Outlook Express 5 (beta)
Another helpful feature when sending documents to Windows users is the capability for OE 5 to append a DOS extension. This way, when the message is received, a Windows user can immediately open the attachment from within his, or her, email application. By the time OE 5 ships, you should be able to set preferences that will let you synchronize contacts from the Address Book with a Palm device. You will not, however, be able to synchronize your messages. The synchronization will achieve conflict resolution, allowing you to maintain the most current information on both Outlook Express and your Palm device. You will also have the option of having Outlook Express overwrite your Palm database, or vice versa. Some of the best enhancements by far are the message-composing features. With the new Address AutoComplete feature, when you choose to create a new message, a new tabbed dialogue box pops up requesting you to enter a recipient’s name. The AutoComplete feature is integrated with the Address Book, and fills-in addresses as you begin to type characters. These can be nicknames, email addresses, or first or last names. When a recipient has multiple email addresses, a cascading menu displaying choices appears. When sending email to groups, double-clicking the icon displays a window listing each recipient – particularly helpful when you don’t remember who’s in a specific group. Despite improved text formatting via a new icon that toggles between plain text and HTML formatting, Outlook Express still falls short compared to Netscape Messenger’s excellent formatting capabilities. Unlike Messenger, OE 5 still lacks the capability to send and receive encrypted messages. It’s clear that Microsoft needs to work out some bugs before finalizing this version. On occasion, the application crashed; drag-&-drop functions need polish; AppleScript support isn’t fully operational; and it doesn’t fully co-exist with Microsoft Office 98. Still, I found that the majority of the new features worked as expected, at least well enough to evaluate how the new update will work. I welcome the improvements, and appreciate Microsoft’s dedication to keeping the memory requirements small, while evolving the application to work like a Mac application should.
OE 5 for Macs is mostly on par with its Windows counterpart. Macintosh users will appreciate the productivity enhancements. Once bugs are ironed out, this version will out-perform version 4.5, and will be well worth the update.