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I can't say it enough or any more effectively... I absolutely love the enhancements in Outlook 2007. My five favorite features (in order):

  • Todo Bar: All my reminders/tasks in one, always on, panel! If I've flagged an email as something I should follow up on tomorrow, or added a task to do by the end of the week, or have an appointment this afternoon, I love the fact that ALL of that shows in one integrated pane!
  • Search: What's so cool about search in Outlook 2007 you ask? IT WORKS! I mean it REALLY WORKS. I haven't lost a single thing in my email!
  • Flagging/Categorizing: They actually did it... it's actually better than it was before in 2003! Flags are now used for followup... like today, tomorrow, this week, next week, custom date, or no date. Categories aren't just for coloring, they are for grouping your assets... yes, tasks, email, appointments, etc. One question: why the limit on color choices? Why can't I have a pallet to chose 32 million colors from? No, I won't use that many, but I'd like a few more than 25 please.
  • Hiding the navigation bar: Why have the folder list visible all the time?
  • Todo Bar: Yes, again... I have noticed I'm SO much more productive and less forgetful now that I've got my Todo bar... don't ever take my ToDo bar away! It was worth dealing with the numerous daily crashes in beta 1 just to have my ToDo bar!

All the above features get my Guinness "brilliant" stamp.

RSS Support Leaves Me Wanting More…

A few weeks back, I mentioned how I was dogfooding the RSS support in the Outlook 2007 beta 1 tech refresh. At first I imported only a handful of my subscriptions (my MCMS folder in my OPML... oh, that's the link for my most current subscriptions) and things were going well. When I finally decided to import the majority of my OPML, I quickly became frustrated and quite disappointed. Thus, I'm left with a feeling that the RSS support within Outlook 2007 is inadequate for the serious aggregator (someone who subscribes to quite a few posts, say 50+) at least as it stands today. I hope this post is wrong... I've tried to find ways around my issues without much luck (please don't say Search Folders... I know, I use them religiously, but it's a workaround to features I feel should exist). Maybe I just don't get it... I hope I'm either wrong, or these things are going to be addressed in beta 2, or at the very least, RTM.

I really want to make the change to Outlook for as my RSS aggregator because I love the improved categorization and flagging. Search folders are also the coolest thing since the vertical reading pane. With the improved search, all I'm missing to make this THE data aggregator homerun is native NNTP support. There are just a few things that preclude it from being my RSS aggregator of choice.

Folder Management:Most of my gripes revolve around folder management. Everything within Outlook 2007, and like its predecessor, is based on folder by folder management.

  • Assigning Views: As far as I know it's not possible to assign a default, or custom view, to multiple folders at a time. The only way I could can figure out how to do it is to select each folder and then select the view. RSS feeds aren't like email. Because each feed is stored in a separate folder, you don't need to include the sender of the post in the list pane. I also don't care if a post has an enclosure associated with it or not (WRT the list pane... show me in the reading pane). So, for the most part, I want my list pane to display the post subject, date received, follow-up flag, and category in one-line view grouped by received date. I created my view, but I had to go apply it to 30 folders to get the effect. That sucks. *You can do this via VBA/scripting/VSTO... I'd just like it OOTB.
  • OPML Import Drops Organization: I know I subscribe to a ton of feeds... just under 400 (no, I don't read all of them every week). I also know that I don't hold the record for the most feeds read, and that almost everyone who reads feeds categorizes them. Just open my OPML subscriptions in IE... you'll see how I break it down. Well, when you import it into Outlook 2007, ALL feeds are thrown at the root inside the RSS Subscriptions folder... ALL of them! Ouch... more post-import massaging (add that to my assigning views peeve). *I bet I can do this with VBA/scripting/VSTO... just haven't dug in.

Synchronization:

  • Retrieval Intervals: By default, all your RSS subscriptions are thrown into the default "Send/Receive" group. This means, everytime you download your email, you'll download updates for all your subscriptions. OUCH... So... back to my NewsGator Outlook Edition pain point (which NewsGator addressed) that when I open Outlook, it just ran away with my CPU. How to fix this? Just create a new Send/Receive group... no problem! But... you have to uncheck/unselect each RSS subscription in the default group to remove it... one by one... you can't do a CRTL+click or SHIFT+click to get a ton of them... the ListBox that was used only allows for single selections.ARG... 400 clicks after my import... sheesh. *You can't modify this as Send/Receive isn't exposed programmatically so you're stuck with manual work.
  • Feeds in Exchange Mailbox: By default, your RSS Subscriptions folder is part of your (if you're on Exchange) Exchange mailbox. Many people work in an environment where your mailboxes are limited in size... RSS feeds sure seem like they can fill this up FAST (if my Omea data store is any indicator). Sure, you can move them to a new folder... but you have the same single-click selection issue I just mentioned above. Personally, I'd like to move my entire RSS Subscriptions folder to a separate PST on my local disk, just like my Archive PST.*I bet I can do this with VBA/scripting/VSTO... just haven't dug in.

“But adding RSS support to Outlook is a HUGE improvement!”I don’t disagree in any way, I just thing with a few small management feature tweaks/additions, it can make a compelling case as THE aggregator!

"If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem"I love that quote... With all this being said, I'm not going to sit here and bitch and moan without proposing a solution I ~think~ this can all be resolved with a cleaver Outlook add-in implemented with VSTO (well, probably implementing anything, but I think VSTO is the best option). I haven't done any work with VSTO, but I'm looking forward to a few community presentations I plan to hit in the coming weeks as well as searching out any existing web casts. I wonder how hard this would be?

Most of the issues above can be resolved with one minor UI tweak (I'm sure it will require modifying the code that's tied to the UI controls): If the subscription list dialog is changed from a single selection ListBox to a multi-selection ListBox with checks, it would resolve my sync issues above.

My ideal Outlook 2007 VSTO built add-in is the RSS Power User Assistant AddIn (this is a proposed name... need a catchy codename). It would do the following core features:

  • Take an OPML and create the entire category folder structure the way I had it setup in my OPML, adding subscriptions at the same time AND/OR take an existing subscription list/folder structure and do the same thing).
  • Let me specify a view to apply to all RSS folders (or one of those TreeView CheckBox lists that lets me select them individually, select all, or clear all)... click Apply and poof, it sets the view for me.
  • Manage download intervals at a mass folder level. Using the same TreeView CheckBox list mentioned above, let me select what feeds I want to be or specify which Send/Receive group I want to assign them to.

When I've got a free moment, I think I'll start digging into VSTO and see what's involved in building an Outlook AddIn. This could very well be MeWare as Eric Sink coined it. The problem: the free moments :)

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