Originally one of the minor members of the Office clan, Outlook has grown to be probably its most used component. Millions of people use Outlook to handle their email, appointments, task management and contacts lists and Outlook 2007 has been upgraded with improvements to both the interface and its underlying mechanics.
The first time you run the program, it copies across any messages and settings it finds in older versions of Outlook or Outlook Express. If you’re creating a new email account, you don’t have to remember all the ISP gunk that normally gets lost in a folder in a bottom drawer. All you need now is the account name and password.
The main screen isn’t so obviously different from its predecessor as the other applications, as the Ribbon isn’t evident until you create or edit a message. Instead, you get a new ToDo bar, down the right-hand side of the screen, which helps integrate calendar and task information with messages. Click on the bar and it opens out with a calendar and appointment displays.
Outlook now offers subtle changes that make a big difference to the way you work. It’s easier to have a number of projects on the go as you can assign them to colour categories, and then run searches by colour to pull together all the relevant entries.
Many attachments can now be previewed from within the reading pane of any message, incoming or outgoing, so you don’t have to wait for an associated application to open before looking at an attached picture or reading a text document.
Searching is a big improvement in itself. Gone is the ‘make a cup of coffee and it might be done searching’ routine from previous versions of Outlook and in comes Instant Search, a variant of the desktop search implemented in Vista. Even so, it doesn’t appear as quick as Lookout search, which Microsoft bought back in 2003 and made available as a free add-on to Outlook 2003. Although Microsoft has stopped providing it, you can still download it from www.snapfiles.com/download/dllookout.html.
Microsoft introduces the email Postmark with Outlook 2007. This new technology is designed to reduce the amount of spam, by forcing the computer its running on to perform extra computations before sending an email. Not much of an overhead for the legitimate emailer, the argument goes, but quite a burden for a spammer, trying to send hundreds of thousands of messages.
The only snag with this praiseworthy system is, do spammers really use Outlook to send spam? More to the point, why use email Postmarks at all if you’re spamming? There may come a stage when so many people have PCs with the technology running that non-Postmarked messages can be refused, but that’s going to be a long way off. Better to visit the homes of spammers and fill them with concrete (deliberate ambiguity).