Microsoft released the first update for Outlook 2002 last month, only 4 weeks after the initial retail launch. Pessimists will probably contend this update shows the product was deeply flawed from the outset. As an optimist, I see the update as Microsoft's new effort to get important fixes out quickly instead of waiting months for the next service release or burying them as quick-fix engineering (QFE) patches that require a call to Microsoft Product Support.

For the previous two versions, Outlook 2000 and Outlook 98, Microsoft issued a handful of public updates, primarily to fix security and potential data-loss issues, plus a service release and a service pack for Outlook 2000. Although the stated focus of the Product Updates site is "security, stability, and critical functionality," the Outlook notice of June 21, 2001, seems to offer something for almost everyone. It solves performance problems for Microsoft Exchange Server users, especially those who use Instant Messaging (IM). It also fixes a problem with passwords for Internet accounts not being saved.

Surprisingly, the update adds a feature that was available to users of Outlook 2000 Service Release 1/1a (SR1/1a) in Internet Mail Only mode, but didn't make it into the Outlook 2002 release. When a Rules Wizard rule moves an item from the Inbox to another folder, the folder list now expands to show the folder that contains the unread message. This change is the kind I'd previously expected to see only in a service release. I hope this change means that Microsoft is paying attention to user feedback about Outlook 2002.

The easiest way for a standalone user to get these Office 2002 updates is to use the Office on the Web command on the Help menu of any Office 2002 product to take you to the first URL at the end of this column, where you'll see a Product Updates link. Follow that link, and the Product Updates site automatically analyzes your machine to see which updates you need, much as the Windows Update site does for OS patches. The detection method sends no information about you or your computer to Microsoft.

Administrators who want to deploy these updates can get them from the Office Resource Kit. Get detailed information about how to deploy the June 21 update via an administrative share point by using the second URL at the end of this column.

One Office XP feature that should let Microsoft roll out critical fixes more quickly is the product's built-in crash reporting. If an Office application crashes, the user can send a detailed report to Microsoft. Because these reports contain information about the local machine, possibly including files involved in the crash, administrators might want to use the Corporate Error Reporting tool in the Office XP Resource Kit instead. This tool sends the error reports first to an inhouse server, where the administrator can review them and decide what information to forward to Microsoft.

Last week's UPDATE included a stale URL for the Team Folders download. The correct one is the third URL at the end of this column. Once again, I wonder why Microsoft doesn't use redirects more extensively when it rearranges its Web site. With many redirects in place, the recent Office Update site reorganization made it easy for people to find the new location of pages that they might have bookmarked previously.

On the other hand, the recent restructuring of the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and Microsoft TechNet sites provided no redirects and left many pages effectively orphaned from related content because the feature that lets you locate a page in the table of contents didn't always work. Further, MSDN dropped its home page for Outlook developers.

http://office.microsoft.com/assistance
http://www.microsoft.com/office/ork/xp/journ/olxp6-21.htm
http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/downloads/2000/TFWizard.asp