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Why do people still use MS Outlook?

That thing must be responsible for half the worms and viruses being spread around the world, even after having been patched 200 times.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/BUSINESS/03/10/microsoft.security.reut/index.html

"The software flaw, which affects the two latest versions of Microsoft's Outlook e-mail, calendar and contacts program, were initially rated as "important" in Microsoft's monthly security bulletin issued on Tuesday."

What is so great about it that people choose to put up with all its security problems?  Especially since the security problems with it are so hard to defend against because of the way it allows email messages to become virus propogators?

T. Norman
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Because people are lazy.  Because businesses buy Office and it becomes company policy. 

Aaron F Stanton
Thursday, March 11, 2004


I use Lotus Notes :-))


Jeroen

Jeroen Jacobs
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Ah, an opportunity for a rant! Personally I don't use Outlook because it's a disgusting pile of bloated junk that treats me like a little child.

1. You need a registry hack before you're even allowed to _save_ potentially dangerous files -- not open, not launch, just save to disk!

2. The message database is stored in a proprietary compressed binary format, as usual with Microsoft, so if it's ever corrupted you won't see any of your messages ever again.

3. The option dialogs are 2347 levels deep, with related options typically scattered across five different pages at a minimum, apparently so as to prevent the user from changing the Microsoft defaults.

4. Attempting to import messages from Eudora 6.0 fails because the directory is not in expected place -- you think Outlook allows me to browse for the directory? No, you have to _uninstall_ Eudora first, then Outlook mysteriously allows browsing!

5. Looking at the actual message headers, let alone printing or saving them to text file, is either totally impossible or hidden in one of the aforementioned option dialogs where I haven't found them yet.

6. When you get a message that's protected by a digital ID you are not allowed to even look at the message, let alone save it, unless you have a digital ID of your own -- although this is only required for _sending_ protected messages! But Outlook decides that people without a digital ID are such disgusting lowlife bums that they should not be allowed to read the e-mail of their betters. (Eudora can't decode this format at all but it lets me save such messages so I can use external programs for decoding.)

Actually I only installed Outlook 2003 because it came with Office 2003 so I thought to give the latest Outlook version a try as well. After one day of soul-scarring subterranean horror I returned to Eudora 6.0, weeping uncontrollably. Access, Excel and Word are all great programs but Outlook is without a doubt the worst steaming pile of software crap ever to come out of Redmond. Thanks for listening, please tip your waitress. Or Joel.

Chris Nahr
Thursday, March 11, 2004

I like the interface and features of Outlook. I like the NewsGator aggregator integration. I like Office Update (but I am eagerly awaiting the integrated Microsoft Update).

I have been running Outlook for about 5 years now without any extra virus prevention measures beyond "common sense", and I haven't been bitten once.

Which email client would you recommend? I have tried Eudora but really didn't like it.

P.S. The CNN article is factually incorrect:
from http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms04-009.mspx

Affected Software

• Microsoft Office XP Service Pack 2- Download the update

• Microsoft Outlook 2002 Service Pack 2- Download the update


Non Affected Software

• Microsoft Office 2000 Service Pack 3

• Microsoft Office XP Service Pack 3

• Microsoft Office 2003

• Microsoft Outlook 2000 Service Pack 3

• Microsoft Outlook 2002 Service Pack 3

• Microsoft Outlook 2003

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Lotus Notes is never a cause to smile, Jeroen.


Thursday, March 11, 2004

But if everybodt was to dump office and jump on the bandwagon of another email client then wouldn't this other email client become the target?
It's very easy to say Outlook is crap and is why we have so many viruses - but if everyone switched to Lotus Notes or Eudora then flaws would be found and exploited in these instead.

With regard to the file save problem - yes it is a pain - but its better to zip up any attachments anyway rather than sending regular files through. The reason we probably have so many viruses is because people don't often look at what they are downloading. The only thing that i would say Outlook could do with is a dedicated scanner to check emails and attachments as they come in as relying on people having an uptodate virus scanner setup to scan emails and attachments isn't very good. People are the problem - not the software.

Fothy
Thursday, March 11, 2004

>I have been running Outlook for about 5 years now without any extra virus prevention measures beyond "common sense", and I haven't been bitten once.


I will second this.
No other email client has jumped out at me. Outlook integrates perfectly with other office applications. I know outlook, I am happy using microsoft products,

I find, for the most part, MS products are designed with an excellent UI, and come with a host of features and a built in macro editor.

Do I want to switch? Switching to a new product means days of asking around and listening to other peoples opinions, downloading trial versions of each and testing them out, somehow doing this without losing the integrety of having all my emails in a single application. To properly test a new application that is as heavily used as an email client I am going to need a long time, do I want to invest all this time into multiple applications in order to choose the best? When I do, am I willing to shell out more money (I already have a licensed copy of outlook).

There maybe better email clients around, but yes I have far too much other things on then to go through this process.

Aussie Chick
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Like Aussie Chick, if I had a *free* option that played well with other office apps, and the time to learn it, I might.

Web interfaces not an option.... not responsive enough.

Plus, have been using outlook for years, and am savvy enough to not download stupid files.

Throw in the fact that I know how to deal with the various outlook quirks, and I don't really have a compelling reason to change.

Tapiwa
Thursday, March 11, 2004

>5. Looking at the actual message headers, let alone printing or saving them to text file, is either totally impossible or hidden in one of the aforementioned option dialogs where I haven't found them yet.

That can be done. Just go to menu "View" and "Options...". There you find the headers. You can then copy&paste them into notepad or something.  It's not a very straightforward procedure but it can be done.

Matarata
Thursday, March 11, 2004

I, for one, am thankful that the large majority keeps using Outlook. And IE, for that matter.

Thanks for contributing to my security :)

Paulo Caetano
Thursday, March 11, 2004

>5.....
Thanks for the tip. I know how to look at message heards in Outlook express, it is simple, but I tried so hard the other day to view them in outlook, and couldn't figure out how....

Aussie Chick
Thursday, March 11, 2004

"Access, Excel and Word are all great programs..."

I'd have to disagree on that last one.

WordPerfect diehard
Thursday, March 11, 2004


"jump on the bandwagon of another email client then wouldn't this other email client become the target?"

No

Krag
Thursday, March 11, 2004

>> "jump on the bandwagon of another email
>> client then wouldn't this other email
>> client become the target?"

> No

Why not?

Paulo Caetano
Thursday, March 11, 2004

No personal beef with Outlook here (like a few above, never bitten by it), but since I've been using Mozilla's Thunderbird, I definitely like it better.

The details:  First it's still pre 1.0, so it will manifest defects occasionally.  I guess it's more or less the mail portion of the full Mozilla broken out into its own application, thus leaner.  Instead of the kitchen sink of Mozilla Mail (or Outlook, for that matter), the extra features beyond a mail client are available as plugins--what is bloat to one, is a vital feature to another, so you can pick and choose.  I haven't peeped the file format to see how it can (or can't) be manipulated outside of T-Bird, so can't comment there.  There seems to be a good buzz about its spam filters--easy to use, and apparently few false positives.  I can vouch for the easy to use, but I don't get enough spam to comment on the false positives.  My favorite part is the UI, which is laid out almost exactly like Outlook (IIRC) minus a few thousand options I never used, but is a little cuter.

Oh, can't comment on importing existing Outlook mail because at the time I made the switch, I didn't give a crap about my old mail--I guess it's still in my Outlook profile.

MacSqueeb
Thursday, March 11, 2004

I'd happily put up with all this other crap if they would just make Outlook perform!  I've worn my molars into little nubs from all the waiting Outlook (connected to Exchange) forces on me.  Even something as simple as typing up an email:  periodically the keystrokes just stop registering while Outlook decides it's time to do something else.  Then, twenty seconds later my text shows up.  Everything about Outlook (at least how they've decided to configure it over here) seems to have some sort of wait involved.

anyone know a good dentist?
Thursday, March 11, 2004

>>I'd happily put up with all this other crap if they would just make Outlook perform!

I feel for you, but I have to wonder if the fault isn't with those Administering Exchange and / or your network.  I was in one Exchange shop with appx 8K users spread over 8-10 Exchange servers (if this sounds all wrong, my apologies--I know jack about Exchange), and barring some known circumstantial issue with Exchange or network factors, Outlook usually seemed as responsive as a local install.

MacSqueeb
Thursday, March 11, 2004

<<"jump on the bandwagon of another email client then wouldn't this other email client become the target?"

No

Krag >>

So either - Outlook is being targetted because it is a Microsoft product and if everyone abandoned it in favour of another product with the majority switching to say Eudora - then Eudora wouldn't be the next target?

What i think people forget when they say all Microsoft software is buggy is that it has millions more users than any similar product so obviously moreholes are going to be found - if everyone today stopped using office and switched to lotus - or anything else - then bugs would significantly increase. I also don't buy that if hackers/virus makers toppled Outlook for good that they would stop - it stands to reason they would do it to the next product we all started using.

Pc's wouldn't be where they are today if it wasn't for Microsoft - fact. Love them or hate them - i don't think you can really dispute this. For advanced users then you might find some limitations but for regular users (which most of the world will fall into) then they have made computers accessible.

Fothy
Thursday, March 11, 2004

I originally switched to Outlook because it allows you to delete attacchments, and replace with a link if necessary, and still keep the messages. Outlook Express doesn't do that; I don't know about Mozilla.

It's useful but not necessary to have the calendar and above all the tasks scheduler in the same program. It also makes backup easier. You just have one file for everything. This means I can keep the .pst file on the laptop and not have to bother about synchronization when I go on holiday.


It synchronizes well with the Palm.

Wnere it really comes into its own is in a corporate environment with Exchange. The ability to keep public folders containing calendars and task items, to share a mailibox among various delegate users, and to assign tasks to others really helps productivity.

Also it used to be really easy to co-ordinate Outlook programmitcally with other Office apps, until MS embraced trustworthy computing and put measures into place that don't affect corporate security at all (all the worms just use their own SMTP engine instead of Outlook) but makes life hell for office programmers.

Now let's go through Chris's objections, one by one.

1.  The inablility to save certain file types was a knee jerk reaction to security concerns. Blame the sysadmins in companies who think that the purpose of a computer network in a company is to make their lives comfortable. If you lose a an order because Outlook blocks the document, it's not the syadmim who will be fired. This started out with Office 2000 SP2, and then carried over to XP. There are varying ways of disabling it; I don't know if all involve changing the registry.

2. Uncompressed, unencryped .pst files can be read in Notepad! That is probably why Outlook has them encrypted and compressed by default :) I reckon that the only person who's going to be upset if he can't get into my files is me, so I change the settings to uncompressed and unencrypted.

3. I've yet to see an Option dialog seven levels deep, but I have been known to waste half an afternoon trying to remember where is the setting I used to do something before. Word is just as bad  - and for all I know so is Excel. This gives the lie to the CL zealots, who claim brian-dead monkeys can breeze through Microsoft GUI's. The problem comes because there are so many necessary options (though it seemed MS did use the bran dead monkeys to design the overarching "street plan"). Tnink of how much easier it is to find things in a little one-shop village than in a capital city.

4. I can't comment on the specifics of importing from, or exporting to, Eudora. In general I find the import/export works well, though better with some things than others. For example I first import some Excel addresses I have into Access because it is much easier to import them from Access into Contacts than it is with Excel.

5. As has been pointed out to get the message headers you must open the message and then click View|Options. You can't do it from the Outlook view menu itself. There are a lot of useful thngs in that dialog box. I agree it's unintuitive to keep them there.

6. A lot of the latest "neat" features of Outlook only work if both sides have exactly the same latest and greatest installed. I say "Long Live Incompatibility". The last thing I want to happen is for the email from my boss telling me to do something to auto-destruct after I've done it, absloving him of all responisiblity if anything goes belly up.

Two general points come to mind here. First, as Cooper said in "The Lunatics are running the asylum", email is the single most important general use of a computer, yet it is the worst served by software. As any user of Lotus Notes will tell you Outlook is a minor little demon in the pure evil stakes.

