Outlook is great. It’s great. So great, in fact, that someone just asked me to blog one of their greatest Outlook concerns. Not quite sure if anybody on the Outlook team gives a rip, but… here’s what Derek sent me earlier:
“When I put pictures into an Outlook HTML email, they are much less quality and significantly larger, even though Outlook reports that they are 100%. Images also seem to gain 300% more in file size (kb). Comparing them to the Image and Fax Viewer or other image editing software at 100%, Outlook inserts the image at 30% bigger. After doing some research, MS is using the Word Editor – which assumes images to be inserted at a DPI of 96, although most digital cameras go between 72 DPI (Mac’s standard) and somewhere around 200 DPI. Images inserted at 72 will be upsampled (using MS’s rather poor upsampling engine). Images larger than 96 dpi will appear smaller than the original image. To change the DPI (or PPI) value, you must open the picture with a non-Microsoft product, then resample the picture to the 96 DPI, just to have the image appear in the email appear correctly. Even some pictures with a DPI value of 96 will still be upsampled. This is a tremendous inconvenience for those doing email newsletters, and I can assure you novice users will not know why their images are changing in quality and size.”
I really wish Microsoft would issue an interim release of Outlook, much like they did with Outlook 98 (fixing with it countless bugs). This is just, kinda… irresponsible?
Oh, there’s more content coming down the pike – Jake’s still busy encoding interviews he did at CES a few weeks ago. Until then, I’m pushing my own personal envelope and inviting you along on a ride across town. Since I spend a fair amount of time in my own car, traveling to get a fine cup of Peet’s Coffee every day (if I can escape the hell of my home office), I thought I’d bring the recorder along with me today – if only to share my thoughts on Windows Vista and Outlook 2007 – two products I’m now using on a daily basis. If this one-way carversation works, then I’ll be thrilled witless.
Stop the presses – I’ve finally moved from Outlook 2000 to Outlook 2007! Granted, I didn’t have much choice in the matter. The decision was reached after I tried using Outlook 2000 on Windows Vista – and that experience was painful, at best. Then again, my Windows Vista experience has been nothing short of “so-so” to this point (far too many ghosts in the machine).
I’m still getting used to Outlook’s haphazard UI, but at least most of the speed issues with it have disappeared. Search is only as good as the last time the index was updated, however – which is frustrating if a message has just arrived and I can’t find it again by keyword. I’ll miss Net Folders, too.
Despite leaping to the new version, my outlook on Outlook remains the same; Microsoft needs to overhaul their PIM. And don’t even get me going on the mess that’s Windows Mail – as opposed to the slightly-more usable Windows Live Mail Desktop. Thunderbird kicks their respective digital asses (though none of ’em are true personal information managers).
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.
Not sure how it happened, but I ran into The Holy Grail of Synchronization – how to synchronize Microsoft Outlook (multiple locations), Google Calendar, Gmail, iPod, and mobile phone with Funambol, ScheduleWorld. I took the time to dig deeper, largely because I’ve been wanting to sync Outlook with Google (and Google with iCal) for a while now – and I’m still using Outlook 2000, which keeps certain syncing tools out of reach.
Standards to the rescue! Engtech, as described, pointed me to ScheduleWorld: “An experiment in a new kind of rich Internet application, built on the foundations of open standards that enables you to access your data from virtually anywhere using a growing number of interoperable devices and software.” Yes, it’s absolutely free – and absolutely 100x more useful than you may realize:
- Sync between countless devices, platforms (iPod included!)
- Simple and fast Calendaring, Scheduling, Tasks, Notes
- Global address book (LDAP!)
- Java Micro Edition (JME/J2ME) Client for mobile phones
Whoa. As recommended, I downloaded the Outlook SyncML client (which runs independently). Took a small bit of troubleshooting to get going, but the problems were remote – and cleared up quickly by Mark Swanson (ScheduleWorld mixmaster). In no time at all, I was able to do what I’ve always wanted to do – sync calendars, tasks, and notes through simple software, as well as have a network-accessible address book. Dude, ScheduleWorld is absolutely amazing – and free.
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!
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
Evolution finally runs on Windows! Looks like they released something a few months ago, although it just hit my radar this afternoon (in an email from Matt Hartley). “Evolution is an incredibly versatile email / calendar / PIM that took the Linux world by storm a few years ago.” I’m excited that there’s been some movement forward on this project, but I’m disappointed that Evolution for Win32 sports a nasty-ass UI. Of course, if Linux developers are trying to be more like Microsoft by making inconsistent and aesthetically-challenged interfaces, they’re succeeding. Here’s to hoping that Outlook 2007 won’t suck as much.
I love our community. From Eric’o’theque, Gnomedex Outlook Contacts from the Gnomedex OPML. It doesn’t work with Outlook 2000, though:
Here’s something interesting for the other attendees: Chris released the OPML of the folks registered for Gnomedex. Dave pointed to a directory listing web page created out of the OPML. Over the weekend and a few recent late nights, I ran a script to get the OPML into Outlook as contacts and then decided to put snapshots of the various speakers into the contact cards, along with throwing in categories for Gnomedex and Gnomedex-Speaker.
Then I gave the mouse a cookie.
I decided, hey, why not get to know all of your fellow attendees by visiting their given web page. And, hey, if they have a headshot, why not throw that into their contact info. Oh, and, hey, if they have a bio or such, why not throw that into their contact details.
This got a little carried away. So I’d like to share it, if I could: Outlook contacts for Gnomedex 06.
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.
Continue reading 65 Reasons Why Outlook 2007 Will Suck