just fix the ones you already have!
  63. In a Contact window, Asking for an “IM address” is rather shortsighted. Don’t you know I’m on MSN, Skype, Yahoo!, Google Talk, Gizmo, Jabber, and AIM? Where are the other fields?
  64. In a Contact window, why is it okay to intercap “Business Card,” but not “Web page address” or “Phone numbers.” If you’re going to do it for one, do it for all others.
  65. In searching for contact information, the window that pops up (with no information in it) contains both a vertical and horizontal (!) scroll bar, though there’s nothing to scroll to – and resizing the window retains the scroll bars.

I’m not even going to bother continuing this list until I know the points I’ve made over the past few days have been witnessed, filed, and opened as reports to-be-addressed before RTM. I’m not going to let Microsoft’s Outlook team get away with ruining their own potential. Instead of waiting for competition to bite ‘em in the ass, why don’t they just listen to their customers? I may be one of Outlook’s most outspoken supporters, but if I didn’t care – I wouldn’t bother to say anything at all. Remember: just because you think a new version is better than older versions, doesn’t make the product anywhere near great.