Tag Archives: office-productivity

Is Microsoft's Outlook Team on Crack?

I’ve been playing with Outlook 2007 for a few weeks now, trying to get over the fact that it falls short of “impressive” in nearly every way. I wasn’t sure why HTML email messages were looking as though they had fallen out of the ugly tree – until I read this Campaign Monitor post that claims Microsoft takes email design back 5 years:

Previously you could send a HTML email in the comfort that the majority of your recipients would have very good CSS support. Other email clients were also catching up. Thunderbird uses the Firefox rendering engine, the new Yahoo! Mail beta has great CSS support. Things were looking good for us CSS based email designers. Unfortunately, that all goes down the toilet now.

What goes in the toilet – HTML email newsletters in general, or Microsoft Outlook? Not sure why people are so surprised about this turn of events; I’ve been telling you that every release of Outlook (beyond the 2000 client) has been craptacular. Then again, maybe Microsoft completely agrees with my “email is dead” argument? The jury is still out on this one.

The Outlook on Outlook 2007

The UI still has a ways to go before I’ll be completely satisifed, but Outlook 2007 is shaping up to be a smart upgrade from Outlook 2000 as an Internet PIM. I was proven 100% correct on the suckitude of Oulook 2002 and 2003, as the 2007 team has de-merged Exchange and Internet environments (as it was in Outook 2000). From there, I’m able to move forward and consider Outlook 2007 as a viable upgrade.

I was cautiously optimistic when I watched Hank Leukart’s Outlook 2007 Calendar sneak preview. Separately, Jessica Arnold give Scoble a more general Outlook 2007 overview before Beta 2 was released. Both videos are worth watching if you work with Outlook on any level, if only to discover what’s changed. Most concerning to me, however, is how each Microsoft interviewee dismissed two issues which both interviewers raised independent of one another!

  1. You can’t (yet) publish your calendar to your own server from within Outlook. Instead, you’re “forced” to push it to Office Online. It’s not like Microsoft can’t let you put your data elsewhere – it’s just that Office doesn’t make a lot of money, so it has to make up for lost revenue elsewhere. Whatever.
  2. You can’t easily copy an item from a remote calendar to your own. Instead, you have to manually drag and drop from one time slot to another – introducing potential PEBKAC mousing errors. Moreover, if you try to set a reminder on a remote calendar – you’re told that you can’t do it, and asked: “Is that okay?” No solution is actually provided by the error dialog.

I’m happy to be able to share calendars easily from within Outlook 2007, but I’ll miss the being able to edit external calendars like I can do with Net Folders in Outlook 2000. It’s certainly looking like I’ll migrate to the new version once it’s gone gold. My biggest beefs with Outlook 2007 so far?

  1. Fonts. Tahoma needs to be eliminated from Office, wholesale. Segoe UI is the new standard – even though the Windows Vista team didn’t get that memo.
  2. Corners. Around some elements, like Calendar entries, I see rounded corners. Surrounding other elements, like informational “bubbles” inside email messages, I see sharp corners. One or the other, folks – not both.
  3. Flashing. Too often, I’ll watch a window pane redraw itself. This is painfully obvious when you switch views in Outlook, or when you try to resize a pane. My video card has much more than 4MB of RAM, ya know? I’m trying to use Outlook, not a bowl of Jell-o.
  4. Headers. Why can’t I customize the message header? I don’t want a gigantic font for the message subject and sender in the preview pane. I want it to look like it does when I open a message in a separate window. Moreover, the headers in the preview pane for the calendar are rendered differently, too. Make up your mind!
  5. Toolbars. Are you using the ribbon, or what? I realize that the Outlook client is fundamentally different than Word, PowerPoint, and Excel – but you just can’t keep those old toolbars in place. And please, for God’s sake, don’t employ the craptacular Windows Vista styled toolbars?!

What disturbs me most is how Outlook 2007 – a single program – looks and acts differently throughout. Much like the whole of Windows Vista, Outlook 2007 feels somewhat schizophrenic. Spacing is haphazard, controls are varied, and elements (again) are inexcusabily dissimilar. That said, Outlook 2007 seems to be faster than 2002 and 2003. We’ll see what they do with the UI in these remaining months.