IT administrators see benefits to Outlook 11

New features in the upcoming version of Microsoft Outlook are being lauded by IT administrators who say the features answer some...

New features in the upcoming version of Microsoft Outlook are being lauded by IT administrators who say the features answer some of the most pressing needs of the e-mail client's users.

In its first public preview of the Outlook 11 e-mail client, Microsoft showed features that make it easier for users to track incoming e-mails and that speed up mail downloading when using dial-up modems.

IT administrators attending the Microsoft Exchange Conference in the Anaheim Convention Centre in California said the latest pieces of Outlook would be valuable to their users and should help solve some of their most pressing problems when dealing with e-mail.

Outlook 11 is expected to ship in mid-2003 as part of the upcoming Office 11 suite and also in Microsoft Exchange Titanium.

One corporate information systems administrator said the 1,400 Outlook users he supports would be happy to see the new message threading capabilities in Outlook 11.

By linking the messages together, users would be able to keep back-and-forth mail conversations together from individual senders so they do not have to waste time searching for replies, he said.

Also useful, he added, were features that would allow people in workgroups to view each other's Outlook calendars, making it easier to schedule events for groups of workers.

Another welcome feature is a redesigned Outlook desktop, with the incoming message pane moved from the bottom of the screen into a column in the centre, providing a full screen-length view of a message. "Users don't like to scroll down to read messages," the administrator said. "They want to know why they can't see more."

The best feature, he said, is that Outlook 11 will allow local caching of messages so users would have access to their mail offline, even if the server crashes.

The latest version of Outlook will also reduce download time over slow connections by allowing users to download only message headers and sender names so they can skip messages they do not immediately need.

With the new size-sorting capabilities, users can delete their largest e-mail files more intuitively to free up space as they need it.

Another promising feature is an early glimpse of a module in development called XSO. Microsoft said the module would allow Web pages to work seamlessly with Outlook so information could be entered automatically from a participating Web site directly into a user's Outlook calendar.

In a demonstration of the technology, a Microsoft representative used a travel Web site to make airline and hotel reservations online, then showed how the reservations had automatically been entered into the calendar, saving manual data-entry time and keeping the calendar up to date effortlessly.

A new flagging capability for incoming messages means that when a message is flagged it is given more importance for a pending response and is automatically placed in a high-visibility "For Follow Up" mail folder where users can access important mail quickly.

A caching feature for offline mail access in the event of server problems is also significant for users and administrators.

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