Recently one of my clients faced a challenge with his email application. He saves everything in Microsoft Outlook folders. This is a potential source of problems and a very common practice. Do you do this as well?
My client further compounded this practice by using two different versions of Outlook at his two work locations. At one he was using Outlook 2002 and at the other Outlook 2003.
In Microsoft Outlook 2002 and earlier versions the file folder size limit is 2 Gigabytes. These files use a format called PST. When you reach the 2 Gigabyte limit Outlook stops allowing you to send and receive email. If you use the Outlook archive feature to offload older email files and attachments, 2002 limits the size of each archive folder to 2 Gigabytes. What many users of Outlook 2002 and earlier versions going back to Outlook 97 do not know is that they can create multiple archive folders, each under 2 Gigabytes.
That solves the problem but doesn’t address the common practice of using Outlook as a primary filing system on your computer. This is not a practice I recommend. There are better ways to structure and secure your file folders and the data inside them.
When my client first encountered the 2 Gigabyte folder size limit he was able to create multiple archives. He then did a backup and took the archived materials with him to his other office location where his Outlook 2003 system resided. The geography that separates these two offices requires a 3-hour plane ride and my client did not realize he was using two different versions of Outlook.
Outlook 2003 uses PST file formats that support a standard that can represent most printed language alphabets. This standard is called Unicode. There is no theoretical limit to the size of a file folder in Outlook 2003 although the practical limit is 20 Gigabytes, 10 times the size of Outlook 2002 and earlier versions. Outlook 2003 had no problem reading the archived files from Outlook 2002. Everything worked as required. Then my client did his back up and got on a plane to fly back to his other office. When he tried to open his Outlook archives using 2002, his computer would not display the file folders.
Talk about a painful lesson. There is no workaround for this problem. What my client had to do was buy Outlook 2003 for his other office and install it. Only then would he be able to view his archival record.
I like to experiment with email systems. I use Outlook 2002. I use Gmail online. My service provider offers an online Outlook utility. I use the mail system in Windows Live Messenger. I route all my email through Gmail to take advantage of its superb spam filtering capability.
I had Office 2007 with Outlook 2007 running on my computer last year but I had to remove it from my laptop running Windows XP Service Pack 2 because it made my system grind. So I went back to my Office XP/2002 running Outlook 2002.
Mozilla Thunderbird Has A Lot of Similarities to Outlook Interface
But I have also looked at other desktop email applications. One of these is Thunderbird, the open source Mozilla product. Thunderbird is easy to download and during the installation it can extract archives and current email records from Outlook. I was able to make it my default email receiver without doing any account setup although later I went back in to create a signature for my emails. This doesn’t work as well as it does in Outlook but it was adequate.
Like all of the Mozilla products the best thing about Thunderbird is it’s free. You get functionality that is similar enough to Outlook with the ability to create and view email threads similar to Gmail.
Viewing Mail and Sending Replies Can Be Counter Intuitive When Using Gmail
The interface is far less busy than Gmail as well which makes it more intuitive to new users. So take a look at how you manage your email and recognize that email products are not meant to be robust file folder management systems for all of your documents. If you are challenged by developing a logical filing system then install Google Desktop on your system and use its search capability when you need to find information on your system.
- Len Rosen
- Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Len focuses on helping small and new businesses succeed through developing appropriate marketing and sales strategies. Len enjoys mentoring, relishes in getting both arms and feet wet in addressing technology, marketing and sales issues. He understands the drivers impacting business results for today and tomorrow including time-to-market, time-to-revenue, marketing, sales channels and social media.