The case of evil Outlook

I have a love-hate relationship with my computer: I love it when it works right; I hate it when it doesn’t. Actually, I have discovered that it is not my computer with whom I have this relationship. It’s Microsoft Corp.

The software programs Microsoft has developed are excellent. But when they go wrong, they are bad. Worse than bad — evil. They complicate my life, waste my time, and frustrate me to no end.

Let me give you a “f’r instance.”

I own a six-year-old Gateway computer. As computers go, I know that sounds old, but actually, it is a very fast computer and with the exception of being incapable of burning DVDs, it does everything that a brand new computer can do. So, I am happy with it.

A few months ago, however, I began to have a problem opening Outlook. It would take several tries and manipulations. One day, the program opened but then got stuck. It would not summon new mail; it would not allow me to read any mail; it would not allow me to scroll; and it would not allow me access to my mail folders. It would not even close. I had to control-alt-delete (several times) before it would close. All the while I could not access Outlook, the rest of the computer functioned admirably.

A computer technician acknowledged he could do nothing more than reformat my hard drive. He said that after a long period of time, the computer gets muddled with leftover registrations and other such programming information so that conflicts begin to occur. The only solution, he said, was to reformat. And of course, that meant reinstalling every single program I used. (It also allowed me to get rid of things I didn’t use.)

Many hours later, my computer — including Outlook — began to function normally again. During my research about why Outlook had frozen up on me, I discovered that one cause might be an extremely large data file, which could become corrupted. So, this time, with a clean machine, I resolved that would not happen again.

If you use Outlook, you probably get a message that pops up periodically, “Do you want to archive old messages now?” I had always declined to archive, because I thought I might need to access those five-year-old e-mails. And besides, I didn’t know where the archives were hidden or how to retrieve them.

The first time that invitation popped up after my reformatting, I thought, “Why not? This might keep Outlook from crashing on me.” So, I began to allow archiving.

All was good, I thought, until yesterday. That’s when I clicked on a folder which, incidentally, was not old. The folder was empty. I started clicking on other folders. Empty. Not everyone, but a lot of them.

“The contents must be archived,” I thought. So, I researched how to retrieve archived information. This is when I began to realize how evil the programmers at Microsoft are.

First I had to find the archived file, which was in a hidden folder. Unless you deliberately go into “folder options” in the control panel and click “show hidden files” you will never find “local settings.” It is in local settings that application data, including archived folder, for Outlook resides.

Next, I tried to restore the archived files. I think I did what I was supposed to do, but the lost files did not come back.

So, I investigated some more. I dug around and discovered that the default setting for archiving Outlook messages deletes messages older than six months. So, a lot of the e-mails I wanted to save are gone forever — just because I was trying to avoid a computer crash.

I have now turned off the autoarchive function. I don’t want Microsoft determining which of my precious mail items should be destroyed.

Finally, I made another interesting discovery: Empty e-mail folders are not necessarily empty.

In desperation to find lost e-mail, I did a Google desktop search. Interestingly, as I searched for certain addresses, I was able to open actual e-mails. Hmmm. That suggested the e-mails were still on my hard drive somewhere, although I didn’t know where. So, I decided to find the most important ones, open them, and then move them to the designated folder.

However … when I opened the folder, it was empty! What was this, a conspiracy to stop me from keeping e-mails past their prime?

I poked around some more in the cryptic “Outlook help” and came across information (with inadequate explanation, of course) about views in Outlook. I don’t understand it completely, but somehow, the view was changed, and messages became hidden. Once I changed the view, they suddenly appeared.

Evil. Evil. Evil.

I’ve been using Outlook for at least 10 or more years. And I’ve been using Microsoft products for longer than that. The lesson I’ve learned: Check the default and make sure it does what you want it to. And if it doesn’t, change it.

Otherwise the handiwork of the evil Microsoft programmers will get you.

Until next time,

Linda Segall
Segall Enterprises: Writing and Editing Solutions

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