Stop Using … Microsoft Outlook

Stop Using ... Outlook! / Hosted by imgur.comThis is the first in a series begging and pleading with users to stop using certain products. They are all problematic in some way, but are very popular in spite of their problems. This means I’m constantly fixing them, when really, I shouldn’t have to.

I’m opening this series by asking people not to use Microsoft Outlook. Yes, I know it’s ubiquitous, and many of you are familiar with it and you like it for that reason … but if you worked in I.T. you’d know why it should be avoided at all costs and wouldn’t wonder why I’m posting this.

Note, I’m referring here to Microsoft’s application known as “Outlook” or “Office Outlook.” Not “Outlook Express,” which despite the name & the fact that it’s an email client has very little to do with Outlook. (O.E. has been deprecated in favor of Windows Live Mail and is no longer in development.)

Honestly, the company I work for spends more time supporting Outlook than any other single productivity application. That’s an astounding amount of time devoted to just one picky little title. That in itself is problem enough — for us and for our clients. But there’s more, much more:

  • Outlook sometimes exhibits weird behavior, such as refusing to send correctly to particular email addresses and for no discernible reason, requiring all sorts of odd little tricks to get it to work.

  • Outlook formats email messages in a non-standard way, so that people using other email clients including some by Microsoft can’t read them correctly. This particularly shows up as an inability to read attachments.

  • Sometimes Outlook refuses to download incoming mail and/or won’t upload mail being sent. Again, it takes little tricks to get it working again.

  • When Outlook email/contact files (usually in .PST format) get very large, these odd and unexplained behaviors tend to get worse — often a lot worse. Trying to compress those files is typically an effort in futility, because shrinking an Outlook file is virtually impossible.

  • Microsoft is aware of Outlook’s foibles and tries to deal with them by including a utility known as SCANPST.EXE which is supposed to straighten things out. Some of the time it does very little or nothing at all. At others it helps, but there doesn’t seem to be any reason why it does.

  • Outlook files cannot be copied or backed up while Outlook is running, and often, terminating the OUTLOOK.EXE task doesn’t actually stop it from running. (Yes, that’s right. Go figure.) Thus, many people find — usually only too late — that their Outlook files have never been backed up, even if they assumed they were. (We deal with this by employing a number of tricks intended to make sure Outlook terminates so that the .pst files can be copied in spite of the barriers.)

  • You can import emails and contacts from old Outlook files but sometimes the import process is incomplete even if it says the import was finished. Doing the same import again (with the option set not to import duplicates) sometimes fixes it … but sometimes the import fails at the same spot.
  • Outlook used to be included as part of almost all Office installations, but since Office 2007 it’s been included only in some of them, meaning you may not have it even if you think you should. “Home and Student” Office packages in particular do not include it.

Those of you who use Outlook because your email is on a Microsoft Exchange server, may well be stuck with it because most alternative email clients can’t talk with Exchange as it normally runs (although they can if the Exchange server is set to work in IMAP/POP mode). If you’re one of these people you have my sympathies.

Aside from those unfortunate souls who are “locked into” using it I urge everyone not to use Microsoft Outlook. Good — and 100% free! — alternatives to it are:

If you happen to know of any other free (not shareware, not donationware, but 100% totally no-strings-attached, free) Windows email programs, go ahead and post in the Comments.

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Posted on September 7, 2011, in Fixes & Advice, General, Stop Using .... Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. outlook seems to replace my MSN. how do i void it? thank you.

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