Outlook 2010 Technology Preview - quick reactions
I am sure you would be aware of recently launched Technology Preview of MS Office 2010. Depending on your access, you may be able to download it from Connect site. I have upgraded my Office 2007 to Office 2010 and so far the experience has been good.
I have spent most of the time in looking at Outlook 2010 as that is that I use more often these days at work and thought to share some quick points that I liked about it. This is by no means a feature evaluation and you can get that listing on MS site, but more of immediate reactions to some things I noticed.
Unlike other beta programs that I have participated earlier on connect site, Office 2010 Tech Preview doesn't really has option to submit issues/feedback/bugs online. You can surely discuss them on the newsgroups, but the way to really submit these is to use the Smile and Frown options that are added to your system tray post installation. Check out more details here.
The thing that immediately comes to notice with Outlook is obviously the splash screen on startup. There is some cool animation added to it (which is common to all other Office Products as well). However that I really liked about it was the status message that really told me what's happening during the load. Perception matters a lot in context of performance and with right messaging, even long time taking operations can be made to look performant but showing appropriate messages to the user and I think Outlook got it right by showing the messages. I immediately became more tolerant to the sometimes a min plus time it took to open up.
Next is the much more pleasing user interface with more subtle color theme and lot of operational ribbon. Many new tasks/options have been added to it. The following figure shows some of it. However what I additionally liked is the reddish band right on the top in case of any prominent message had to be shown. I keep running out of mailbox space, due to the restriction on the Exchange server and earlier I would come to know of it only when I would spend 10 min to type a mail and then hit send, but now it is right there on the top and immediately visible. And if you go ahead and start to type a new mail, the mail itself has a MailTip that reiterates the point on mail size issue.
Other places where similar band is used is when you switch on Automatic Replies, mostly used for out of office scenarios. This feature however isn't accessible from the Tools menu of Outlook 2007, but via the new Office button on top left. Incidently the red band isn't only Outlook specific. It is used in other Office Products as well.
Not only do I get in place message on overshooting the mail size, but via the new Office button on top left, I can immediatly get details of extra size and option to fire up tools to cleanup as in the figure below.
Another interesting feature is when you open attachments like Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc, from an email, a similar red band appears on top of the document as in the figure below.
Something else that caught my eye was the auto grouping of conversations in a thread like view. It helped consolidate all mails in one place and view them to get the context. And finally another cool feature was the embedding of my calendar inside of a meeting invite, so that I can view conflicts etc in place and don't have navigate to Calendar separately. See the figure below which shows this. Some meeting item details are masked out for obvious reasons.
These by no means are only new features in Outlook, but as I mentioned upfront, these are the ones that caught my eye in my initial few minutes of working it. As I work more with the technology preview products, I will share more interesting features that I personally liked.