The Outlook Answer Book by Tom Archer & Brian Delahunty, ISBN: 0-321-30397-0

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, December 2005
Published by: Addison-Wesley Pearson Education
Requires: Problems and conundrums with Outlook
MSRP: US$34.99, CAN$48.99

Every product ever developed and released by Microsoft (and many other major software developers I hasten to add) has needed a detailed and robust user manual. Mind you, the fact that Microsoft only rarely provides such a thing has probably been unduly ignored as the foundation for a reasonably profitable segment of the book publishing industry. Less is more in this case? Maybe. In any event, the Outlook e-mail program supplied with Microsoft Office (and Outlook Express which is supplied with the operating system and Internet Explorer) remain two of Microsoft's core products which desperately need genuinely friendly and robust user guides.

Outlook users, at least the ones who don't have access to an Exchange server managed by a smart IS/IT person, often co-exist with Outlook in a state of wonderment. Outlook is neither hard to use nor easy to use. It just presents itself as it is—an amalgamation of all the features and functions dreamed up and demanded by a vast legion of users past and present. The features and functions are ensconced in a user interface that is alternately obvious and obscure. There is no doubt in my mind that Outlook contains many more features and functions than most people will ever use (or even think of using) unless they give themselves over to a life and business in which this sort of software plays a dominating role. There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of Outlook users who do just that however. The Outlook Answer Book is written for those people and for all the others who periodically wonder how much more can be done with Outlook.

The Outlook Answer Book is divided into sixteen chapters covering all aspects of the software and additional subjects which include data archiving and backups, privacy, data security and virus protection. The subject matter is comprised of comprehensive explanations and instruction of all primary and secondary Outlook features and functions. The book provides all users of Outlook, from beginner to advanced, with a large number of well organized facts, tweaks, tips, instructions, tutorials and technical information. The book works well as a general reference and instruction text. Prior to starting the review, I asked all of my office staff to come up with questions about Outlook for me to look up when the book arrived, questions which could then be used to test the book's coverage of the obvious and obscure. The result was somewhat anti-climactic in that the assembled list of 36 questions didn't even begin to scratch the surface of the information presented in the book. All answers, all the time.

Outlook 2003 is endured by many people, loved by some, and reviled by others. Even in a world with terrific e-mail software such as Eudora and Thunderbird, those programs are outpaced in the marketplace by Outlook because of its powerful address book, calendar, network and workgroup functions (and Microsoft's ubiquity on the PC desktop). But that also means that approximately half the book is taken up with answers to questions about Outlook's vast set of non-e-mail features and functions. If you don't use Outlook's personal data and time management functions, a large part of the book may be completely irrelevant to your needs. However, if you have to live inside Outlook for some important part of each working day, a book with this level of detail and quick reference access might be exactly what you need to work more effectively and efficiently.

Cons: While the book remains a detailed explanation and reference for Outlook, there are several areas with minor problems. For example, while the Categories chapter provides an excellent explanation of that powerful feature, there is no additional explanation in the chapter of how to actually assign an e-mail to a particular category. For that information you have to go to the Organizing Your E-mail chapter. It may be redundant to put the information in both chapters, but it would make the book that much better. In the security section of chapter 12, Outlook Express and Newsgroups, there's some useless advice about adding the phrase NOSPAM to your access account e-mail address despite the fact that trolling spiders can still gather such addresses for spammers who can automatically remove such ineffectual security precautions. As well in this chapter, there's no cross reference to chapter 16 and its review of security and protection against viruses. That's a serious miss considering the number of really terrible viruses that have been spread through binary downloads from various newsgroups. Will somebody please design a true lay-flat book binding or just give it up and start publishing this sort of thing with ring or cerlox binding?

Pros: An 11 page Index and a 21 page Table of Contents provide enough detail to enable lookups of almost anything you can think of; very well done and the best way to find fast answers to Outlook problems. The book is well written using concise language and logical explanations that are easy to follow, even when the subject is complex. The chapter on Journals and Journaling is excellent and should provide a lot of home-office, SOHO and small business owners with enough reasons to start using the powerful feature day-to-day. We gathered 36 how-to questions from 12 different high-volume Outlook users and were unable to stump the chump—the book had all the answers. The book will do well on the shelves of most help desk and general network support setups within different companies, but it should be equally at home in small business and home-office settings. If you've given your e-mail, your schedule, planning and your address book over to Outlook's sometimes not-so-tender mercies, this book will help you get the most out of the software.

Comments? Questions? Qualms? Technical problems? Send an e-mail!





© Copyright 2000-2006 All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | hot news | about us | search | store | subscribe


Forums Search Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe