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Microsoft

Javier Soltero: The Outsider Microsoft Tapped To Reinvent Outlook (windowsitpro.com) 184

v3rgEz writes: In a wide ranging interview, IT Pro talks with Microsoft's Javier Soltero about his plans to help Redmond get its groove back when it comes to email, walking a fine line between keeping traditional Outlook users (and IT administrators) happy while radically reworking software that hasn't seen a huge shakeup since 2003.
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Javier Soltero: The Outsider Microsoft Tapped To Reinvent Outlook

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  • MS will do it later, anyway.
    • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @10:15PM (#51253567) Homepage Journal

      The Magic 8 Ball says: "Outlook not so good."

  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @10:20PM (#51253577)

    "while radically reworking software that hasn't seen a huge shakeup since 2003."

    Oh yeah, because sane people really want THAT! Particularly if the "huge shakeup" is only being done because the software hasn't had a "huge shakeup" since n number of units of time. I'm sure the new Outlook is going to be great!

    • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @10:48PM (#51253635)

      If 2013 Outlook is any indication of the direction it's going, it's going to be awful. Even though the basic Outlook application has really only undergone cosmetic changes, 2013 seems to try harder to gloss over and obfuscate parts of the user interface, which I'm sure will result in a usage metrics which show that nobody uses those features they can't find, so let's eliminate them.

      I've made my person peace with Outlook, though, and despite all the things that are awful about it, I find it oddly useful. I dread what I expect will be a masturbatory exercise in visual design which will reduce Outlook to a cell-phone level of feature devolution and touch-friendliness which eliminates its quirky usefulness.

      I also really hate the relentless level of user interface churn for the sake of style and visual design in almost everything. I think a measure of incremental user interface improvement can be made, especially as display sizes and technologies change, but too often UIs change because some new trend hits the world of graphic design. It's completely frustrating as a user and most often doesn't really improve usability in any salient way.

      • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by chipschap ( 1444407 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @11:12PM (#51253699)

        You make a good point. A UI that is slick and wonderful may not be especially good in usability. You need to be able to understand it, you need to be able to find things, and it all needs to work with minimal effort. In that regard, I find that simpler is generally better.

        The command line was the ultimate in simplicity, but you couldn't "find" anything --- you had to know the commands (I love the command line, but that isn't the point here). On the other end is multiple ribbons, obscure icons with no text, and multi-layered menus, all with nice bright colors and animation and other things that as often as not, just make it harder to figure out.

        But glitz sells, I suppose.

      • I also really hate the relentless level of user interface churn for the sake of style and visual design in almost everything.

        Relentless? There has been one major UI change in its history, from the original File/Edit/View Menus to the Ribbon in 2007. That was quite jarring I admit, but the ribbon is an improvement (once you got used to it) IMO.

        • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by swb ( 14022 ) on Thursday January 07, 2016 @07:15AM (#51254623)

          My "relentless" comment was meant to be applied generally in the world of computer GUIs, not just Outlook specifically. I would argue that even with Outlook, there were mostly unnecessary changes from 2007->2010 and especially >2013 that were focused on graphic design rather than any kind of usability.

          Microsoft specifically I think deserves dings for their obsessive hiding of features and how-things-work across many products, whether it's making file extensions increasingly hard to display, finding the network interfaces to actually change network settings (thankfully you can still use ncpa.cpl from the run menu).

          The only two significant features I can think that have been added really didn't require much in terms of UI changes -- multiple Exchange accounts (along with improved RPC-HTTPS support) and larger .PST files.

        • Relentless? There has been one major UI change in its history, from the original File/Edit/View Menus to the Ribbon in 2007.

          Actually, Outlook was the one Office product that didn't get Ribbon until 2010. (just do a quick google image search for outlook 2007 and you'll see what I mean).

          • 2007's main window still had the old style menu. But sub items like email, appointments, etc had the ribbon.

            2010 was where the main interface was updated to using the ribbon.

      • There certainly are ways in which it could be improved and the UI simplified in a way that would make sense, I'm just finding it improbable any of these will actually happen - or at least, if they do it'll be an accidental consequence of something more substantial being killed.

