A personal information manager or PIM developed by Microsoft Corporation that is part of the Microsoft Office suite of software. Microsoft Outlook sends and receives email, maintains calendars, stores contact information, and many more functions.

Actually, MS Outlook is the one piece of Microsoft software that I really like. Granted, it's got some security holes, and it is, to some degree, bloatware, but it does have it's good features, too.

These include:

  • Lets you access multiple POP3 accounts. Last I checked, Netscape Communicator only allowed multiple accounts if they were IMAP.
  • Powerful "rules wizard" gives me complete control in sorting my incoming mail.
  • "Auto-archive" feature lets me move old mail to an alternate file, with different settings for each folder. (IMHO, judicious use of this feature can really help cut down on Outlooks memory hoggishness)
As someone who doesn't use Outlook, I don't know whether there's something that allows you to turn off scripting or not, but if there is, that's really all that Microsoft has to provide. Outlook might be crap. I don't know. I just think they're taking it on the chin because they've already got a bad rap. I don't see this as a security hole... it requires the end user to physically launch the file, no? If that's the case, it's an education issue.

What I'm really sick of people on television and newsprint saying things like, "I can't understand how it got through the firewall!" and "I thought it was safe because it was from someone I knew!"

If people were trained that, yeah, there's a chance opening a file can wipe out their systems, then maybe several thousand people wouldn't have opened a love letter a few weeks ago. This resume thing is just another example. If you're not in charge of hiring, aren't currently hiring, or aren't expecting a resume, WHY OPEN IT? If there's any doubt, call, write, or god forbid go see the person who sent it to you.

There are several problems that patching Outlook won't fix...

  • Many companies don't train employees properly on the use of e-mail, including warning them that any attachments they open (vbscript or otherwise) can have malicious effects. Opening an attachment can do some funky shit whether you're using Outlook, Lotus Notes, or PINE.
  • Most companies don't have an enterprise anti-virus solution installed company-wide. (Damn, that was like 5 buzzwords in one sentence). But it's true. They're less concerned with security than with recording every one of Karen in Marketing's keystrokes to make sure she isn't shopping Amazon at work.
  • People will always find a way to spread viruses. Rather than seal off the part of the submarine that was torpedoed, why not teach people how to avoid the torpedo?
That's the key thing. Education. When someone lpr's a gif, do you disable the lpr command or unplug the printer? No. You tell them to a2ps the fucking thing. And then not only do you not have a large stack of paper with some weird characters on the back, but that person is also unlikely to do it again.
And so it was that on top of the fact that I have to run Windows 2000 at work, that I'm also required to use MS Outlook 2000 for Exchange Server.

Outlook must be the most counter-intuitive piece of software this side of XWindows. Of course all of my software documentation has to go in Exchange's Public Folders, and multiple email accounts and message rules with Outlook 2000 is nothing short of a vigilante street fight. And then there's that meeting scheduler component, which attempts to do everything but wipe my own arse.

Sometimes I get my email automatically with Outlook, but other times I get suspicious and hit the "Send/receive" button, which will occationally prompt the Exchange Server to re-download duplicate copies of the 1000+ messages to my Inbox. Then again some other times it just downloads new mail messages, just to keep me on my toes.

Using Outlook is also great fun when you're offline. This is just like using Outlook online except you can't see the contents of any of your mail messages. This isn't anything to give you pause though, as you can still read the message subjects clear as day.

For the last three working days I've been hitting CTRL+N to check my email. I believe that starting a new mail message reminds Exchange Server to automatically send me my email, and it avoids having to resort to the unpredictability of of Outlook's built in fucktionality.

Update: Okay okay, I was half suspecting (ie should have known better) that the multiple mail messages thing was a server-side misconfiguration, however it's still amusing to check email with CTRL-N. From the perspective of the user, i find commercial Outlook not worth the trade off.

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