Although reports of new security holes in Microsoft products seem never-ending, one thing you don't see much of anymore are complaints about Microsoft Office Outlook. With the release of Microsoft Office 2003, which includes the latest version of Outlook--Microsoft Office Outlook 2003--Microsoft has done a good job of fixing bugs and keeping the software updated.

One feature that rarely gets the mention it deserves is Outlook 2003's Junk E-mail Filter. In the time I've used it (since the release of Office 2003), I've found that the Junk E-mail Filter is about 98 percent accurate in the messages it identifies as junk and lets only about 2 percent of the junk mail get through to my second-level spam filter. For me, this means that Outlook 2003's Junk E-mail Filter catches about 1500 messages per week. I'm confident enough in the tool that I no longer check my Junk folder; I just dump it every couple of days. Even my biggest problem with spam filtering--the numerous email press releases I receive (which the filters treat as spam) have rarely caused trouble for the Junk E-mail Filter. Email press releases are almost always caught by my second-level spam filter, but I don't mind that; it lets me add the senders' names to my approved list if they're sending me press releases I want, or leave them as spam if I don't want them.

Outlook 2003 Update Tips
In fact, the Outlook 2003 Junk E-mail Filter works so well that I don't even really think about it any more. What called my attention to it was my monthly visit to the Microsoft Windows Office Update Web site, where I found an update for the Outlook Junk E-mail Filter. Installing the update reminded me of my biggest complaint with the Office updating process: the necessity of having the original installation CD-ROM available when you install an update. This is an annoyance to me--and to many small businesses--because I'm responsible for multiple computers that have various versions of Office 2003 installed. Some of the computers came with one version of Office 2003; others have different versions that I installed when I set them up--ranging from the basic Office 2003 to Microsoft Office Professional Enterprise Edition 2003.

You can sometimes circumvent the need for having the installation media for the specific Office version by using the full installation version of the Office updates. You can obtain this version by clicking the More information link that's under the update's description, then click the link in the sentence "A full-file administrative update for use by IT Administrators...." You can download the update to a local drive, which is handy if you have multiple computers to update and the update is a large (multimegabyte) one; then, you don't need to download the update for every computer that requires it. You might be interested in a Microsoft Web site that's dedicated to updating Microsoft Office from an administrator perspective--if so, check out the Office Admin Update Center.