Charles Engelke's Blog

November 19, 2004

Outlook is brain dead

Filed under: Notes — Charles Engelke @ 11:42 am

I said I’d skip trying Outlook 2003 for now because I couldn’t even
sync it with my Palm, due to Palm’s unwillingness to let me download
that capability from their web site. Well, I borrowed a Palm
install CD from someone so I could install the Outlook conduits
for use with my Palm, and am giving Outlook a try.

It may be a great calendaring system. I already like the way
it presents things chronologically. But it is the stupidest,
most annoying mail program I’ve ever used. Everything I do is
harder to do than in Eudora. Everything is structured to encourage
bad e-mail habits rather than good. At least, so far as I know. It’s
also got way too many functions and options,
so finding the basics is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Specific things I hate so far about Outlook’s e-mail are:

  • Brain dead reply formats. Since I use only plain text for
    e-mail (as everyone should), when I reply to a message
    I have only a few choices, all but one bad. I can just drop
    the original message from the reply; but I’m commenting on that
    message, I want to include it (in part) for context for those
    comments. I can include the original
    message as an attachment, which is just as bad as totally
    dropping it as far as providing context for comments is
    concerned. Or I can put the original message
    under a header line (optionally indented). That gives context,
    but my new text is indistinguishable from the original
    message (even if the original message is indented, since lines
    from it wrap and they aren’t indented). Finally, I can do the right thing as a
    last resort: include the original message with each line
    prefixed with >. But see below.
  • I can tell the spell checker to check each message when I
    send it. Good. I can tell it to skip checking the original
    message, since I want to include it as I got it. Good. It
    ignores my telling it to skip the check of the original message
    if I quote it in the only sensible way it offers. Bad. Real
    bad. Horrible, in fact.
  • There isn’t even any obvious way to stop the spell check and
    just send the message once you’ve hit a bad spot (say, quoted
    program code). You can kill the spell-check dialog box, but
    then you’ve also got to respond (every single time) to a
    warning that you stopped the spell check before it was
    done. I know that, you stupid program. I’m the
    one that cancelled it. Just get on with it!
  • There doesn’t seem to be any way to manually mark a message
    as junk, which I’d hoped would make its junk filter improve
    with experience. And to mark a junked message as “not junk”
    requires right clicking the item, selecting “Junk E-Mail”
    from the context message, then finally selecting the menu
    item to un-junk it. That’s an extra menu level, and no
    visible keystroke shortcut.
  • Mouse use seems almost mandatory in most places. I’m in
    a hurry when dealing with e-mail. Give me a single function
    key to mark a message as junk (or not junk). Let me select
    a list of messages with Control-A (which does work) then
    use a single key to mark them all read.
  • Bad defaults. It defaults to using Word as an e-mail
    editor, and regardless of that choice, to sending styled e-mail.
    No. That’s so wrong I can’t even start to explain why.
  • Address completion. I can’t get it to autocomplete
    addresses as I type them, unless I’ve used the address before.
    It’s not enough that it’s in my address book. I have to
    click on To:, then type the partial address, then select
    the matching entry, then click OK. What a pain.
  • Autocorrect. Even if you are sensible and tell Outlook
    to use plain text, it performs the same auto-corrections
    as other Office programs, even if that inserts odd
    characters. I use auto-correct for the name of one of
    our products that has a bullet in it, so it puts the styled
    bullet in my message. Then spell check can’t interpret it
    and tries to fix it a second time.

All the bad and inefficient e-mail habits I see people having
are encouraged or almost required by Outlook 2003.

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