Friday, May 08, 2009

email according to microsoft

It is only now that I see just how significantly Microsoft Outlook (and Outlook Express) have influenced sending, receiving and handling email.

In a bad way.

The proprietary PST format was only the tip of a compost heap. As with most Microsoft products, Outlook accommodates every email storage format as input, but refuses to let you escape the PST when you want to move to another email client. You're locked in. You're left staring at a horrible complicated binary format that eats up a lot of disk space (like you care).

Forums and newsgroups taught me the virtues of plain text, the value of HTML when used sparingly and only when appropriate, the importance of quoting. They also taught me about the flame wars dedicated to quoting/posting. Top posting was bad. Top quoting/Bottom posting and inline posting seemed better. Newsgroup management software managed threads. Every email message didn't have to look like it was responsible for managing the state of the conversation thus far. The corporate world taught me when top posting made sense -- it seemed like places shackled to an Exchange server and Outlook chewing away on everyone's disk never seemed to do well on communication. This meant that emails grew in size as the conversation went on until someone finally realised that one or more people who had to be part of this discussion had been left out. One "copying X" later, we have this snowball all set to mow another hapless inbox.

Until 2007, Outlook did a pathetic job with HTML (you remember all that XML cruft, don't you?). RTF is still around, though, and it's the default format. RTF still sucks. HTML is your best bet if you want to be nice to the Internet and the recipient's disk.

Outlook hates plain text. Make that "detests." Or "loathes." Condescendingly. Don't even bother thinking about quotation markers. Do it yourself. Text wrapping is awful. Outlook also employs what looks like one of the silliest wrapping algorithms ever known. No wrapping for the reader's convenience. If you try adding quotation markers, be prepared to send out email that looks uglier than Emran Hashmi. If you choose text, you get no support from the email client. To this cake of unpleasantness, add the icing of Outlook's "intelligent" handling of line breaks. It decides to strip "extra" line breaks in the copy that the recipient of your email sees. Your efforts in preparing a numbered list just got drowned in cowdung. Outlook can be configured not to do this, but try telling every possible recipient of every email you might send to configure their email client. Just try it. Go on. Try it.

I moved to Thunderbird and the move was painful. My obsession with folders and classification did not help. Proprietary email archival tools seamlessly "integrated" with the email client made matters challenging. It was arduous, manual and painful. At the end of it, I had all my email (except for some annoyances like embedded OLE images and the loss of BCC information) and it was not as demanding of disk space as Outlook was. Lightning was enough to help me respond to invitations and set up my calendar. Helpful posts on the Internet and having worked with LDAP helped me use the Global Address Book as well. There were other things I still needed Outlook for, but I had all my email.

All I have to do is deal with all the mocking snide remarks, the jokes and all that blah-blah predicated on "you Microsoft hater." I also have to learn to accept situations where top posting is unavoidable (this is when I use Outlook for the only -- IMHO -- thing it does well). I long for communities where email helps communication instead of heralding an avalanche.

I also have a chance to understand how even Thunderbird still has its share of annoyances.

I'm sure I haven't seen the last of TOFU, though.


Vivek said...

I was a PINE and later a loyal Thunderbird user for many years. Unfortunately the corporate environment (e.g. Meetingplace, Calendaring, Exchange, etc) is so MS/Outlook centric, that after a few months, I moved to Outlook. Still hate the PST files, and being unable to archive emails as plain text. Also hate the formatting fiascos that Outlook encourages. Wish I could move back to PINE (Thunderbird back in 2003 was pretty crash prone).

Alex said...

When I edited my address book in outlook,computer accidentally went off and I lost my contacts.In three days I found tool for recover it,and it became-ost pst convert.Utility is free as wrote on site from I downloaded it.Besides that program convert all information from Microsoft Exchange (files with the .ost extension) into files of the Microsoft Outlook mail client (.pst files) - OstToPst procedure.

Alexis said...

Some days ago I was working for the PC and I rebooted it.But after all my mails were deleted from my OE.I was frightened.But I used google and saw there-viewer dbx.This tool decided my problem very quickly and without pay.My friend were satisfied too.

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