Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Where they’re hiding message headers and options in Office 2010


By David Gewirtz

As we continue our exploration of Outlook 2010, some weeks we'll showcase neat new features. Other weeks, like this one, we'll showcase mysteries we hope get resolved before the product comes out of beta.

If you get a lot of junk mail, you're eventually going to have to look at a message's headers. This is the pile of information at the beginning of an email message that tells you the path the message has taken, what servers its gone through, and -- most important -- where it originated. If you want to ban an email address or a domain, or set up good rules, you're eventually going to need to look at a message's headers.

These have been easy to find in Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007, but they're all but gone in Outlook 2010.

As Figure A shows, in Outlook 2003 and Outlook 2007, when you right-click on an unopened message in Outlook, you could choose a menu item called either Options or Message Options. But, when you right-click an unopened message in Outlook 2010, Message Options is gone.


The Message Options item is gone in Outlook 2010. (click for larger image)

You can still get to Message Options, but it's not easy to find. First, you have to open the message. This is already a bad idea, because if you want to prevent malware, you often don't want to open the message. But, in Outlook 2010, you have to open the message. Microsoft, consider this a bug report.

Next, you have to look for the Tags area on the Ribbon. And then you have to click the teensy-weensy little square we've highlighted in Figure B. That's it. No menu item. Nothing. Just a barely noticeable, very small square just one shade of gray different from the surrounding area.


Look carefully and you might see where to click. (click for larger image)

Finally, once you've clicked that itsy-bitsy square, then you'll get the Message Options screen we all rely on, as shown in Figure C.


Finally, the Message Options screen. (click for larger image)

We really do consider this a bug. It should be possible to get to the Message Options screen while right-clicking on an unopened message. Let's hope it's fixed by the time Office 2010 officially ships.