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CIO - Most of us have a love-hate relationship with e-mail. It's allegedly our servant, but, let's face it, we are often its slaves.
Many of us also have a similar relationship with our e-mail client. Whether we use a desktop e-mail client or access our messages via a Web-based interface, these are necessary tools that, at their best, can ease the burden of the e-mail onslaught. And at their worst they help us learn some Very Bad Language. In corporate circles, that desktop e-mail client is often Microsoft Outlook.
Say what you will about it (nicely-this is a professional forum), but you'll have to admit that Outlook has improved with each version. It gets easier to use, smarter and plays better with other software. To me, Outlook 2007 is the jewel of the Microsoft Office 2007 suite. My colleague Dee-Ann LeBlanc is stirring the pot with reasons for companies to pass on Microsoft's flagship. I, on the other hand, am rather fond of the current iteration, so here are a few reasons why Outlook is the best choice for your corporate e-mail client.
1. Outlook and Microsoft Exchange Play Well Together
If your e-mail server runs Microsoft Exchange, Outlook is a no-brainer. They go together like bacon and eggs, toast and coffee, peaches and cream.
Users need to know absolutely nothing to connect. They just fire up Outlook, enter their e-mail address, and it and Exchange commune. Transparently. That cuts down on IT involvement in client configuration and allows users to switch computers easily.
2. Outlook Plays Well With Active Directory
Active Directory's authentication extends to Exchange. That means that a user can simply log on to a computer, start Outlook, and her Active Directory credentials are passed to the Exchange server-no typing or separate logon required.
In fact, since the e-mail address is stored in Active Directory, a user need not even enter that information if authenticating through AD. Outlook automatically figures out the right e-mail address (and, yes, you can bypass that functionality if you need to), log you in and you're good to go.
3. Outlook Integrates with Many Devices and Applications
If you're possessed by any sort of PDA or smartphone, there's a way to synch it with Outlook. Some vendors don't even provide a native personal information manager for their devices, but rely on the fact that most customers have a copy of Outlook that does the trick very nicely.
Even third party add-on applications for devices like BlackBerry or various Windows Mobile models manage to talk to Outlook. Skype talks to Outlook. ACT! talks to Outlook. In fact, it's hard to find a desktop tool that doesn't talk to Outlook. And you can find dozens of little add-ins that extend Outlook even farther-check out Office Addins.com for example.
4. Outlook Makes it Easy to Organize Your Assets
Most e-mail clients offer some sort of rules for sorting and managing e-mail, but Outlook 2007 (in conjunction with Exchange 2007) really raises the bar. Sure, you can sort messages into folders, or forward or redirect them according to selected criteria. However, you also have the option to send different automatic Out of Office (OOO) messages to internal and external addresses. For example, users who subscribe to mailing lists may not want to send messages to addresses outside their company at all (mailing list admins frown on OOO messages, which act like spam to the list), but need to give internal senders information on who's covering for them.