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July 29, 2005


Ben Elowitz

So true... I use IMAP for exactly this scenario (work laptop, home desktop) and Outlook's support for it is spotty at best. The IMAP driver hangs more than all other Microsoft products combined on my machine.

Pete Holiday

Unless things have changed since the last version of Thunderbird I used, the IMAP support there is far worse than Outlook's.

Yes, that pop-up is extremely annoying, but far less annoying (to me) than the fact that Thunderbird only checked one IMAP folder at a time for new mail -- the one you were presently looking at.

Which doesn't work very well if you have multiple accounts.


Is it possible to write a new Outlook driver for IMAP?

I'm planning to use IMAP, but as the author, I'm "trapped" into Outlook because of the many PIM features I use...

Nik Kalyani

I would love to use Outlook for email, but can't for the very reasons you cited. It is just insane. I have been using Thunderbird for about eight different IMAP accounts simultaneously, and it's a dream. Not sure what another commenter was implying, but Thunderbird does check all the accounts. Another feature that any grown-up email client must have is a dropdown for From: addresses. Outlook's implementation of this is crappy.

I think if Microsoft's engineers spent a couple of days with any startup and monitored how email is used, they would see just how poor their U.I. is. In a startup, one or two people might monitor multiple mail aliases. Without arobust IMAP implementation and the "personality" feature, you're out of luck in this situation.


Thanks to Joe Bork , there is at least a hack to partially avoid this horrendous bug. I encounter it because my Treo fetches my IMAP email every 15 minutes, which immediatel causes the Outlook error message on my laptop. Multiple client access to IMAP servers works fine with Thunderbird and every other IMAP client; only Outlook sucks. This is a pathetic indictment of Microsoft's lack of interest in serving their customers.

As for Thunderbird, Pete Holiday can fix his problem of checking multiple mailboxes by right-clicking each folder he wants to monitor and selecting "Check this folder for new mail". (What Thunderbird then does wrong is to make a new mail sound and system tray icon across all of those folders, as opposed to Outlook, which monitors multiple folders but only makes alerts for the Inbox.)

Thunderbird, with Mozilla Calendar, Contacts Sidebar, and other extensions, will probably be a credible Outlook-competitor within the next 12 months. Right now, though, it lacks some critical abilities like supporting integrated Outlook-compatible meeting invites, non-modal contact pages, and other smaller UI bugs. But at least they appear to care about their end-users.


It's too bad that Outlook 2003 has so many good features, yet it contains so many "slap the customer in the face" problems that no one seems to be able to leapfrog the application and produce something measurably better across the board. Here's my fun "unknown" error of the day in outlook:

Peter H.

The joy of picking on Outlook is the highs are so high and the lows are so low.

The schedule+ team was one of the first teams to really get nonmodal feedback right with their "You have conflicting appointmeents at this time" hint helpfully but nonmodally sitting near the 'accept' button.

And then the email side pulls clever tricks like getting messed up so it can't send/receive email, and then when you restart it to fix this, it modally asks "There are messages in your outbox, do you want to quit?" As Jan is fond of saying, have some guts.

And let's not even get started on the desire to see multiple email accounts. Rarely has the ratio of users who need a feature (who among us does not have more than one account?) compared to the tininess of the effort put to understanding user needs been so out of whack.

But then again, we all keep using it.

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