Forward email from your desktop to your mobile device

In "Wireless Email," May 2001, I discussed email forwarding as a way to enable mobile email. Now, Microsoft has packaged this capability for Outlook users—provided those users get their mail from a Microsoft Exchange Server machine. The product is Microsoft Outlook Mobile Manager (MOMM), and you can download the 6MB file for free from http://www.microsoft.com/miserver/downloads/omm.asp.

MOMM depends on SMTP forwarding, which means that it expects the Exchange 2000 Server or Exchange Server 5.5 server to forward mail to an Internet address that represents a mobile device. Obvious security concerns accompany the reliance on such a process, and Microsoft provides instructions for how to limit your exposure—see "Important Information for IT Managers" on the MOMM download page.

To test MOMM, you'll need a mobile device that has an SMTP address. If you don't have a mobile device, I recommend another free download: the Microsoft Mobile Explorer (MME) Emulator, which I discussed in "Mobile and Wireless Emulators," June 2001. You can download MME from http://www.microsoft.com/mobile/phones/mme. (I used the MME Emulator for a portion of my testing.) If you don't have a server for testing, you can enable a VMware virtual server; for instructions, see the Web-exclusive sidebar "Setting Up a Virtual Server" at http://www.win2000mag.com, InstantDoc ID 22246. Now, let's see what MOMM can do.

Putting MOMM to the Test
The MOMM installation process prompts you for a mail profile—and the utility is touchy about which type of mail profile. To examine the profiles available on the client, open Windows 2000's Control Panel Mail applet and click Show Profiles. MOMM requires a profile that contains only an Exchange account. The profile can't contain any .pst files. To check whether a profile contains a .pst file, select the profile and click Properties. If the listed services include Personal Folders, then the profile includes one or more .pst files and won't work with MOMM. If necessary, you can create a new profile for MOMM's use. Click Cancel to close the Properties dialog box of the profile you inspected. Select Add to create a new profile, and follow the prompts to create a profile that uses only Exchange.

Now, you need to configure Outlook so that you can select the profile at startup. To do so, select Tools, Options to access the Options dialog box. Go to the Mail Services tab and click the Prompt for a profile to be used radio button under Startup Settings. Click OK to close the Options dialog box and select File, Exit, Log Off to shut down Outlook.

After you complete the MOMM installation, the utility appears as a small telephone icon in the system tray (in which Task Manager resides). Double-clicking the icon produces a display that resembles a Web page, as Figure 1, page 130, shows. The Overview section verifies that MOMM is working. If you've selected the option for laptop installation, you can click Turn On Delivery to establish a connection with the server.

To customize the way MOMM delivers messages, click My Profiles in the upper left corner. (MOMM's profiles aren't the same as the mail profiles that I discussed earlier.) Each of the four MOMM profiles—Work, Home, Out of Office, and Do Not Disturb—lets you customize the length of time that the software holds messages before delivery, the priority of mail that the software delivers, and the function of Outlook's reminder messages. Each profile also lets you configure the software to forward any mail messages copied to the Mobile Inbox folder (which MOMM creates as a subfolder of your regular Exchange Inbox). This capability lets you use Outlook's Rules Wizard to customize message delivery in ways beyond MOMM's scope.

To further customize message delivery, click My Device to access an amazing feature called IntelliShrink. This feature eliminates unnecessary items from messages. Determining what constitutes an "unnecessary" item is up to you: You can, for example, remove excess white space, abbreviate long words, remove all spaces and standard punctuation, and remove vowels. You can also choose to break long messages into bite-sized chunks.

To choose how many messages you want to forward—or to reset that number—click Message Limits (also under My Device). This feature lets you avoid excess message-forwarding charges. To determine how the software identifies senders and to forward phone numbers along with messages, click Sender Information under My Device.

To change the mail profile and SMTP server that the software uses to transfer mail, and to change the connection type, select Connector under My Device. MOMM supports Microsoft Mobile Information Server (MIS)—in addition to Exchange—as a back end. Changing the connection type requires you to shut down and restart MOMM.

To teach MOMM to selectively forward certain messages to your mobile device, you can use MOMM's Learning feature. After you install MOMM, Outlook offers a new Mobile Manager menu, which contains two entries—Mark Message(s) as Urgent and Mark Message(s) as Non-urgent. You can use these entries to identify messages that you do and don't want the software to copy to your device. After you mark messages, you can switch back to MOMM's display and click Learning to view the messages that you've marked as urgent and nonurgent. After you click Learn Now, MOMM uses these messages as a guide to determine which future messages to forward. By default, MOMM prompts you to mark messages before you can delete them from Outlook. I found this requirement annoying, so I clicked Learning Options, Outlook Display and cleared the Warn me when deleting unmarked messages check box.

The final option in the upper left corner of MOMM's main window is Help. This page lets you check the availability of upgrades and provides standard Microsoft product support information. (MOMM also automatically checks for new versions at Startup.) The next page, Troubleshooting, provides a display that resembles a Win2K event log; this display can be invaluable for identifying mail-delivery problems. The option to log all messages to a file will be particularly helpful for administrators who need to debug problems.

Disappointed with MOMM
The helpful logging feature leads me to two great MOMM disappointments: First, MOMM reveals an astonishing lack of remote-management features, even though MOMM is a client-server application that depends on a back end (i.e., Exchange or MIS) for operation. The software offers no controls that would let IT override end-user settings or enforce corporate policies. (Obvious policy examples are the capability to forbid forwarding of messages marked confidential and the capability to restrict particular users from forwarding messages to certain email domains.) At the very least, MOMM should integrate the error log on the Troubleshooting page with the Win2K event log so that it permits remote inspection.

The second disappointment is personal. Microsoft has designed MOMM to work with messages that only an Exchange account receives. Most of my mail arrives on a local ISP account. Outlook supports both mail types. My default mail profile includes both Internet mail and my local Exchange server's Inbox, but MOMM forwarded only Exchange messages.

I created a workaround for this limitation. Create two mail profiles: one that lists only the Exchange server (use it to get MOMM working) and another that combines both Exchange and Internet mail. In MOMM, select My Profiles, and select the Send Messages from the Mobile Inbox Folder check box for any profiles you're using. Now, you can use Outlook's Rules Wizard to set up rules to transfer messages to your Mobile Inbox—at which point MOMM takes over, applies IntelliShrink to the messages, and forwards the result to your mobile device. I created a rule called "Mobile Move-a-Copy," which forwards a copy of any message in which my name appears in the To or Cc field. This rule effectively overrides all of MOMM's more sophisticated features—it doesn't learn which messages to send, and it doesn't check the messages' priority—but it lets me forward Internet messages while still reaping the benefits of IntelliShrink's nifty formatting capabilities.

Despite my mixed feelings about MOMM, the technologies that it provides—especially IntelliShrink—are marvelous, and the ability to send only specific mail to a mobile device fills a major need. I hope Microsoft keeps working on MOMM, both to make it more manageable and to make its capabilities available to a wider range of users—including those who use non-Exchange email systems. In the meantime, if you can tolerate its limitations, MOMM is worth a look.