Thursday, March 1, 2007

Outlook 2007: a cautionary tale


By David Gewirtz

Excellent software is hard to create and big software products are even more of a challenge. So it comes as no surprise that Outlook 2007 is having its growing pains. Microsoft is one of the smartest companies we know, with some of the smartest people we've ever met, so we have no doubt that Outlook 2007 will overcome its challenges with future updates.

But what about now? Should you upgrade now?

"We're getting steady reports of degraded performance, not increased performance."

Over the past few months, we've been covering this issue in considerable depth, and we've noticed two disturbing red flags. The first has to do with Outlook 2007's elimination of HTML rendering using the Internet Explorer engine. The result is HTML messages viewed in Outlook may not look as nice as you'd like. We'll be going into further depth on this issue over the next few weeks.

The other issue is performance. Many of us live in Outlook. My work day consists of between two and ten hours doing nothing but email and it's getting worse. When upgrading to a new version of Outlook, the single most important thing you want to get is better performance, so you can get more done in less time.

Unfortunately, we're getting steady reports of degraded performance, not increased performance. This could be a deal-breaker.

Some performance experiences

Last week, in "Why I like Outlook 2007 and you will too", Contributing Editor Bill Mann reported "a tendency for the little machine to stop dead for several seconds every so often." He admitted the machine in question has a relatively low-performance processor and not a whole lot of RAM, but it's still something to pay attention to.

These reports were confirmed by Mike Sperry. For those of you who don't know Mike, he's the developer behind some of the most well-regarded Outlook add-ins we've seen. He tells us:

I get this as well. It could be just us two, but I suspect that it is the search mechanism in Outlook. Try disabling the search index (or exit out of it altogether for a while). I found that performance was improved and my "aggravation factor" went way down.
Please let me know if this helps you or other users. I'm curious to know if it is something peculiar to our machines.

To be clear, Bill and Mike aren't just run-of-the-mill Outlook users. They're top Outlook experts. In addition to being our Contributing Editor, Bill's the author of "How to Do Everything with Microsoft Office Outlook 2007". And, as I mentioned earlier, Mike's a top developer.