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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The More the Merrier!
Outlook 2010 as an e-mail juggulator?

This Tech-Tip is one of those "shake my head in wonder" blog entries.  Microsoft has - apparently - whipped out BOTH of its trusty six-shooters, taken careful aim at BOTH its feet and pulled the triggers. . . .

Now, fair is fair, and Microsoft HAS been trying to be more sensitive to customers needs.  This is made especially obvious in Office / Outlook 2010 - where there is a major paradigm shift in the way mail-files are handled on local machines.

To make it easier to migrate Outlook 2010 from machine to machine, Microsoft has decided to encapsulate a lot of the mail preferences in the user's e-mail, (.pst), file - instead of scattering them willy-nilly all over the user's system.  You pick up the .pst file from the system you are migrating from, drop it onto the system you are migrating to, and Voila!  90% of the work is done.

Except for one teeny, tiny, little thing. . . . .

Certain mail-account metadata is now being captured in the .pst file too.  And, usually, that would be a good thing - the .pst file contains not only your mail and preferences, but a record of what mail has been read from the server, etc. etc. etc.  This way, when you start up Outlook on your new computer, you don't necessarily get twenty-thousand e-mails all over again.

But there is a small hiccup with this idea:  Someone clever at Microsoft had the brilliant idea that no-one would ever dream of associating multiple mail accounts to a single mail, (.pst), file - right?  And because absolutely NOBODY would be that stupid, there is no reason to store more than one mail account's data in the .pst file!  Of course, if you DO have multiple mail accounts, the metadata that gets stored is the data from the last account accessed.

Unfortunately Outlook has allowed multiple mail accounts to be aggregated into a single .pst file for decades.  They even support it by asking if you want to re-use a pre-existing mail file when you create the 2nd or 34th, mail account.

So, if you're sharing e-mail between two computers, (as I often do), I set the "master" computer to delete e-mails when read - but the "slave" computer is set to "leave messages on server" so that the master computer can - eventually - get them.  This makes all my mail-file migrations one-way affairs, master-to-slave, so I don't accidentally obliterate my mail files if I screw this up.

The problem should now be obvious!

If we assume that I have three different e-mail accounts; "a", "b", and "c" - they all get frequent e-mails, and the slave machine is set to not delete them from the server, then we have a big problem. . . .

I launch Outlook 2010 on the slave machine, and it reads e-mail accounts a, b, and c; gathering new e-mails from each account.  Since "c" was the LAST account read, the read list for "c" is preserved, while the lists for "a" and "b" are discarded when Outlook exits.

The next time I launch Outlook on this machine, it realizes that all the e-mail from "c" has been read, so it leaves that alone - but since it has NO CLUE about account "a" or "b" - it blithely re-reads all that mail again.

The next time Outlook starts, since "b" was last, it re-reads all of the "a" and "c" e-mails!

So, depending on which account "just happened" to get the last e-mail, you end up with a round-robin re-reading of every blasted e-mail on those servers - until they get deleted.

The TechNet forums discuss this - and Microsoft says that having more than one mail account associated with a single .pst file will cause this because of the "new" way Outlook 2010 associates mail-account metadata with the .pst file.

Sigh. . . .  Out comes the 9mm Glock and they take aim at their feet. . . .

There's a whole host of complaints about this on the Office/Outlook forums - hopefully Microsoft will come up with a patch or fix for this REAL SOON.


What say ye?



  1. Unusable product. I was really, really stupid to migrate clients' computers to Office 2010 Pro. Now getting endless support calls that CANNOT be solved because of Microsoft's genius. The so-called "productivity enhancer" is a lemon.

  2. I totally agree with you - calling this an abysmal user experience is a masterpiece of understatement.

    The big problem *I* have is back-revving to 2007 or 2003 - can I even do that without trashing all the mail files? This question becomes especially relevant because M$ loves to update the format of the file from release to release - making downgrading a dicey move at best. And I just can't afford to trash my mail files because of a format upgrade. . . .

    What say ye?


  3. I had a very similar experience, I tried to migrate clients' computers to Office 2010 Pro i in the company I used to work and it could not be done, I always got an error, I called support and they fixed nothing!


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