Wondering what's new with the software that has revolutionized the way mankind manages email? Microsoft recently released its Office 2007 software to the world. We, the CEans, are proud to have Jessica Arnold (Microsoft® Outlook® Product Manager) on CrazyEngineers!
CE: Hello Jessica, you are the Microsoft Office Outlook Product Manager. Tell us about your job.
Jessica: As the product manager, I speak to customers, partners, press and analysts about the current version of Outlook and in those conversations I receive valuable feedback about their experience with Outlook. With this information, I work with the Outlook product group to decide which features we should put into future versions of the product that will address customer needs. I also work to message the final product and build a common way to talk about the features and advances in the product to different audiences: consumers, IT managers, CEOs, etc.
CE: Outlook 2007 was launched all over the world in January. How is the response so far?
Jessica: The response has been great. We had millions of people download the public Beta last summer and are seeing a really strong number of people downloading the free online trial as well as taking advantage of the new online test drive. The online test drive is great for an easy, lightweight experience since you are essentially logging into a virtual machine that already has sample data in Outlook as well as a connection to Exchange 2007.
CE: What were the main areas of focus while working on Outlook 2007?
Jessica: Four years ago, our planning team began an investigation into the trends in email in the workplace and in the home. Not surprisingly, they found that workers everywhere are tasked with managing increasing amounts of e-mail and other information daily. Most of us are overwhelmed by the volume of e-mail we receive and waste valuable time trying to locate needed information. Adding to the difficulty, tasks are often contained within e-mail, making it hard to track and manage them. Projects can also contain tasks in multiple locations, dispersing information and delaying decision making.
From this research, we sat down as a team to understand what we could do to help alleviate some of the pains these workers were feeling. To help you better manage your time and information, Office Outlook 2007 offers a number of new and improved features, from Instant Search to integrating tasks on the calendar. These features make it easier for you to locate, manage, prioritize, and act on the volumes of information you deal with every day.
CE: We would like to know about the 'Instant Search' feature in Outlook 2007...
Jessica: The technology behind Instant Search is shared technology among four Microsoft products: Outlook 2007, OneNote 2007, Windows Vista and Windows Desktop Search. When Outlook 2007 is used on Windows XP, it requires the Windows Desktop Search indexing engine to be installed which will also give you the most up-to-date desktop search toolbar as well. When Outlook 2007 is used on Windows Vista, the indexing engine is shared right from the start so you can begin using Instant Search right away.
With new and powerful integrated Instant Search, you can quickly locate the information you need, whether it’s in your e-mail, calendar, contacts, or tasks. Type in a keyword, and Instant Search quickly searches your Outlook data, highlighting the locations where that search term appears. Instant Search does “word-wheeling”, which means that results begin to appear as soon as you start typing your search terms.
Instant Search can search broadly across all your Outlook items and folders, or you can specify a search within a particular folder in a given location. Instant Search even searches for keywords within e-mail attachments. You also have the flexibility to create queries with different Outlook criteria like date, from, color categories, mail importance, and more, and Instant Search finds and delivers the results.
CE: How is IE 7.0 connected with Outlook 2007?
Jessica: The main point of integration between Internet Explorer 7.0 and Outlook 2007 is in the area of RSS Feeds. You can synchronize your RSS Feeds in Outook 2007 with the feeds you subscribe to in IE 7.0. Additionally, you can select for Outlook to cache the entire article locally so that you can launch the full article in a Internet Explorer browser window even if you’re offline.
CE: How does Outlook deal with Phishing & Spam?
Jessica: There are two key ways that Outlook has improved the technology behind blocking phishing emails or spam. One way is a new technology called Outlook email postmark and the second are improvements to the anti-phishing technologies in Outlook.
Outlook E-Mail Postmark is a new technology from Microsoft to help curb junk mail. This technology asks the sender’s computer to perform a computation or puzzle, and then assigns this work as a token of legitimacy to the mail. Creating an Outlook E-Mail Postmark makes it difficult and time-intensive for spammers to send mass e-mail, but does not change your experience when sending legitimate e-mail.
When an e-mail with a postmark is received by Outlook 2007, the system can easily verify the validity of that message (taking into account some of the unique characteristics of the message) and delivers the message to either your inbox or junk e-mail folder, as appropriate. If the postmark is valid, then this is evidence that the sender’s computer incurred a certain cost in sending this message and as a result, a message with a postmark ends up in the inbox rather than in the junk e-mail folder.
Outlook 2007 does not create e-mail postmarks when:
• The recipients are entirely within your organization.
• The message is signed, information rights management–protected, or encrypted.
• You have chosen to turn off this feature as an option during deployment.
Microsoft is committed to helping protect you from junk e-mail and from accidentally revealing personal information to Internet criminals. Outlook 2007 features an improved junk e-mail filter that sorts out even more unwanted e-mail. There is also new enhanced protection against phishing or fraudulent e-mails that trick you into divulging personal information. Outlook 2007 tracks suspicious e-mail messages and helps protect you by automatically disabling links within them until you approve them. You are warned of potentially threatening or malicious sites from within the mail.
CE: What is 'Smart Scheduling' in Outlook 2007?
Jessica: Smart Scheduling is an improved way for scheduling meetings that is only enabled in Outlook 2007 when it is connected to Exchange Server 2007. Exchange Server 2007 looks at the attendee list and recommends an ideal meeting time and location.
A number of other improvements in Outlook 2007 make the calendaring experience easier for people using Exchange Server 2003 or Exchange Server 2007. When changes are made to the meeting location or agenda, you receive an informational update rather than having to reaccept the meeting. Additionally, Outlook 2007 highlights the changes in the meeting update, making it easier to locate the information that has been modified. All of these changes were designed to make scheduling and updating meetings easier for both the organizer and the attendee.
CE: How does your QA team test Outlook? Can you give us insights of load/performance testing that you did on Outlook 2007?
Jessica: Our test team slices up the many intricately complex areas of the Outlook code based on user scenarios, vertical features, horizontal architecture components, reliability crash and hang reports from Watson and Service Quality Monitoring, and tracks each issue to the best of our abilities as a team. Our program management team prioritizes the bugs based on customer impact and severity, and then our development team iterates on these bugs. Once the bug is fixed, the test team gives it a second look to make sure the same reproduction steps don’t continue to reproduce the same bug, and meticulously closes each issue in priority order. Toward the close of the release cycle as we get ready to release the product to the public, our test team has a formal sign-off process where the highest priority scenarios have been tested and confirmed to work as expected. When the test team completes sign-off, we hand the build to the burn lab and call it a release !
CE: Thank you, Jessica. We are glad to have you on CrazyEngineers. What is your message to CEans?
Jessica: I’d like to thank everyone for their interest in Outlook and encourage you to install the free trial or take the online test drive to experience some of the features that I’ve discussed above for yourself.
After installing Outlook 2007 please be sure to sign up for the Customer Experience Improvement Program and send us your error reports. It’s the best way for us to get information to improve the product!
There is more information about Outlook 2007 here: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook/FX100487751033.aspx
CrazyEngineers.com is thankful to Jessica & the whole Microsoft Outlook Team for taking out time to talk to us.