The improvements in Outlook 2007 amount to a touch-up rather than a retooling. Still, after surmounting a few glitches in the conversion from Outlook 2003, we came to appreciate the interface enhancements to the Message, Compose and other windows. To integrate instant messaging and collaborate in ways other than sharing online calendars, you'll need Windows Sharepoint Services running on a Microsoft Exchange server. Outlook remains less integrated than you might expect a communications program to be; it still lacks easy links to non-Microsoft messaging and collaboration tools.
Click here to read our review of Office 2007.
Ribbon is a winner
The ribbon interface appears in Outlook 2007 when you open a message, calendar or task entry, or compose mail. The ribbon's tabbed categories make composing email very similar to using a word processor. And we like the 'ghost' menu that appears when you highlight an item, allowing on-the-fly format changes to be made.
Another appealing addition is the To-Do Bar, which appears when you double-click on a task or calendar entry. It offers a snapshot of your appointments for the day and a quick summary of your most pressing tasks.
When you first open Outlook 2007, you'll be prompted to import mail from old accounts. Our mail, contacts, calendar and tasks imported without a hitch from Outlook 2003, but we hit a snag installing the Instant Search component. Once Windows Genuine Advantage had validated our PC we downloaded Windows Desktop Search 3.0. But the software wouldn't install as Terminal Services weren't active. And there was no indication of how to activate the service. Should you encounter a similar issue, go to Administrative Tools, Services, double-click on Terminal Services under Local Services and choose Automatic under Startup Type.
Outlook 2007's Instant Search box then appears just above the message headers in the inbox. Search allows you to hunt through mail, attachments, calendar entries and tasks - much as you could using the Windows Desktop Search box in previous incarnations.
What has changed In Outlook 2007 is that you can preview image, text and other files via a thumbnail, before opening them. You can't preview PDF files, however, despite Outlook prompting users to retrieve a plug-in from Microsoft's site. Instead, it suggests third-party vendors will quickly create one.
We encountered another glitch with the redirect we'd set for Outlook 2003 to import mail from a Gmail account. Outlook 2007 couldn’t access the account. Reactivating webmail access, opening Account Settings and clicking on Repair solved the problem.