8/24/04

The Things I Hate About Outlook

These are some of the features I hate about Outlook.
  • I believe it is getting better, but by default it puts features (usability and presentation) over security. I had to turn off the automatic formatting in Outlook (I want to send only plain text messages, not HTML, not RTF). Still, if I forward or reply to a message that has been formatted, I have to explicitly tell it to send it plain.
  • Outlook with Exchange acts as if the whole world can access "The Address Book."
    Your message
    To: zzzz@avolio.com
    Subject: security truisms
    Sent: Thu, 12 Aug 2004 06:24:51 -0700
    did not reach the following recipient(s):

    Schmidt, John Jacob Jingleheimer on Thu, 12 Aug 2004 06:50:56 -0700
    The recipient was unavailable to take delivery of the message
    Okay, quick. What's missing? Right, Mr. Schmidt's e-mail address. If e-mail to him is bouncing I'd like to contact him or remove him. If his e-mail address is something obvious -- oh say, jjj.schmit@someplace.dom -- I can deal with it. If it is an address unrelated to his name, I'm out of luck. Also missing is why he was "unavailable." Step out for coffee, did he? Moved and left no forwarding address? Disk write error?

    In addition, if you forward a message, the e-mail addresses are lost -- just the full names remain. In other words, potentially important information is lost.
  • In fact, Outlook discards all e-mail headers it doesn't care about, but which are required for debugging. It doesn't just hide them, it removes them.
  • It tries to be too smart. When you enter text in your address book (Contacts manager), instead of filling in fields, it tries to guess what is what. All those "smarts" would make things easier for the user, if it did not also make things slower for the user. Fast and simple beats slow and complex.
  • There's too much reliance on "point and click." I want to set up a distribution list by 1) giving it a name and 2) typing in all the e-mail addresses separated by commas. (I could live with semi-colons -- see next item.) I don't want to have to enter them separately, one at a time.
  • It insists on rewriting (breaking) nice, standard, RFC822 (okay, I am showing my age -- RFC2822) addresses. What is wrong with the following?
    Joe E Smith <joe@avolio.com>, (Mary Jones) mary@avolio.com

    Nothing, But Outlook will insist on making it
    "Joe E Smith" [joe@avolio.com]; "(Mary Jones)" [mary@avolio.com]
Outlook. It has been said before: Lookout.

Tim Kramer, via e-mail, adds the following:
even though you've turned off HTML in an attempt to author flat text e-mails, Outlook still feels the need to add its own encoding so that the author's word-wraps get encoded into the email along with some really odd handling for quotation marks.

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