By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
An acquaintance once described Microsoft Word as the single most useful software program ever written. I'd probably agree, but I'd rank another program a very close second. It just came out, and you'd be crazy to ignore it. Best of all, it's free.
It's Outlook 98, successor to Microsoft's heavy-duty, do-everything Outlook 97. The new version of Outlook is everything its predecessor was—able to handle e-mail, faxes, letters, notes, reminders, appointments and personal contacts on a single PC or jointly across a network—and everything Outlook 97 was not. That means Outlook 98 is faster, easier to use, far more flexible and much more stable. It even allows users to share calendars, contact lists and general mail folders and their contents across any kind of network—even the Internet—without using any specialized server software. (Outlook 97 requires a Microsoft Exchange server to do this.)
Outlook 97 is the core program of Office 97, the suite of programs Microsoft sells for serious home users and for countless offices around the world. Outlook 98 is designed as a full replacement for Outlook 97, but you do not need any part of Office 97 to run Outlook 98. The setup program checks your software to see what's already installed, then asks you how much of Outlook 98's many features you'd like to use. (You can add anything you've left out later.)
From now until June 30, Outlook 98 is free if you download it over the Internet. After that time, it will remain free to current users of Outlook 97 or Office 97, but will cost about $100 otherwise. To forestall the mail I'll get asking me to explain this, I'll restate it: Everyone qualifies for a free copy of Outlook 98 until June 30. The version you get for free is not a scaled-down, "lite" version.
To find out how to get your free copy of Outlook 98, go to http://www.slipstick.com/outlook98/, a Web site run by the world's top expert on Outlook, Sue Mosher. Her site has links to the Microsoft download site as well as explanations of the three different flavors of Outlook 98—as an Internet e-mail system with full Personal Information Manager (PIM) capabilities, as a PIM without e-mail capability and as a so-called "client" for a corporate e-mail and PIM system.
Mosher's site also has a link to a site where you can order Outlook 98 on a CD-ROM for $10. This is ideal if you are not able to download from sites on the Internet. It's also a smart thing to do if you don't have a fast Internet connection, because the download can take as much as nine hours even with a 28.8-kbps modem if you choose the full installation. (The setup wizard knows how to resume the download if it's cut off or if you decide to stop the process. The next time you run the setup program, it will ask if you want to start up where you left off.)
Microsoft started work on Outlook 98 even before Outlook 97 was released two years ago. Its own beta testers had been complaining about serious flaws in Outlook 97 (mail that sat unsent in the Outbox, lockups that disabled the computer and much more) before the public ever saw the program, and the public introduction brought Microsoft an unprecedented flurry of complaints. Microsoft patched Outlook along with other parts of Office 97 and released the patch last year.
If you have not applied this patch yet, do it now, before you switch to Outlook 98. (Every user of any part of Office 97 should have this patch applied. If you use any Office 97 programs at work, show this column to the person who maintains your software. In virus protection for Microsoft Word alone, the patch is absolutely essential, and the other features are almost as vital.) The patch is available in a link from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/msoffice/office97/servicerelease/default.ASP.
Who is the target customer for Outlook 98?
Outlook was designed for any individual or team needing integrated e-mail and information management. Outlook 98 is ideal for Internet mail or Exchange Server users.
When will Outlook 98 be available in retail stores?
It will be available by May 1998 and will sell for an estimated retail price of $109.
Are current Outlook 97, Office 97 or Exchange Server users entitled to a special upgrade price?
Current Outlook 97, Office 97 and Exchange Server users will be entitled to a no-charge upgrade to Outlook 98. Customers will need to pay for shipping and handling only.
How are you pricing and packaging Outlook 98?
Microsoft is offering a one-time only special three month promotion for Outlook 98, during which time anyone can download or order Outlook free of charge via the Outlook Web site (connect-time charges may apply). At the end of this three-month period, Outlook 98 will still be available as a Web download but ONLY for Office 97/Outlook 97 and Exchange upgraders via the Office Update Web site. In addition to the Web download and CD fulfillment options, Outlook 98 will also be available through the usual Microsoft distribution channels. Licenses for Outlook 98 clients will eventually be included in an Exchange Server service pack at a date to be determined.
How can I get Outlook 98 on the Web? Will I have to pay to get a CD?
The "free" Web download distribution will have two options for users:
What Internet standards are you supporting?
Outlook 98 will support all the major Internet standards including SMTP/POP3, IMAP4, LDAP, NNTP, HTML, S/MIME, vCard, vCalendar, and iCalendar. Outlook will also continue to fully support MAPI.
How does HTML mail work if the recipient doesn't have Outlook 98 or another Internet mail client that supports HTML mail?
The HTML mail message is converted into plain text. Because of the downgrade from HTML to plain text, some graphics, backgrounds and hyperlinks will be converted into an attachment(s) or may be lost. Plain Text format is on by default for Internet Mail configuration users. To turn on HTML mail, on the Tools menu, click Options, and then select the Mail Format tab. Under Send in this message format, choose HTML.
What version of Internet Explorer can I use?
To use Outlook 98, you will need to upgrade to Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01. The Outlook 98 installation will automatically upgrade an older version of Internet Explorer to version 4.01.
Do I have to use Internet Explorer 4.01, even if I prefer another browser?
Outlook 98 requires some components of Internet Explorer 4.01. For example, Outlook 98 shares the editing and rendering engine for HTML mail with Internet Explorer 4.01. However, Outlook 98 does not require that you use Internet Explorer as the default Web browser. You can continue to use the default browser of your choice.