Thursday, January 1, 2004

Readers share their Outlook 2003 SP1 wishlist


By Diane Poremsky

In my last column, I asked you what you wanted fixed in Outlook 2003 SP1. I was surprised how much our readers think alike. Before you think "Darn, I thought my idea was unique", remember, the more people that request a feature, the better the chances are you'll see it in a future version.

Many of you wrote to complain that messages aren't always getting marked as read in Outlook 2003. This is a problem we see often in the Microsoft newsgroups too. It's a problem with cached Exchange mode, IMAP, and HTTP accounts. Randy has a similar problem with read receipts not updating the items in his sent folder. These are good candidates for the SP to fix.

A lot of users, especially those who upgraded from Internet Mail mode in Outlook 2000, are annoyed that they can't click on the address book headings to sort the entries. The developers are well aware of this problem and I don't expect this to be fixed in the SP as it's a long standing request.

The address book was a source of additional complaints, Ken is bothered that a separate line entry in the address book is listed for every email address assigned to a contact. "For those who save legacy and/or secondary (or more) email addresses, this new format is very cumbersome. If some like and use the multiple listings, there should be an option to select which way the entries are listed." I guess it's a good thing no one requested fields for more than three email addresses, which is a popular request in other forums.

Ken didn't complain about FAX numbers in the address list, but many others did. This really isn't a bug, since FAX numbers are legitimate electronic address, but it bugs a lot of users. You can fix this yourself by adding an F to the number so the entry looks like "F 212 555 1212" and it won't display in the address book or move your fax numbers to another number field. If you use a fax modem and need to dial the numbers from the computer, Sperry Software has a utility that makes it easy to toggle the F off and on. You can find it at

Brian wrote to complain about a problem affecting night owls and people who leave Outlook on all night. When you use the Group by date view and collapsed some or all of the groups, when the clock strikes 12, your carefully arranged groups expand as the names on the groups change. I often work late at night and yes, it is annoying.

As I said before, I can't guarantee we'll see any of these things fixed in the upcoming service patch, or even in Outlook 12, but I'll pass the complaints along.