Monday, May 21, 2007

a week with Outlook

Last week I was thrust into an Outlook environment for the first time in 10 years. I never was a fan of the Notes UI and I was excited to try Outlook 2003.


Apparently there is a lot more to setting up an Exchange user than Domino. Or maybe it's simple, but like Domino, you have to know what you're doing. Anyway, it took two days for IT to get my e-mail functional.

First Impressions

At first I thought Outlook was spartan, and I welcomed it. Then I started trying to figure out all the toolbars and quickly became frustrated. Some toolbar buttons have pictures and text, some are just text, others just images. You can't set a preference, either. It gets annoying to have to hover your mouse over everything and wait for the tooltip to pop up to see what the button really does. I'm sure I'll learn it eventually, but for now it's frustrating.

Getting To Work

By the end of the week I had participated in some e-mail exchanges and had some useful data to work with. First up was trying to construct a mail thread. Outlook calls this "Conversations". It works, but it's only messages in the current view. I haven't found a way to create a full message thread that spans Inbox, Sent and other folders, which I used a LOT in Notes.

I'm running dual widescreen LCD's, and the Reading (preview) pane on the right works for me. However, not everyone has been upgraded to dual LCD's yet, so they tend to use terse subjects that fit in the space they have on their screens. I've received e-mails whose subjects are a mix of text messaging abbreviations and acronyms and deciphering them can be tricky.

The biggest functional difference is that I no longer have a single interface to the custom applications I use. They're each individual icons on the desktop, and for some reason this is just jarring to my sensibilities. I keep looking for the bookmark bar in Outlook. There is a Shortcuts section, but that's only shortcuts to things in your mail. I don't get the point of that.

I always said that for all its warts I still mostly liked Notes and Domino. That feeling is getting stronger as time goes by. This week I get to start doing ASP.Net 2.0 development with SQL Sever 2005. We'll see how that goes.


  1. Be sure to get yourself the Lookout add-in for search. The thing any Notes user will miss the most is full-text search, and Lookout is the nearest thing you'll get to it. But of course, once you solve your full-text search frustration with Lookout, then you'll be incredibly frustrated by the fact that you can't do a Find operation within the body of a message -- so you can find all the messages that contains a word, but you'll have to read through them in order to actually find the messages you're really looking for!

  2. Richard, thanks for the suggestion. I never created a FTI on my Notes mail, actually. I just never found a reason to. I'm not denigrating people who do, I'm just saying I didn't.

  3. Wow! I find that so hard to believe. To my mind, it's been the number one reason to use Notes mail for the past ten or so years. But to each his own. I imagine you're either more organized about filing your messages than I am, or you've got a far better memory than I do. Or both. Probably both ;-)

  4. Ah yes, I'm one of those people who never leaves anything in my Inbox for more than a couple of days. :-)

  5. Well, Charles, I, for one, am following your "outlook user" comments quite closely!