Secondly, why is it that the people who are most vociferous about MS Bloatware are those that scarcely ever use it? Same thing applies to people who complian about OSS usability.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, March 11, 2004

--" I feel for you, but I have to wonder if the fault isn't with those Administering Exchange and / or your network.  I was in one Exchange shop with appx 8K users spread over 8-10 Exchange servers (if this sounds all wrong, my apologies--I know jack about Exchange), --"

No, this is dead right. You need a new Exchange Seriver for every thousand users or less. It's why Exchange is generally hated by those who have to administer it. The reason incidentally is that Exchange uses the Jet engine (same as low end MS Access).

Sometimes the slowness is Outlook and not Exchange. For example I have a 16,000 message folder and every time I try and search for all emails  linked to a contact for the first time Outlook hangs for up to five minutes. Same happens on the Internet only version of Outlook on my laptop. Once you've done the search once the result will show up almost immediately, which brings me to the quesiton "Why does MS offer to index the whole HD for you - even though I've never met anybody who reckoned it was worth the hassle- but not have any way to index your email folders, which are the ones you are most likely to be searching on a regular basis?"

And while we are on Outlook peeves, Auto-archiving takes the latest of the received/sent date or folder/modifed date to choose as the trigger. The result is that  if you copy a .pst file to another machine it resets the date to the copy date, so autoarchive doesn't kick in! Aargh!

And best of all is what happens when it can't send a read receipt. This holiday I was in Sri Lanka, but the house I was renting had a Suntel telephone instead of the national company one. The result was it was cheaper to use the landlord's ISP instead of mine. Someone sent me a message requesting a read receipt. Foolishly I gave permission. It then tried to contact my Lankan ISP, which rejected the request for security reasons, and constinued to do so once every minute for the rest of the holiday, and for a week after I came back to Saudi, even after I turned off automatic send and receive and back in Saudi changed the default to the Saudi ISP. I only got rid of the problem by copying the .pst over to the desktop. If it happens when I transfer it back I'll have to reinstall Outlook (and hope Product Activation doesn't kick in).

Stephen Jones
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Outlook is fine - sure beats Lotus Notes. Outlook is easy to use and has all the features I want.  Like any system or application keep it patched and you will have no problems.

DJ
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Most people use Microsoft Office, incl. Outlook, because they work in 'Microsoft shops'.  This is a business decision, and a technical decision.

Personally I don't like Outlook because it isn't properly mutlithreaded.  But I aren't about to go fight IT to get some other mail client.

i like i
Thursday, March 11, 2004

5. Looking at the actual message headers, let alone printing or saving them to text file, is either totally impossible or hidden in one of the aforementioned option dialogs where I haven't found them yet.

In the message list, right click->options and they are staring you in the face.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, March 11, 2004

>>5. As has been pointed out to get the message headers you must open the message and then click View|Options. You can't do it from the Outlook view menu itself. There are a lot of useful thngs in that dialog box. I agree it's unintuitive to keep them there.

Just right-click on the unopened message and select Options from the context menu.  "Options" is not an intuitive menu text, but it is easily accessible.


Outlook works fine for me because I'm know not to open email from people I don't know or launch executable attachments.  It's never been slow and has all the functionality I need.  And, most of all, it came bundled with my Office suite, so I didn't have to purchase (and take the time to setup) another piece of software.

Nick
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Anyone know how to create a rule which will move messages to the junk folder based on a header, e.g.:

X-Spam-Flag: TRUE
X-Spam-Pct: 98%

AMS
Thursday, March 11, 2004

While I'm not going to claim that any piece of software is bug free or invulnerable to security problems, I think Outlook's share of the virus propagation done in this world is due to a lot more than just its popularity.

Who in their right mind decided that embedding executable code in email was a good idea?  And if you're going to embed code, at least run it in a @#*!-ing sandbox!!!

I'm supposed to be able to receive email from anyone on the planet without placing my machine in danger.  (Except for perhaps its sensibilities with the content ;-)

I think MS makes a lot of good products.  But I do not place Outlook among them...

Michael Kale
Thursday, March 11, 2004

try something like:

Apply this rule after the message arrives
with 'X-Spam-Pct: 98%' or 'X-Spam-Pct: 99%' or 'X-Spam-Pct: 100%' in the message header
move it to the Junk E-mail folder
except if the message header contains 'X-Spam-Flag: FALSE'
stop processing more rules

I don't know the specifics of spamassassin headers but you get the idea.

I heard it rumoured that outlook filters support regular expressions, but could not find any info on that.
For very powerfull filtering an option would be to use VBA

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, March 11, 2004

"And if you're going to embed code, at least run it in a @#*!-ing sandbox!!!"

Outlook by default opens messages in the "restricted sites" zone, which allows for no active content.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, March 11, 2004

The main reason people use outlook:
1. Scheduling appointments.
2. PDA integration.
3. Useful address/contact integration

Not huge features, especially from my perspective, but certainly for the marketing crowd, they cannot live without it.  And with no native or natural competitors, Outlook breeds like a weed.

hoser
Thursday, March 11, 2004

The problem with executive code running in an email lies with IE. Outlook and Outlook Express use IE for HTML messages, so the degree of security you have depends on your IE security.

Setting IE options to the most secure setting (and using another web browser if this creates problems elsewhere) gets rid of most of the perview pane problems. Not running as admin when opening email, and keeping your anti-virus definitions up to date helps deal with the rest.

Incidentally the Spam Bayes plug in is a good enough reason on its own for using Outlook.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, March 11, 2004

You can get at the messages. They are stored in a binary file, but you can use OLEDB to get at them. Just open MS Access and open an empty database. Choose the link external tables options and select the Exchange file type and then you will be able to select messages, addresses, etc. You can change the data or extract it.

Have fun!

pdq
Thursday, March 11, 2004

You can use any email software effectively if you eschew html mail and never open attachments you don't expect.

Mind you, that wouldn't protect you from the deadly embrace of Exchange, but then nothing can do that.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, March 11, 2004

on the hanging single-threaded stuff:
outlook2003 has a big hack to get around this: cached exchange mode. it copies everything to your local computer & synchronizes in the background, or close enough to the background, that you should never have to wait on exchange again.
it works better than the old offline modes, though it's probably just an extension of the same codebase.

mb
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Stephen - you said "No, this is dead right. You need a new Exchange Seriver for every thousand users or less. It's why Exchange is generally hated by those who have to administer it. The reason incidentally is that Exchange uses the Jet engine (same as low end MS Access)."

You're actually mistaken here.  Exchange does use the Jet engine, but it's not the same Jet database as MS Access.  Microsoft has several database technologies called JET,  all different.  There's access jet, then there's the jet that's built into Windows, then there's Exchange.  While the Exchange engine shares a name with Access, it's very different.  The Exchange jet is transactional and recoverable. 

FWIW, you can also support more than 1000 users on an Exchange server provided you use appropriate hardware, and tune it appropriately.

Stu
Thursday, March 11, 2004

To the best of my knowledge you can run thousands of users with Sendmail with little or no tuning.

I'm pretty certain that Lotus Domino scales much better as well.

Considering the importance of email in an organization it is surprising that so many businesses depend on a basically unreliable piece of sotware like Exchange.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Why does everyone assume Outlook/Exchange is used only for email?  Or Notes for that matter?

Messaging & **collaboration**.

Messaging is standard - every man and his dog can do messaging.  It's the collaboration features that are their raison d'etre and the greater proportion of their value.

Apples to apples and all that..........

Motown (AU)
Thursday, March 11, 2004

There are plenty of stand-alone collaboration programs. The question is whether it is worth having them integrated with email or buying them separately.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, March 11, 2004

...because to me "collaboration" and "communication" are two concepts that should always be kept completely separate. [grin]

BTW, are all the comments and comparisons based on Outlook 2003? It's a *lot* better.

Philo
[disclaimer: I work for Microsoft]

Philo
Thursday, March 11, 2004

"...because to me "collaboration" and "communication" are two concepts that should always be kept completely separate. [grin]"

Sat here for a while trying to think of formulate my thoughts into something insightful but I bow to the master.

LOL

Motown (AU)
Thursday, March 11, 2004

I think Opera mail is great.

Ik
Thursday, March 11, 2004

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