Outlook Express in Windows Vista Beta 1

I’m the dev lead for Outlook Express.  I’m going to talk primarily about Outlook Express in this blog.  We released Windows Vista beta 1 a little while ago, and we are getting ready for beta 2.

Here are the big changes Outlook Express in Windows Vista beta 1:

  • New Database: 
    • Why do end users care?
      • Make migration easier (via drag & drop to a new machine),
      • Make backup easier (burn a directory to DVD-ROM),
      • Allow E-mails to show up in the shell.  Users can use the shell to search and organize them.
      • Stability.  We can prevent and recover from corruption problems with three levels of fallback.  No matter how perfect the software is, sooner or later the power plug can be accidentally unplugged or a laptop battery accidentally ejected while email is being saved.
    • Why do technical users care?
      • Public APIs: OE has always had the public IStoreNamespace API to allow the database content to be accessed.  Now that we switched to Extensible Storage Engine, those public APIs can be used to read & write to OE.  We still highly recommend using IStoreNamespace because it will verify database integrity that OE needs is maintained between the database tables.
      • The content is more accessible when the .eml files are stored separately.
  • Spam Filter: POP accounts can use a spam filter that is built into Windows Vista in beta 1.  This is the same engine that runs on Hotmail’s servers and in Outlook.  The version of the engine and database files are newer than Outlook.
  • Word Wheel: In the world of email, you can’t live without this feature.  Type a few letters or a few words and your list of email scopes down to messages that contain that text.  This search includes the bodies of email messages.
  • Shell Search includes E-mails: The shell can be used to search email.  You can make one search for “New York Vacation” and it will return emails, documents, pictures, etc.
  • E-mail Organized in the Shell: The shell allows organizing of files.  Email messages are now files and can be organized in the same was as pictures, documents, etc.
  • Microsoft Help Groups: Do you ever have a question or a problem with a product?  Outlook Express in Windows Vista has a newsgroup server (msnews.microsoft.com) installed by default.  We refer to it as “Microsoft Help Groups”.  You can select the products you care about (xbox, excel, powerpoint, Media Center, BizTalk, Visual Studio, PocketPC SmartPhone, etc.) and it will map a newsgroup for each product.  95% of questions are answered in 24-hours or less.  IT departments can set this up for desktops they deploy and subscribe products they install.  Advanced users often setup computers for family members that are novice computer users.  It’s very helpful to add the products that the novice user uses most often.  These newsgroups are accustomed to helping novice users solve their problems.

We have also made several small changes to Outlook Express, and fixed many bugs.  By far, the biggest change has been the new database.  The shell search and organize features couldn’t be possible without this work.

Most of our work has gone into quality.  In future blog posts, I’ll go into more detail.

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