Microsoft Outlook is part of the Microsoft Office suite, and includes
groupware functions such as a calendar, an advanced address book and
planning tasks in addition to the mail component. The default view
shows a summary of unread mail and upcoming appointments, tasks,
birthdays and anniversaries. The sidebar is used for quickly jumping
between the included functions.
Mail import: Outlook supports importing from a large number of
sources, including Netscape 4.x and Outlook Express, and even plain
text files. Since no one is likely to migrate from Linux to Windows
and Outlook this should be more than sufficient.
Account setup: A wizard walks the user through the process of
creating accounts. Options include connecting to a Microsoft Exchange
server, POP3, IMAP and also Hotmail or MSN accounts. All expected
features are supported (like leaving mail on the server, deleting it after
a set number of days and not downloading mail larger than a certain
Filters: Right-clicking on a message and selecting "Create
rule" opens the "Create rule" wizard. Outlook has a huge number of
options for matching messages, but strangely enough there is no
automatic option for selecting the recipient, and this must be typed
in manually. The list of possible actions to take is equally
impressive, and the third screen of the wizard allows for defining
exceptions. The message filtering part of Outlook is very powerful,
but still easy enough for everyone to use.
Address book: The address book is well integrated and supports
filling in a large number of items. This includes birthdays and
anniversaries, which will show up in the calendar and "Outlook Today"
summary screen. Right-clicking on a contact gives not only the option
to send e-mail, but also send the contact information itself or
schedule an appointment. Contacts can also be grouped into categories
for easier organizing.
Searching: Selecting "Find" on the tools menu shows a quick
search bar above the message index. From here one can search the
current mail folder or all folders. For more advanced searches there
is the "Advanced Find" function which supports searching messages,
contacts, files and most other things you might want to search. Under
the "Messages" tab the most common criteria can be quickly specified,
while under the advanced you can select arbitrary fields and the
number of predefined fields are in the hundreds. The criteria you
specify must all match, however. Searches can be saved in separate
files and later opened.
Reading messages: The default message index has the most common
fields shown by default, and more can of course be enabled; the number
of available fields are again in the hundreds. Normally mail is read
from the preview pane, which displays HTML mail by default and also
loads images with the advantages and disadvantages of that. Internet
Explorer is of course used for the actual display and you are thus
potentially vulnerable to the exploit of the week. Double-clicking on
a message brings it up in its own window as expected.
One nifty feature is the "Group by", which groups the messages by a
given field, and fields can be nested. This is a more general form of
the familiar threaded view.
Composing messages: Reply, reply to all and inline forward are
supported, but attached forward seem to be missing as well as forward
as-is. For composing messages, Microsoft Word is used, and all its
features such as spell checking can thus be used. Most of the
features, especially related to fonts and graphics, are naturally most
useful when writing HTML mail. Blind carbon copy (BCC) does not seem
to be supported at all. By clicking the "Options" button you can set a
number of options for the message, however, including signing or
encrypting. Automatic signatures are supported, and are inserted above
the quoted text.
IMAP: The support for IMAP is reasonable, however, the user
interface tends to freeze up while waiting for contact with the
server. This can be annoying on slower connections. Server-side
searches do not seem to be supported unfortunately, and only messages
actually downloaded will be searched.
Virtual folders: Microsoft Outlook does not support this
Encryption: S/MIME encryption is supported and once set up it
is easy to sign and encrypt messages.
Outlook suffers from the same symptom as other programs in the Office package: a huge
number of options, more than most people will ever need, and it is easy to get lost in the sea
of dialog and drop-down boxes.
The Office Assistant always tries to be helpful and pops up when you least expect it.
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