Microsoft Outlook #fail

Since I’ve just re-installed my ageing work desktop PC with a shiny new Windows Vista Business installation (which has its own share of quirks) I thought I’d also give Microsoft Outlook 2007 a try over my standard PC email client, Mozilla Thunderbird.

There’s always going to be a period of adjustment with any major change of software platform – but I’ve used Outlook before and so I feel that the issues I’ve encountered aren’t purely due to a lack of familiarity.

Starting off with the initial setup screens, where you’re prompted to enter your account details – it seems a little odd that something fundamental such as what type of mail-server you’re expecting to connect to is hidden under Advanced Options, although I may be doing Outlook a dis-service here and it may auto-detect this (and may prompt if multiple services are found). I did note, though, that changing the IMAP settings to use SSL correctly updated the port to connect to, whilst setting SMTP to use SSL did not.

Once the client has started, I’m immediately thrown by the fact the the toolbar on the window appears above the menu bar. This can be dragged into the correct order, though.

Stranger is that an individual message view offers the Microsoft Ribbon interface, with no menu bar but a distractingly pulsing (at least until clicked on… signs that Microsoft is aware of the lack of obviousness in this interface?) large circular gadget in the top-left corner. This gives the application an almost schizophrenic appearance – it’s neither ribbon-based nor not ribbon-based – it’s a compromise which doesn’t seem to offer the full benefit of either alternative.

I’m not happy that there’s no way to re-order the folders within a mailbox: Logically enough, I’d like “Inbox” to appear first. However, since Drafts comes first alphabetically, this is actually the first item on the list.

Whilst Outlook displays the sender of a message by name, there doesn’t seem to be any way to view the actual sending email address without viewing the associated message. The worst abuse of not showing relevant information is off the “Junk Mail” sub-menu of a message – here, one of the choices is “Add Sender’s Domain ( to Safe Senders List“. This threw me completely – why was the sender’s domain being mis-interpreted as being “”? It turns out that this text is fixed for all messages: At no other point anywhere in this (or, indeed, in others that I’m aware of) does Microsoft choose to display an example of what they’re referring to, and yet this text is static. There isn’t a “e.g.” for “for example” prefixing this – so I’m convinced that anyone, on viewing this item, would assume that Outlook thinks that the domain of the chosen message is How did this get through testing? The only way to make sense of this item is to compare the text for multiple differing messages, and note that it does not change.