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 size).
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 feature.
Encryption: S/MIME encryption is supported and once set up it is easy to sign and encrypt messages.
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