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Windows 9X Special Interest Group

  Microsoft Outlook 98

by John S. Krill

You Get What You Pay For

Microsoft was offering Outlook 98 for free, shipping only, at it’s web site. After reading a positive review of Outlook 98 in PC Magazine, May 5, 1998, I thought what the heck let’s give it a try. I’m telling you right now, to save you reading the rest of this review, this is the worst piece of software I have ever tried to use. I can’t believe the review I read in PC Magazine is referring to the same Outlook 98 that I have tried to use. Outlook Express, the e-mail program that ships with Internet Explorer, is a far better product than Outlook 98 and it doesn’t do scheduling, have a contact manager, or set tasks. What Outlook Express does is send and receive e-mail, has a built-in newsreader, has a clean interface, has straight forward rules for forwarding e-mail called the Inbox Assistant, and will fax info using the small but usable Microsoft Fax print driver.

If you have the old Schedule+ or any other PIM then stick with it. Outlook 98 is not even worth the shipping charges. It is for sure not worth your time and frustration to load and use Outlook 98.

Chunky Interface

Why do the toolbars require text? By putting text within some but not all the toolbar commands just defeats the purpose of the toolbar. What’s really weird is not all the toolbar commands have text attached to them. Who decides which commands get the text and which don’t? Without the text you could put both the Standard and Advanced toolbars beside each other and reduce the amount of real estate used by the toolbars.

What is the purpose of the Outlook bar? All it does is take up a lot of valuable desktop real estate. Totally useless. All the options in the Outlook bar are repeated in the Folders pane. Outlook 98 does give you the option of removing it. Remove it!

The layout of the different viewing panes is similar to Outlook Express.

The Calendar, Contacts, Tasks views are fairly straight forward. It just takes getting used to.

No Newsreader! This has got to be the biggest forget me not of all. If you can put e-mail into your PIM then put in a Newsreader. You will have to use the Newsreader in Outlook Express if you have no other. Come on, is this another "Microsoft Knows Best" thing?

Microsoft just doesn’t get it when it comes to available space on your desktop. The desktop only has so much space. If you are not using a monitor with a resolution of 1024x768 or better then you will not enjoy using I. It is a real waster of desk space. I wonder what size monitors the programmers use at Microsoft use?

What Rules?

This is one confusing rules generator. Think of one of the phone systems where it’s push 1 for Help, 2 for Service, 3 for a Lawyer, etc. The Rules Wizard for e-mail in Outlook 98 works in a similar fashion. Basically it is a continuous set of rules and they are divided into four different lists. You need to use the Next and Previous buttons to traverse all the rule boxes.

The most common use of the rules in e-mail is to move an e-mail item to a folder, reroute the e-mail, or automatic reply to e-mail. An example: I get a lot of e-mail newsletters and I put them in a separate folder called Weekly News. In order to move an e-mail you first have to have the sender in your contact list. Now why would I put an newsletter, usually a listserver, in my contacts? This only dilutes the contact list with names that are useless to me. Unlike Outlook Express, where I just input a text string in the sender box, in Outlook 98 I have to have the sender in the contacts so that it shows up in the list box of contacts from which you select one. I guess "Microsoft Knows Best."

I suggest that Microsoft take the complete Outlook Express and put it inside Outlook 98.

The Windows Address Book (WAB)

Microsoft designed this address book called the Windows Address Book. I suppose the purpose was to have one address book with all pertinent information about a person, company, etc. The problem is it isn’t used by anyone but the Outlooks. Do they use it to there advantage? I just don’t know. Microsoft Fax doesn’t use it. The Phone Dialer doesn’t it. I don’t know of any other Microsoft apps that use it.

When Outlook 98 installed instead of using my existing Windows Address Book they copied all the information into another file. Now I have a separate one for Outlook Express and Outlook 98. Why? "Microsoft Knows Best."

Another problem with the Address Book for Outlook 98 is that I can’t find it on the hard drive. I don’t know where Microsoft hides it. This is my information Microsoft. Either you tell me where it is or boom, out goes Outlook 98.

What Fax?

You get WinFax Lite from Symantic to fax documents. It didn’t work, period. It just reports that is couldn’t fax or the fax failed. Wonderful!

One interesting thing about WinFax Lite. It does use the Windows Address Book to get the fax number. I always put in the area code with all the phone numbers. Microsoft has all this great stuff where you tell it what area code you ARE dialing from and WinFax Lite still uses the area code when dialing. The area code has to be removed from the number before dialing. Then it fails to fax anyway.

Re-installed the Microsoft fax printer driver. It doesn’t work at all. Now I can’t fax anything.

Where Is My Data!

With Microsoft Schedule+ you were able to save your files using any directory and you chose the name. With Outlook 98 it a very convoluted.

What you do is either Archive or Export. What happened to SAVE? With Archive the data is saved to a special file and REMOVED from Outlook 98. With Export you save the data to one of several types, no native Outlook 98 type. For e-mail that means you have to save every folder ONE AT A TIME. With Export no data is removed from Outlook 98.


Outlook 98 has the look and feel of a product no one at Microsoft wants to claim. It doesn’t look or feel like any other Microsoft product. I do agree on one policy Microsoft has for this product. It is FREE. That’s the only way they are going to get anyone to use it. I think it will be used for one or two days by the user and then removed from the user’s computer. It’s just not worth the hassle.

Good News

The Outlook 98 Un-Installer worked flawlessly. Everything is back and working. I can now use Microsoft Fax, Schedule+ is working, and I’m back to one Windows Address Book.