Outlook annoyances

Posted on 2008-01-03 18:51:38

I’ve been working with Outlook (2002) at work for some months now. Since then, I’ve seen some of the more interesting quirks that this rather … complex program has.

First, I’m rather attached to the preview pane: I almost never really open mail in a new window, unless it’s lots of text or it has those funny poll buttons. So, I wanted to mark mail as “read” when I had opened the mail in the preview pane. Where would that option be, when I didn’t know this message area was called “preview pane”?

So there’s the options panel: a mindless collection of tabs and sub-panels and sub-sub-panels with options. Looking at the options panel, we have a couple of tabs. Where will this section be, in “Preferences”, “Email options”, “Email format”, or perhaps “Other”? After scouring through the multitude of pop-up panels I finally found the damned setting: Tools -> Options -> Other -> Preview pane settings -> Mark messages as read when displayed in preview pane. Was it hard to find? Yes. Was it obvious? No.

Second, the reminders. When a reminder for an appointment pops up, there are a few buttons on it: “Ignore”, “Ignore all”, and “Postpone”. The first time I saw such a reminder, I was desperately looking for a button that did so much as “Acknowledge & Dismiss” (also known as, “Yes, I know and haven’t forgotten about it, please don’t bother me again”). The best possible option was “Ignore”, and on subsequent reminders I’ve learned that this is the only possible response that will get rid of the wretched reminder permanently. Rather non-intuitive: “Ignore” means to me like “Ignore this appointment” …

The third interesting tidbit: how the Exchange server deals with replies. It’s nice when there’s a note on an email saying “You have replied to this email on [date] at [time]”, but this is rather unhelpful: if I start a reply, then discard it, it will still say that I have replied to the email, even though I did not. If I start a reply on Monday, finish it Tuesday and send it on Wednesday, it says I replied to it on Monday. So, what good is this functionality if it isn’t accurate?

I’m happy I use Thunderbird at home: it’s so much better on all above points, and the most handy feature is the easy search option that’s in plain sight and not hidden somewhere. At work, if I’m searching for an email, the first thing I do is sort the list and try to find it manually. Only if that fails I will hunt the menus to find the dratted button to the “search messages” option. And even then it refuses to search more than one folder at the time…

Posted in: Work