BOOT CAMP 110, 10/02/00
In the second part of our short tour around Microsoft’s
Office 2000 we’re taking a quick look at Outlook 2000, arguably the most
powerful component in this very popular suite of applications. In case you were
wondering why we singled out Word 2000 (see last week’s Boot Camp) and Outlook
2000, that’s because they tend to be the most heavily used elements of the
package and they have both undergone a number of significant changes from the previous
versions in Office 97.
Unlike the other applications in Office, Outlook lacks a
clear cut-identity. That’s because it does so many different things, the most
import ones being an email manager and editor, diary, organiser and calendar
with to-do lists. It is the central repository for contacts and address books,
it handles file management, web browsing and access to newsgroups, though it
has to be said that the latter function is not well integrated as it relies on
The big problem with Outlook – especially pre-Office 2000
versions -- is that it looks horribly complicated. Many users are scared off,
give up or use simpler address book and calendar software and Outlook Express
for email (see Boot Camp 63, March 11th 1999 on the Connected web
Admittedly it can be a bit of a struggle to use at first, yet for those who stick
with it and master its many intricacies and nuances it can become a way of life
– it could take over your life if you let it…
If you have only used Outlook 97 this new version (also
available as a stand-alone program for around £95 inc. VAT) should look and
feel quite different. However, a lot of the changes are not new and were incorporated
into the Outlook 98. This was an interim version or upgrade – not very widely
used as it turns out -- which Microsoft brought out in response to criticism of
Outlook’s lack of email functionality in Office 97.
There have been some fairly important changes to the email
side of things since Outlook 97. They include an improved set of tools that
decide how email coming into the Inbox is handled. In addition to making it
easier to organise the way you deal with large volumes of email it is handy for
disposing of junk email. You can specify where items are automatically routed
to and create as many new destination folders as you wish. A new and very
welcome feature is the way the number of messages sent to new folders is flagged
up when they arrive.
Email messages can be composed in any Office application or
Outlook using plain text, Rich Text or HTML (or a mixture of all three in the
same message). It is now quicker and easier to create customised stationery
(images, backgrounds etc.), from the samples and templates supplied and if you
have multiple email accounts you can more easily configure Outlook 2000 to do
tricks, like send mail using one account, and receive incoming messages on another.
Adding a ‘signature’ – a brief snippet of text at the end of
a message – is simpler in Outlook 2000; there’s also a facility for using multiple
signatures, which can be inserted automatically when new messages are created.
In common with other Office 2000 applications improved web
integration is a key feature, though much of the groundwork was already done on
Outlook 98. Internet Explorer 5 lives alongside Outlook 2000; web pages can be browsed
– albeit in a rather rudimentary fashion – from within Outlook, you can switch
Internet Explorer and you can start Outlook from IE.
Outlook 2000 opens with the Outlook Today view. It shows a summary
of appointments, tasks done, or requiring your attention and the number of mail
messages waiting to be read. Flexibility and appearance have both been
improved, there’s an option for various layout styles and ‘summer’ and ‘winter’
colour schemes. Clicking on any of the message folders switches Outlook into
email mode, to read, compose or send messages. Shortcuts to other parts of Outlook
appear in the left hand pane.
For most users the next port of call will be the Calendar,
which shows a detailed view of the day’s events, there’s the Task Pad to-do
list and a sliding calendar display showing two months at a time. The calendar can
be copied and placed in a Net Folder, another new feature carried over from
Outlook 98. Net Folders are a way of automatically sharing information with
other Outlook users. They can be used to carry a variety of items, in addition
to calendar details, including task lists, contacts and messages.
Finally we come to the Contact Manager. This is the powerful
address book, in addition to basic details – name, address phone number etc. --
there’s room for up to three email addresses per contact, web site details,
nicknames, spouse’s name, birthday, inside leg measurement, well maybe not
that, but there’s plenty of room for users to add extra details and information.
Contacts contains layer upon layer of data storage areas, more than to enough
to satisfy the most obsessive record keeper. Contacts can be associated with
other contacts, assigned categories, allocate signatures for encrypting
messages and you can keep track of appointments, emails and tasks associated
with a particular contact, in short there’s so much to play around with it’s unlikely
you’ll have any time left to attend any meetings…
Outlook 2000 like its predecessors is an industrial strength
application for serious office use. Those who upgraded to Outlook 98 probably
won’t see that much difference but anyone using Outlook 97 will find it a
friendlier and much more coordinated package.
Next week – parental control
Encryption or scrambling renders files unreadable by any
conventional means without the correct decryption software and a unique 'key'
code, which is needed to unlock the data.
Hypertext Markup Language – hidden codes in text documents and
web pages that allow the reader to quickly move about the document, or jump to
another, by clicking on underlined, coloured highlighted words or phrases.
A set of conditions, decided on by the user that decide how
email messages are processed. Emails from a particular person or address might
be routed to a separate folder or ‘flagged’ with an on-screen indicator. Junk
email from a nominated address or containing a specified keyword can be sent
straight to the waste bin
TIP OF THE WEEK
The double-pane view of Windows Explorer makes it easy to
navigate around files and folders, if you like you can force all other Explorer
type Folders (My Computer, Control Panel, Recycle Bin etc.) to open with double
panes. Open a folder, My Computer will do, click Folder Options on the View
menu and select the File Types tab. Scroll down the list under Registered File
Types to find ‘Folder’, double click on it and in the dialogue window that
appears, under Actions, highlight ‘Explore’, click Set As Default and then
Close. To return to the original single pane view follow the above procedure,
but this time select ‘Open’ in the Actions box.