        I like Outlook to a certain extent, albeit in its modern incarnation with the menu bar replaced by that stupid strip thing it's at its nadir, but for the longest time it was virtually the only email system anyone used that displaye

        • by swb ( 14022 )

          If I could go back in time with a bunch of money, one thing I think would have been interesting to do would be to have forked/extended IMAPv4 in the 1990s to include a bunch of extensions for calendaring, contact management and mailbox management and coupled them with a local delivery agent and very lightweight directory on the back end. I think you would have had to address the local mail storage issue as well -- mbox vs. maildir, or do you go full-on database storage.

          This would have (mostly) given you a

      • I share your pain.
        I tried the other day this new Edge browser everyone is talking about. I started my Windows 10 VM (which I don't do often) and there it was: An application with an interface designed for cellphones and that barely had any options. It's almost as bad as when Ms forced users to use an UI made for desktops on the PocketPC handhelds.
        If this is the future that awaits desktop programs I want to live in the past
    • But now your emails can have "likes"!!!

      He pointed to the implementation of “likes” and “mentions” in the Outlook clients as examples of changes that he thinks are helpful.

    • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Slick_W1lly ( 778565 ) on Thursday January 07, 2016 @01:30AM (#51253939)

      So.. great. Now this guy can go into the same bin as that dude who pushed systemd. The 'Clusterfuck of Things I didn't want..."

      2003 outlook was the last I actually liked. I hung onto it for as long as I possibly could before being forced to upgrade to.. I dunno.. whatever it is out there now. It had a reasonably nice UI, it was quick and did a bunch of stuff I liked. The UI wasn't splattered all over the place and it had nice bevelled buttons and stuff, instead of the flat bollocks that is the current trend. I mean, I have what.. three choices of 'theme' now? White, 'light grey' and 'dark grey' - none of which are much use in allowing me to distinguish between parts of the interface..

      So.. now I know who to blame. .

      • "So.. great. Now this guy can go into the same bin as that dude who pushed systemd. "

        It is pretty sad when you try to be an anti-systemd weenie when you don't know who [wikipedia.org] Poettering is, and misrepresent the transition to systemd as being "pushed" by a single individual (Don't get me wrong. I'm sure systemd makes your life as a Windows weenie unbearable.)

        "So.. now I know who to blame. ."

        You made the choice to use garbage software. You have nobody to blame but yourself.

        • I guess we're going down the systemd well here, but in my case, I _decided_ to use Debian, which I don't consider "garbage software", and had no meaningful choice on whether to use systemd.

          systemd has wrecked my home server for the apps for which I run it: DAAP music server, MythTV backend, and upnp photo server. Nothing starts properly. Nothing restarts itself. Have to continually intervene by hand, and in some cases I have to do without things that just plain worked before moving to Jessie/systemd.

          Systemd

          • "Systemd isn't an adequate replacement for SysV init,"

            That is a correct statement actually. It is a much better replacement, as well as being much, much more. It is hilarious that you claim Debian is solid, then go on to claim that it was in fact anything but and it is all systemds fault. I have bad news for you. Systemd works fine, and if your shit isn't working you only have yourself and the Debian maintainers to blame.

            • It's an inadequate replacement in that it's part of the core OS, wants to emulate running legacy SysV init scripts, interprets them incompletely, and gives you no choice but to let it run said scripts and mess up their execution.

              That's poor, and inadequate, whatever else you may think are its merits.

              Oh wait, there IS another choice! Instead of being a Dad who just wants to get his kids the TV shows they had an hour ago back, I can put on the software developer hat, spend countless hours developing systemd s

              • Use your package manager, moron. I use Debian on the Beaglebone and Fedora on my Laptop. They both use systemd. I have never had to jump through any of the hoops you are claiming to have toi jump through. I have to conclude that you are a lying troll, or completely incompetent.
                • Been using and maintaining Debian systems at home and work since potato.

                  Using apt.

                  You're apparently not running the same packages as I am. Things that are breaking are coming from the third-party Debian multimedia repo, generally, or have had functionality I was using turned off in Jessie.

                  Dude, jumping right to the "moron", "lying troll" and "incompetent" bit says a lot more about you than about me. TTYL

      • by jddj ( 1085169 )

        "I have what.. three choices of 'theme' now? White, 'light grey' and 'dark grey' - none of which are much use in allowing me to distinguish between parts of the interface.."

        Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2011 (Mac) let you see what is happening. The stupid 2013 themes should be called "blinding white", "white on white", and "white on extremely light taupe". Somebody ought to get fired over that design.

        While they're at it, they could make an Android mail app that doesn't threaten me that "IF YOU DO NOT COMPLY I

  • Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DanJ_UK ( 980165 ) * on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @10:24PM (#51253585) Homepage
    Outlook isn't the fucking problem, exchange and its bastardised architecture is.

    To this day I cannot fathom why companies would ever roll out a proprietary exchange setup when there are better solutions available, at a significantly lower cost. Solutions that are more reliable, more secure and better supported cross platform.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      To this day I cannot fathom why companies would ever roll out a proprietary exchange setup when there are better solutions available, at a significantly lower cost. Solutions that are more reliable, more secure and better supported cross platform.

      Like?

      And this is the problem. Nobody has ever heard of it. And that's if you can name something that does even a significant fraction of what Exchange does.

      Email? Yes. Calendars, appointments, meetings, events, alerts, and schedules? Yep. Contact organizer? Sure. T

      • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by chipschap ( 1444407 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @11:18PM (#51253719)

        To be fair, there are FOSS solutions that do these things on a local/group basis. There's lots of groupware that provides most of these functions.

        But I do have to admit that Microsoft has the whole stack, if you want to buy into it and pay the price. I don't agree that the individual elements of the stack are anything like best in class, but the integration is definitely there, and it's scalable beyond most FOSS groupware (at least as far as I know the market).

      • Re:Really? (Score:4, Informative)

        by CrankyFool ( 680025 ) on Thursday January 07, 2016 @02:55AM (#51254079)

        We had Exchange and moved to Google Apps
        1. Email
        2. Calendars
        3. Contacts
        4. To-do lists
        5. IMs
        6. emailcontactscalendar integrations

        If we wanted something like Project or TFS or Sharepoint, that'd be a problem, but aside from those ... I'd say we got pretty much everything we wanted, and it works pretty darn well. We also don't have to admin it.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chas ( 5144 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @10:52PM (#51253649) Homepage Journal

      Outlook isn't the fucking problem, exchange and its bastardised architecture is.

      No. Outlook is also a fucking problem.

      The architecture of the data stores is an ongoing cluster-fuck.
      A single-file data file-based data store that's simply allowed to grow into obscene, unstable, performance destroying sizes.
      More-over, if you crash one of the files, your chances of actually recovering anything is somewhere between "Pray for a miracle" and "Just start over".

      • by DanJ_UK ( 980165 ) *
        Actually, I have to agree; the entire personal storage table system is a fucking joke.

        I would still argue that exchange has even more short comings though.
        • by Chas ( 5144 )

          True. I'm really not a fan of the crowded interface either.

          Something like Thunderbird is much easier to use.

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Nkwe ( 604125 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @11:48PM (#51253769)

        Outlook isn't the fucking problem, exchange and its bastardised architecture is.

        No. Outlook is also a fucking problem.

        The architecture of the data stores is an ongoing cluster-fuck. A single-file data file-based data store that's simply allowed to grow into obscene, unstable, performance destroying sizes. More-over, if you crash one of the files, your chances of actually recovering anything is somewhere between "Pray for a miracle" and "Just start over".

        When used in a corporate environment (with an Exchange server), the Outlook data store does not grow unbounded. Outlook caches a subset of your mailbox for potential offline use and the bulk of your data sits on the Exchange server. When online you can seamlessly search and access all of your past email; when offline you can access what you have cached. The Exchange server uses a fairly robust database which supports transaction logging and replication, and also has several recovery options if needed.

        • by mjm1231 ( 751545 )

          Yes, the default setting for Outlook 2013 is to only store one years worth of email. But it does not work the way you describe at all in regards to offline/online. Outlook simply shows you one years worth of email with this setting, period.

          This is annoyingly useless for any user who even occasionally needs to look at older emails. To view older mail, you have to change the cache settings, and restart Outlook.The setting is several clicks through account settings which most end users will not be familiar wit

          • by Nkwe ( 604125 )

            But it does not work the way you describe at all in regards to offline/online. Outlook simply shows you one years worth of email with this setting, period.

            This is annoyingly useless for any user who even occasionally needs to look at older emails. To view older mail, you have to change the cache settings [...]

            I don't experience this. When looking at the mail items in a folder (or a set of search results), you should see a link that reads "There are more items in this folder on the server Click here to to view more on Microsoft Exchange". A single click should redirect your search to the Exchange server and give you results across your entire email history. Microsoft knowledge base article describing this [microsoft.com]

    • That's debatable. I'm forced to use the latest Outlook Web Access client at work, and it is an unmitigated clusterfuck. gMail and its associated tools have really set that bar high.

    • Outlook isn't the fucking problem, exchange and its bastardised architecture is.

      To this day I cannot fathom why companies would ever roll out a proprietary exchange setup when there are better solutions available, at a significantly lower cost. Solutions that are more reliable, more secure and better supported cross platform.

      I Know??! It is terrible, expensive, and requires lots of proprietary in house help to keep it up.

      Now what if there was some other way where this couldn't be an issue? Like a bill. You pay a bill and someone outside on the internet magically manages it so you do not have to think about Exchange or even domains! You just pay online at some site and sign up for an email address and Outlook just works and you can save money by firing your IT team to boot. It's almost like someone wants it to be this way?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by swb ( 14022 )

        I'd argue that Microsoft wants it that way. I've installed and run Exchange since 2000 and by 2010 Microsoft mostly hit the sweet spot in terms of useful management interface and pretty damn good reliability and performance, especially for the large feature set it employed.

        But in 2010, they killed off the GUI management for a web interface that maybe does half of what even small organizations need in terms of admin, shunting the rest of their management intrerface to the overly verbose and Byzantine PowerS

    • Such as? You left a glaring omission in your post, ie the suggested alternative (and please don't say gmail, or Zimbra - they are lightweight by comparison)
      • It's email. It is supposed to be lightweight. Have you ever even read RFC822?
        • Exchange/Outlook isn't just email though, it's a messaging and collaboration solution. And people who use it do so because they want more than just email, they want to be able to book meetings, share calendars, see when colleagues are online or available, and all that stuff. In all my years I've never once heard a user say "I only want to use a product that conforms strictly to RFC822". Maybe this is where you are going wrong?
    • Haven't you heard. Windows is great! Most people use it, and that is proof that it is the bestest ever! If Linux and OS X were so great they'd have a bigger market share! Also, Ford Fiesta's are much better than Lamborghinis. Why else would so many more people own Fiestas than Lamborghinis?
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @10:42PM (#51253621)

    >> keeping traditional Outlook users (and IT administrators) happy while radically reworking software that hasn't seen a huge shakeup since 2003

    And...why would you want to do that? Microsoft Office has basically remained unchanged since the late 1990s and it's still raking in money. Outlook "competitors" like Thunderbird are still dropping like flies and you want to piss off your huge customer base to...what exactly? Follow Marissa down the tech drain?

  • And -now- we know who is responsible for the slow, downward spiral of what Outlook has turned into since the 2003 client. It's horrible! I regret ever upgrading to 16 from '07. But it's the "standard" in the industry, it's what everyone uses, so we've -got- to upgrade!

    Blah!

    It's good to know just whose responsible for this train wreck.

    Grr!

    • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @11:22PM (#51253729)

      yeah really.. I've never seen such a slow GUI on an MS product before. Whatever GUI widget they're grafting over win32 runs like a dog even on 4ghz cpus and powerful gpus.
      1. Scrolling is choppy an interactions have visible latency.
      2. There's too much white space.
      3. The layout is nearly impossible to memorize. What's worse is that it's obviously a kludge in progress: some of the dialogs that haven't been grafted yet hark back to the win32/mfc days, and ironically, they're still nice and quick.

      I don't want my desktop applications to behave like tablet apps. I want full functionality, no wasted space, and lightning fast interfaces. There's no excuse for not having that last one on modern machines.

      I've half considered moving (back) to pegasus mail for personal use on windows.
      http://www.pmail.com/ [pmail.com]

      • I call it the the WTFITA interface 'where the f is that again'?
      • I have very little knowledge about the inner working of Exchange, but I can second the issues with slowness and interface lag. I am amazed at the difference between the Outlook client and just opening the email page in chrome. When I open it in the browser everything is lightning fast, almost ludicrously so. Emails load in the preview page instantly and scrolling has zero delay, but in their actual client it takes an unbearable amount of time to load.

    • Shoot!

      I'll take Outlook 2016 over that malware infested .PST limit or lose 10 years of data to a screaming VP of that 2003 client ANY DAY! ... with the annoying exception of iCAL being no longer supported :-(

  • Outlook's search (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) on Wednesday January 06, 2016 @11:18PM (#51253721) Homepage

    The biggest problem with Outlook isn't the UI, it's that it stinks at search. It takes FOREVER to search all your folders if you have any significant amount of email, and what it does find is often not relevant.

