More in Outlook

  • Mar 28, 2013

    Microsoft replaces OCAT with OffCAT (Office Configuration Analysis Tool) 1

    After proving that analyzing and comparing Outlook's configuration on a PC against "well-known" problems and other issues with OCAT, the same team produces OffCAT, which can now analyze and tell you what's wrong (or potentially wrong) with Access, Word, PowerPoint and Excel as well as Outlook. Sounds good... and it does work!...More
  • Feb 1, 2013

    Office 365 outages due to "routine maintenance" 1

    I wonder whether the "routine maintenance" issue that affected Office 365 today, including Exchange Online, was a symptom of some of the preparatory work that Microsoft needs to do for the forthcoming migration to the Wave 15 set of products....More
  • Jan 15, 2013

    The meaning of FYDIBOHF23SPDLT

    Have you ever wondered why different places in Exchange 2007, Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013 still refer to a now-archaic structure called an administrative group that was used as the foundation for server management in Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003? Even stranger, the administrative group features the strange string “FYDIBOHF23SPDLT” that’s exposed if you perform operations such as examining the legacyExchangeDN of a mailbox....More
  • Jan 10, 2013

    Exchange, EAS, and Outlook 2013 3

    Those who pay attention to details (unlike me often) might have noticed that Outlook 2013 rejoices in its ability to connect to email servers using ActiveSync (EAS). And then they ask the question why can’t they connect Outlook 2013 to Exchange via EAS? After all, if EAS is good enough for Hotmail (aka, why isn’t it good enough for Exchange? After all, EAS worked in the preview version of Outlook 2013, so the block was introduced between the preview and final version....More
  • Dec 6, 2012

    OWA 2013: Good Enough to Replace Outlook? 3

    With the release of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, it's perhaps time again to turn some attention to Outlook Web App (OWA). As usual, the Exchange team devoted some useful development time to providing enhancements to OWA 2013. The new ability for offline mail access has probably received the most attention, but other interesting changes include the dramatically simplified UI and the ability to integrate apps with OWA (which also applies to the Outlook 2013 desktop client). The question naturally arises about whether OWA is good enough to allow companies to abandon Outlook on the desktop in favor of OWA. First, let's examine the new features a little closer to see what benefits they bring. So, offline access. You can use OWA to read and respond to email even when you have no network connection, which could be great. However, this feature is possible only with the very latest browsers -- Internet Explorer 10, Safari 5, and Chrome 18 -- and enabling offline access is sure to require a good deal of end-user training to avoid security problems. Whether this feature is truly a boon remains to be seen, but in the short term, I suspect many organizations would rather avoid u...More
  • Nov 6, 2012

    Outlook's missing picture compression feature 3

    It seems so long ago now, but when Outlook 2003 and Exchange 2003 combined to introduce “cached Exchange mode”, the new capability fundamentally influenced the way people could work with Outlook by insulating the client from the vagaries of network connections. Sure, it didn’t make a lot of difference when you had a nice solid Ethernet connection, but suddenly working on a flaky dial-up link (for those who remember such things) or even Wi-Fi suddenly became a lot easier. I don’t think it is stressing the point too much to say that without cached Exchange mode, it would be impossible to work with a cloud-based solution such as Exchange Online. Reliable as the Internet is today (in relative terms), there are still too many hiccups, drops, and other unexplained connectivity drops to allow work to proceed smoothly. Outlook 2003 introduced many other interesting features that I have grown to appreciate over time. For example, drizzle mode synchronization makes it possible for Outlook to keep a complete mailbox synchronized without affecting the responsiveness of the client to user input. And Outlook 2003 was the first client to support RPC-over-HTTP, the basis of Outlook Anywhere (OA). For those who haven’t heard, Exchange 2013 makes OA the only method that Outlook clients can connect to Exchange as RPC/TCP “direct MAPI” connectivity has been removed in Microsoft’s drive to simplify the server. Of course, Outlook 2003 isn’t supported by Exchange 2013 at all....More
  • Oct 18, 2012

