Administrators are starting to wonder what Outlook 11, due in mid-2003, will offer them in terms of deployment tools and new settings. A session at MEC earlier this month provided an overview of some new deployment options.

The primary deployment tools remain the Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard in the Microsoft Office Resource Kit. Not only can these tools create the files needed for initial deployments and subsequent updates of Outlook and other Office applications, but they also can create .prf files to create or update mail profiles.

Perhaps the key new option is the ability to instruct Outlook to create a local copy of the user's Exchange mailbox, enabling the new "cached Exchange" mode in which Outlook uses the local copy of the mailbox even when the user is working online. Microsoft presenters explained that even though cached Exchange improves client performance and reduces network traffic, users should continue to use the traditional online or offline connection mode in some situations. For example, cached Exchange is inappropriate for users who use roving profiles so that they can log on and get their mail from any machine in the building. These users should stick with a classic pure online connection, with no offline store.

Another case for which you probably shouldn't use the cached Exchange mode is a user with a 4GB mailbox. You probably don't want that user to create a full 4GB replica of the mailbox on a laptop. The user can continue to use a mail profile with an .ost file set up to synchronize only certain key folders for offline use. For users who work offline, Outlook 11 lets administrators configure default send/receive group settings to control how the default Exchange mailbox folders (such as Inbox, Calendar, and Contacts) synchronize with the .ost file. Another setting determines whether Outlook downloads the entire Offline Address Book or the OAB with just names and addresses and no details.

A new option in the Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard lets administrators limit the size of .pst files that the user creates. Outlook 11 sets no practical size limit for .pst files; it uses a new Unicode-compatible .pst format to support .pst files as large as about 33TB. The default maximum size in Outlook 11 for the new Unicode .pst files is 20GB. For older .pst files without Unicode support, the default maximum size is 1.8MB, the maximum physical size. Another new .pst-related setting in the Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard lets administrators set the default location for .pst files. Currently, new .pst files default to the \Local Settings\Application Data folder in the user's profile folder.

Outlook 11 supports remote procedure call (RPC) over HTTP connections to Exchange, letting users access their mailboxes over the Internet without the need for a VPN. The Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard contain corresponding options for adding an RPC over HTTP connection to the mail profile and setting the connection URL. (RPC over HTTP connections require the next version of Exchange, code-named Titanium, and a Windows update on the client to ensure that proper authentication occurs.)

Another new feature with support in the Custom Installation Wizard and Custom Maintenance Wizard is called HTML External Mail Content Control. This feature blocks HTML messages from loading images and other content directly from the Internet and stymies one of the spammers' most recent tricks to avoid detection—loading all the content into the page at viewing time, leaving nothing in the message that might trigger an antispam detection program. The feature also prevents a so-called "Web bug" from reporting back to its author that you've seen a particular message.