    I for one am thankful that my company has moved to GMail for business.

    • Did you turn on Instant Search? Works for me with 5 GB of email.
      • If only 5 GB were a large email store!

        Yes, Instant Search helps somewhat, but it doesn't make the results any more relevant.

    • by amorsen ( 7485 ) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Thursday January 07, 2016 @02:33AM (#51254049)

      Search in Outlook is a complete joke. It sometimes works if you search for just one word, but as soon as I put two words in, I get so many results that it could just as well show the entire inbox.

      • by Malc ( 1751 )

        I've always used X1. Unbelievably fast searching hundreds of thousands of emails. The new UI in recent years is utter shit but the copy I have from about 2009 still works great.

    • THIS!

      I mean, you'd think they could figure out a way to, you know... add and index to your database file (PST)...

      In addition to that, another annoyance is the plugin integration with OWA (or whatever they are calling it these days... outlook on the web or something?). At the very least, this is confusing since Bing maps is one of the default OWA plugins and a lot of sigs contain address info... so you get this ribbon at the top of your e-mail asking you if you want to look up the address on Bing Maps, but t

  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Thursday January 07, 2016 @12:18AM (#51253811) Journal
    I recently had the latest and greatest Office 2016 foisted upon me.

    At best everything is harder to see (I mean, what's up with greyed out backgrounds for text boxes in Excel that used to be white? Sure it "looks nicer" but now you have to just "know" you can type there...)

    Moving strongly into the Windows 10 way of doing things, pretty much just means everything you want to do is an extra click or two away... and not obviously labeled.

    As far as Outlook in particular, it acts differently than all other apps for mousing over the minimize/maximize/close buttons - they don't highlight when the window doesn't have focus. If you have the non-gaudy color scheme, that makes it really hard to see.

    Everything in general is harder to see. Come on, this is a "work" app, it is not supposed to be subtle. I doubt anyone is using Outlook because they like the way it looks!

    I guess Microsoft is trying to catch up with Apple in skipping the "affordance" and "signifiers" steps of good design.
    • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Thursday January 07, 2016 @04:36AM (#51254239) Homepage

      I'll add more disagreements with Outlook that I've been complaining about since Mac Outlook 2011

      1) Mac versions *still* can't send in future (i.e., I know someone's in a meeting, I want them to see my mail pop up right as they get back to their desk 30m later without ... waiting) Windows Outlook has this, Mac doesn't.
      2) Just the other day my location bar dropdown stopped working (was curiously right after an update, and yes, I have rebooted since). This just sucks - I want my old meeting rooms and webex fixed URLs handy when I'm booking meetings!
      3) Still no ability (without a hack) to put bulleted lists in email replies. Seriously?!?
      4) No ability to email my calendar availability (again, Win Outlook can do it, Mac OL can't)
      5) Want to search multiple folders? Needs a 2nd click (i.e., I want to find an email either in my send or inbox, but that takes an extra 2 clicks). In Windows, you can default your search preferences.

  • Oh no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) <hackertourist@NoSPam.xmsnet.nl> on Thursday January 07, 2016 @04:00AM (#51254173)

    FTA:

    He pointed to the implementation of âoelikesâ and âoementionsâ in the Outlook clients as examples of changes that he thinks are helpful.

    In a sane world, that alone would disqualify him for the position.

  • by Kirth ( 183 ) on Thursday January 07, 2016 @04:58AM (#51254283) Homepage

    They never understood email. And the article is mostly about streamlining the UI (Which was enormously cluttered; which idiot had the idea you need to have html mark-up in emails anyway? No wonder...)

    Subsequent innovations, like the recent change to use MAPI over HTTP as the default connectivity protocol
    WTF?
    Yes, that explains everything. They still don't understand email.

  • ...keeping traditional Outlook users (and IT administrators) happy...

    So, in other words, Outlook is going to continue to suck.

  • Nothing short of a redesign from scratch could save what has one of the worst user interfaces in wide use today. Hardly better than Notes, which is notably horrible.
  • ...we need to provide some useful guidance to Microsoft.

    My problem is that like all "one-size-fits-all" products, Outlook is equally unusable by virtually anyone who tries to use it.

    To me, the first question: Is Outlook an eMail client, or is it a Personal Information Manager? I can use Gmail if all I want is to send/receive/categorize mail. But, what I want is an integrated PIM: My eMail, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks, all together in one common place, and integrated with each other. Why, for example,

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