CNET First Look
Outlook 2010 technical previewMicrosoft's workhorse Outlook program gets an update in the 2010 suite, but is it enough to upgrade? We look at an early version.
Hi, I�m Molly Wood from CNET.com, and today I�m taking a first look at Outlook 2010 Technical Preview. This is a very early version of Outlook, which will be part of the Office 2010 suite. As you�ve probably seen in our other Office 2010 videos, the big change to the suite is this new Backstage view button instead of the Office button or the File menu before that. And you get this standardized, contextual ribbon across the entire suite, including, finally, Outlook. In Outlook 2007, you only got the ribbon in a message window, which was just kind of weird. Now, you�ve got the same tabbed menu structure as the rest of the suite. On the one hand, that's great, because options aren't quite as hidden as they were in 2007. On the other hand, some commonly used options, like send/receive, disappear into their own tab. So, no clicking that button from right there in the toolbar. Then again, you get lots of granular send/receive options, here. So, you know. Trade-offs. Now, when you're checking out the ribbon, here, you'll see a new feature in Outlook 2010 called Quick Steps. This is basically a menu that contains shortcuts to things you do all the time. I love it. It comes preconfigured with some pretty useful options -- I really like Meeting Reply, which turns the email you're reading into a meeting request and puts the sender's name in the subject line. Also, you can put in your manager's information, and then click To Manager to send, I don't know, glowing emails about your work directly to the boss. You can configure folders you often move mail to, here. And if you click this pop-out menu, you can customize the options by deleting some and making new ones. This is, in some ways, a super-simplified interface for creating rules in Outlook, plus some other bonus options. And it's a winner, in my opinion. Also a winner ... kind of ... threaded conversations. Outlook now automatically groups conversations together, which does make it easier to keep track of your email. It's slightly rudimentary at this point, because it only tracks by subject line. And while it's nice to have all the subjects automatically grouped, it's nothing you can't do in Outlook 2007 by clicking the Arranged By bar and choosing Subject. I think this could be a bit more powerful, and it's not a reason to upgrade. But it is a tidy organization feature. In other updates, Microsoft has revamped the way it displays contacts from your Exchange server contact list. For example, when you mouse over a sender in your inbox, you'll see this pop-up here that lets you interact with the contact -- send mail, and in theory, IM or call that person using VOIP. Now, whenever I tried this, Outlook told me I had to be signed in to an IM service, even if I was, and even if the person was in my IM contacts. But I'll chalk that up to a bug in the Technical Preview for now. Click the plus button to reveal more options, or double- click like you always did to see contact details. These are MUCH nicer looking than the Outlook 2007 details, but don't offer much more than the rollover. Outlook's calendaring options don't change significantly, although it gets easier to navigate. The ribbon puts views and basic commands more front and center, and calendar sharing options are a lot easier to find and, frankly, understand. As with Word 2010 and the rest of the Office suite, the changes to Outlook are more refinement than anything else. But hey, people like refinements. That's why you stay in the Four Seasons instead of Motel 6. Is Outlook the Four Seasons? Let's not get carried away. We�ll have a full review of the final suite once it�s released, so check back for that. I�m Molly Wood for CNET.com. Thanks for watching.