Outlook 2007 Users Critical of Slow Performance

Early users of Outlook 2007, the latest version of Microsoft Corp.’s market-leading e-mail client, are voicing widespread complaints about the software’s sluggish performance.

Symptoms being reported include temporary freezes when commands are executed or windows are opened, Outlook’s inability to keep up with text as it is typed, and slowness in sending and receiving e-mails.

Most of the problems don’t appear to be the result of underpowered PCs or faulty or misconfigured e-mail servers. Instead, users say — and Microsoft acknowledges — the underlying cause is changes made under Outlook’s hood to accommodate new features such as RSS feeds and indexing for faster searches.

Some bloggers working with beta versions of Outlook 2007 have been complaining for months. Even loyalists such as Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professionals — the company’s elite corps of unpaid technical helpers — are grumbling.

“A lot of MVPs are complaining about Outlook’s performance,” said Paul Robichaux, an Exchange MVP who works as a consultant at 3Sharp, an IT services firm in Redmond, Wash.

Jason Clarke, who oversees the e-mail system at Wenco International Mining Systems Ltd. in Richmond, British Columbia, gets about 100 e-mails daily. On his PC, he said, Outlook 2007 “hangs completely for three to seven seconds typically, and for up to 20 seconds in worst cases, when new mail is being downloaded.”

Turning off some Outlook add-ins that he has installed “does improve matters marginally, but not nearly as much as it should,” Clarke said. “The hesitation is still very noticeable — jarring, even.”

Clarke works in the technical sales and marketing department at Wenco, which develops fleet management systems and other applications for mining companies. He blamed the problems with Outlook 2007 on its new e-mail indexing engine.

With the indexing capability, searches produce results almost instantly, a vast improvement over Outlook 2003. However, the process also appears to be CPU-intensive. Microsoft recommends that users put indexing on a regular schedule instead of letting it run constantly in the background.

Peter O’Kelly, an analyst at Burton Group Inc. in Midvale, Utah, said he thinks some of the sluggishness is related to Microsoft letting users download RSS feed data into Outlook’s in-box file, which is stored as a .pst or .ost file.

Adding RSS feeds can quickly swell a user’s in-box file to more than 2GB of data, according to O’Kelly. He said that causes Outlook 2007 to write to the hard drive much more often than it typically would, especially when the e-mail software is running on PCs that don’t have large amounts of memory.

Last month, Microsoft posted a technical help document on its customer support Web site offering advice on solving the .pst and .ost file problems. For example, it recommends that users reduce the sizes of their .pst and .ost files by deleting e-mails and splitting up large files into smaller ones while archiving older messages.

Asked whether any fixes would appear in Outlook 2007’s first service pack release, a Microsoft spokeswoman said that the company “is definitely looking at how to fix this issue” but otherwise declined to comment.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon