[FoRK] Outlook Is Awful

Christopher Herot cherot at herot.com
Fri Apr 1 13:28:46 PDT 2011


Lotus Notes suffers from similar limitations. I think the problem arises because both programs were already mature before the Web and HTML became important and even today they begrudgingly convert HTML to their own internal format and back again. Also, Outlook does different conversion depending on whether you are using it to connect directly to the MTA or going through an Exchange server, so even if you get it to work in one case it may not work in the other.




From: fork-bounces at xent.com [mailto:fork-bounces at xent.com] On Behalf Of Stephen Williams
Sent: Friday, April 01, 2011 3:39 PM
To: fork at xent.com
Subject: Re: [FoRK] Outlook Is Awful


[Prefix reply, without inline responses, for the Outlook-using email impaired.]
Can't do Hebrew in Unicode? In any case, that's a good reason. Mystery solved. Probably a MacOSX fail for a poor font mapping, or 
perhaps Thunderbird for the same reason. (The Hebrew itself dispays perfectly in Thunderbird on MacOSX.)

I know Outlook isn't your area. Feel free to pass my sentiments to the Outlook product managers. They are losers. This is a rare 
case where I can't say that strongly enough. There simply is no excuse. There isn't even an alternate, proprietary way to solve 
the inline reply threading problem. Outlook simply is a more primitive email application for the core purpose of showing and 
editing email text with a glaring omission of a crucial feature.

Thunderbird does perfect quoting, indenting, and display coloring for both standardized text and HTML message threads. It will even 
reflow non-HTML text when possible so that there is little capability or visual difference between HTML and text modes. Yes, it is 
alive and well and has been revamped repeatedly. And it is available on all platforms, using the same plugins and extensions. Of 
all of the shortcomings of Outlook, this one is unacceptable, crucial, and is an ongoing negative force in the universe. Even 
Gmail, in a browser, does it much better, with the added feature of hide/show for quoted text. Even Squirrelmail, open source and 
web based, does indenting and inline editing for both text and HTML mode perfectly. (Switches to text-mode when editing.) And, 
even in text mode, displays Hebrew fine. (Although I understand from my Israel-origin friend that RtoL is broken almost everywhere.)

This one feature, proper inline-quoting display and editing, is symptomatic of the general brokenness of Microsoft (which is not to 
say that it is universal). In fact, I suspect it probably plays a measurable part in the shallowness of both Microsoft and other 
companies that use Outlook. It is essentially impossible to have an ongoing email "conversation" without a lot of work, producing a 
poor result and limiting discussion. The end result is that people use Word, Excel, and Powerpoint to try to organize a 
conversation, leading to one-line email messages with a Word doc attached. Then the Word doc has a page of text with Wordsian 
comments. Then the whole process becomes a mess of different revisions of the same document with different changes and comments. 
All, in many cases, because you can't do fundamental email conversations with Outlook. A cynical enough person might suspect that 
Microsoft leaves this feature broken to encourage such use of Office to get around it. The only other explanation is incompetence.

Outlook has lots of bells and whistles, but gets the core wrong. It's a toy app, unusable for anything serious. "It's no good. 
You ain't got no soul."

You can check to see what you are outputting by looking in Sent and looking at the View/Source of the message.

To be clear, I'm not bashing Microsoft employees. I know they are great people. Unfortunately, something about the process, and 
perhaps a few people, is not right. And that continues to screw us. They need to hire someone to say "Stop giving me excuses. 
This is broken. Fix it. Now.", empower them to insist on change, and get it done.


On 4/1/11 11:28 AM, Jeffrey Kay wrote:
> Okay, I knew you would hammer me for this. I don't work on Outlook, so
> don't blame me. Inline, Outlook-style, below ...
> --- jeff | jeff at jeffreykay.com | www.jeffreykay.com (blog) |
> www.kayslens.com (photos) | kosherhog (twitter) | i'm a pc | החזיר כשר
> -----Original Message-----
> From: fork-bounces at xent.com [mailto:fork-bounces at xent.com] On Behalf Of
> Stephen Williams
> Sent: Friday, April 01, 2011 10:11 AM
> To: fork at xent.com
> Subject: [FoRK] Outlook Is Awful
> X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook 14.0
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1255"
> Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
> Exhibit 1: Inability to do proper inline display and quoting. Outlook is
> blown out of the water by Thunderbird (and others).
> Pathetic, non-professional level crap.
> [jbk] There's actually a setting in Outlook that makes quoting work properly
> for plain text messages, but almost all of the e-mail I get these days is
> HTML and that looks terrible when quoted. And I'm not in the habit of
> converting all incoming messages to text. So I opt for the [jbk] prefix for
> my replies, which looks fine with a different font in virtually all of the
> mail I reply to. BTW, I thought Thunderbird was effectively dead at this
> point. I haven't tracked it in a while (I used to use it) --- is it still
> being updated?
> Exhibit 2: windows-1255? Really? On MacOS+Thunderbird, this results in a
> bizarro font where upper case letters are a couple point sizes taller than
> other characters. Annoying. Has Microsoft heard of Unicode?
> [jbk] Everything Microsoft builds is Unicode. Windows-1255 is the encoding
> used because of the Hebrew text in my signature block.
> Exhibit 3: base64 for a simple text message? Really? Can't spring for
> quotable text? Maybe it's Mailman's fault:
> X-MIME-Autoconverted: from quoted-printable to 8bit by xent.com id
> p31Gxqpi021802
> [jbk] Seems likely that's the case.
> In any case, Microsoft fail...
> [jbk] IDK --- I actually like Outlook at this point :-) It's not perfect,
> but nothing is ...
> Stephen
> On 4/1/11 9:59 AM, Jeffrey Kay wrote:
>> Inline below ...
>> --- jeff | jeff at jeffreykay.com | www.jeffreykay.com (blog) |
>> www.kayslens.com (photos) | kosherhog (twitter) | i'm a pc | החזיר כשר
>> On 3/31/11 5:43 PM, Jeffrey Kay wrote:
>>> I wasn't so much throwing dirt (full disclosure to others that don't
>>> know
>>> --- I work on Windows Phone at Microsoft) --- just interested in
>>> knowing
>> I don't think he was referring to you dissing the Goog.
>> And good luck with that. ;-)
>> [jbk] Thanks :-) This is by far the best stuff I've worked on since
>> joining MSFT 6 years ago (passed that milestone on Monday the 28th).
>> But it's a long road from here.
> sdw

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