    Coping with Swelling Mailboxes: Why Outlook 2013 Changes Caching

    It’s always fun to try and understand the logic followed by developers when they add features to a new version of a well-established product, especially when they change the behaviour of the product. I wrote about the change in OST caching enabled in Outlook 2013 Preview on September 6 and concluded that the way that Outlook 2013 only cached a year’s email by default had the potential to confuse users. People generally don’t like it when email vanishes, even when there’s a good reason why this happens, as in the case when Exchange 2010’s Managed Folder Assistant (MFA) diligently processes mailboxes according to retention policies. The “disappearing mail” syndrome can generate many help desk calls along the line of “I know I had that email yesterday and now it’s gone. Please get it back for me”. Outlook 2013 also changes the internal format of the OST to compress some data fields in an attempt to make the file smaller on-disk. You can’t argue that there is goodness here because large mailboxes lead to larger OSTs and the OST file format has never been the fastest. However, the downside here is the need to recreate OSTs to compress data. Easy enough to do when you have ten or so PCs to upgrade; much harder and demanding of network bandwidth when hundreds of PCs start to run Outlook 2013. Given the obvious problems that can be anticipated when the time comes to deploy the client, why have the Outlook developers decided to change the OST format and the way Outlook caches data...More
  • Oct 4, 2012

    Outlook 2013 introduces hybrid cached mode

    One of the nice things about attending the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) is the chance to sit down with development engineers to learn about the software they’re working on. Karim Batthish introduced me to Allie Bellew because he wanted me to know about a new feature that’s coming in Outlook 2013. The problem that they are trying to solve is to provide users with quicker access to data when working in cached mode. As you might recall, Outlook 2013 changes its cached model to allow users to selectively keep a certain amount of data cached in the local OST while the remainder is held in the online mailbox. The theory here is that as we deal with larger and larger mailboxes, it doesn’t make much sense to keep everything cached because users really only need access to their most recent data. In any case, Outlook 2013 includes “hybrid mode”, which means that it’s got the ability to switch between cached and online data to display information to the user faster. The gate is 400ms, measured when the user logs on and connects to Exchange and updated when the user switches folders. If the network connection is good enough, Outlook can switch into hybrid mode to fetch data from the server and if not, access the OST. The thought might cross your mind that it’s always going to be faster to access information from a local source, especially when the OST is held on a SSD. This is true: local cached information is always faster and Outlook prefers to get data from the OST if possibl...More
  • Jul 24, 2012

    First impressions of Outlook 2013 Preview

    As I noted on July 16, alongside every new release of Exchange you’re almost certain to find a new release of Outlook. And so it is with Exchange 2013 as we have a preview release of Outlook 2013 to play with. I downloaded the Office 2013 Professional Plus Preview and installed it onto my work PC (running Windows 8). After all, you might as well use software for real work if you’re to discover its strengths and weaknesses. The upgrade installation was painless, which is always a good thing. My Office 365 and Hotmail accounts were imported and everything seemed to work. However, then I noticed that I had two Hotmail accounts, one using Exchange ActiveSync (the new approach to synchronization), the other using the older Hotmail Connector for Outlook, which uses MAPI and is now deemed to be obsolete.Hotmail has supported ActiveSync for quite a while now and it makes sense to move to a common approach to synchronization across all platforms, which is after all the reason why ActiveSync exists. Unfortunately the ActiveSync version didn’t work so well, so I edited the account properties to point it to, which is the access point that I’ve used successfully with mobile phones in the past. Outlook proclaimed itself happy with the change and everything promptly started to work. I then cleaned up by deleting the entry for the other Hotmail account. The only add-on for Outlook that I use consistently is TechHit’s Twinbox for Outlook, which integrates Twitter into Outlook. The upgrade procedure detected Twinbox and migrated it across to Outlook 2013 and the add-in has continued to work as before. Score one to Microsoft for excellent backwards compatibility for this add-in. I’ll say up front that I’m not altogether convinced that the new Metro-style interface is more attractive or productive than the one used by Outlook 2010. And by the way, I still see the same number of Outlook synchronization logs as with Outlook 2010, so it doesn’t look as if much prog...More
  • Jul 19, 2012

    Exchange 2013 Preview: A Strange, Stealth Launch, But Take a Look

    We've entered a new era, people, through the looking glass, and all that -- in so many interesting ways. It starts with the stealth launch of the Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Preview earlier this week. Microsoft buried this news under the high-profile launch event for the new Microsoft Office suite. The 2013 versions of SharePoint and Lync, which are also now available as Preview editions, both were called out during that event, but Exchange 2013 was entirely absent.What I find so unusual is how Exchange Server has been relegated to the weeds, in a sense, much like Windows Server 2012 was during the Windows 8 launch a couple weeks ago. Microsoft has definitely chosen to go with a more consumer-focused face at the moment. On the other hand, the low profile given to Exchange during this launch might be Microsoft's attempt to save the excitement for what they'll be presenting at MEC in September. Still, the fact that there hasn't even been a write up on the Exchange Team Blog as yet almost makes it seem like the team members themselves were taken by surprise....More

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