Microsoft Outlook 2007 Beta: First Thoughts

June 13th, 2006

Following on from our post on the new Microsoft Word 2007 beta, here are some first thoughts about the new Microsoft Outlook 2007 beta. I realise (and apologise) that more than just ‘a few days’ have passed since the last post on Microsoft Word 2007. However, this has given me the time to put the new Outlook to the test under the conditions in which it would have really been used by someone on a daily basis instead of a simple tryout of the software.

Click on the image to enlarge any of the screenshots.

To-Do BarThe first thing I noticed when I loaded up the new Outlook was the To-Do Bar, a new toolbar summarising your appointments and tasks, with a calendar at the top.

The tasks are now have deadlines assigned to them by default and the deadlines are represented by flags of different shades of red. For example, a task that is due today will have a flag that is brighter/redder than a task that is due next week. You can see the different options in the screen shot below.

Tasks

In addition to the shades based flagging of the tasks, you can also organise them by categories based on colours. And it will also support multiple categories. However, this was for sure NOT one of Microsoft’s best: They currently have the red category represented by a blue graphics! But this will no doubt be fixed for the final release of office.

Category It is also worth noting the the new To-Do Bar can be made smaller (screenshot) should you wish to claim your precious screen space back.

Although I haven’t played with it much, there is also an RSS feed option now integrated in Outlook. Otherwise, I haven’t noticed any major changes except for a prettier user interface that reminds me straight away of Apple’s OS X’s iCal. In fact a lot of the so called ‘glass’ graphics in Office 2007 and the upcoming Windows Vista seem to resemble Mac OS X.

Contacts in Outlook Prettied up
Contacts Prettied Up

Calendar in Outlook Prettied up
Calendar Prettied Up

Besides the Tasks Category Colour bug and the occasional crash, Outlook 2007 beta also failed to manage my e-mail. After just over a week of using it, the email functionality of Outlook had simply vanished. Although it was still downloading all my email and showing up the contents of my inbox, it was unable to display the emails (including older ones), be it in the preview pane or as an independent message window.

With the above changes in Outlook, is it worth upgrading to try out the 2007 beta? I would say absolutely NOT, unless of course you are willing to risk losing your data and/or to put up with lots of bugs. But once the final release of Office 2007 is here, it will no doubt be more enjoyable to use than Office 2003 thanks to the ‘glass’ OS X‘esque effects. However, it’s very hard to say if it will improve your productivity at all in comparison to the current version of Outlook.

For those of you that use Excel and are wondering about the 2007 version: It’s so buggy that I haven’t even been able to use it properly due to the very frequent crashes. A lot of times it would crash as soon as it’s loaded up, without even giving me the chance to open a file. So, I would advise you to wait patiently for the final release of Office 2007 before trusting it with your work and data.

Entry Filed under: Computing

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