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Thoughts on Outlook

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  • Thoughts on Outlook

    I have been irrationally afraid of using Outlook because it seems that every virus ever invented targets it. A lot of you guys use it, and I wonder if you've had any problems with it.

    I've been using the Franklin Covey Plan Plus software, but the upgrade is so terribly slow that I'm ready to reach into my monitor and strangle whoever did the design. Access will let me design a new database just like I want it, and then won't let me open it because I haven't "signed" it.

    My virus protection is great, yet I still got a virus that resulted in the death of a very nice computer, so naturally I'm concerned.

    Thanks in advance for your advice.


  • #2
    That is not irrational. Outlook has more problems with virus and spam in my exerience. I use Thunderbird at home. It work great. But I use it soley for email and other software for my GTD system.

    I am forced to use Outlook at work. They do have the best virus protection possible but we have still experienced virus from people opening attachments. Again at work I only use it for email and not GTD.

    I have yet to hear anything positive about Covey's software. Their paper planners are great though.


    • #3
      Consider PlanPlus 4 for Outlook

      My "Geek" credentials are virtually non-existent, but I can't fathom why Outlook should raise your risk of contracting a computer virus any more than any other Windows e-mail client. It is widely reported that most viruses are written for the Windows operating system, but for the simple reason that only a minuscule portion of the world's computers are non-Windows. Virus writers go where the action is. (And if I recall correctly, the number of Macintosh viruses out there is way out of proportion to their Windows counterparts when taking the installed user base into account.) I have fortunately remained virus-free (knock on wood) but I keep the anti-virus software up-do-date and empahtically do not open attachments from unknown sources.

      I used Franklin-Covey software products for a number of years, going back to an early version of Ascend. Principally, I suppose, because I was using their paper-based planners when I converted to digital. Their products always had a Daily Record of Events (now Daily Events) which I found useful for capturing miscellaneous notations and bits of information that I wanted a record of but didn't have another logical place to put it. (Get out another file folder to put it in, make a label and file it... never to be seen again? Are you kidding?) It was always a simple matter to record those kinds of things on the daily events page, and then use the search capabilities of computers (one of the primary advantages of going digital) to recover the information later. If I ever needed to recover it. I have eleven years worth of these daily events in my Outlook file, and the file is relatively small.

      I went from Ascend to whatever they replaced it with (FC Planner for Windows, I think) and then to PlanPlus for Outlook when e-mail became an important component of our workflow. With Outlook, I have the core essentials for a planning system: a calendar, task ("next action") lists, contact information, e-mail, and note-taking capability. All in one place, which I consider essential. And since Outlook has become a de facto standard, other useful applications are made to integrate with it. I use MindManager for quite a few things, including organizing large, longer-term, more complicated projects. It can export tasks to Outlook, and synchronize tasks with Outlook. So too can OneNote, and since the larger, more complicated projects tend to require organizing a lot of notes and information, I'm using MindManager and OneNote together for them, but all tasks and schedules eventually get filtered down to Outlook.

      I went from PlanPlus for Outlook to PlanPlus 2 for Outlook, but ended the string at PlanPlus 3. PlanPlus 3's project planning facility was quite enticing, but PlanPlus 3 slowed Outlook to a crawl, and was balky and unstable. I reverted to PlanPlus 2, largely out of habit and for the usefulness of the daily notes (really, just a special Outlook Journal category). It was still a little slow and unstable, but not nearly as much as PlanPlus 3.

      Three weeks ago, I did a major overhaul; removing all vestiges of the Franklin-Covey software--and the Netcentrics GTD add-in--for a relatively plain-vanilla Outlook with a few customized views, a la Michael Leinenberger, plus Lookout and Clear Context. Then, I got the e-mail from Franklin-Covey announcing PlanPlus 4.

      Seemingly against my better judgment, I installed it on a laptop to see if it could be made to work. It seemed to work fine, and a day or two later I installed it on my mission-critical desk computer, which has twice the memory the laptop has. I've been using it for a little over a week now, and I'm liking it. There is a little bit of a performance drag, but on my system it's less than I experienced with PlanPlus 2 and infinitely better than Planplus 3. The "Home" screen is the slowest to load, since it has to filter out so much information from different folders. It may take 3 or 4 seconds to load. The Project view usually loads in a second or two. I'm finding it especially useful.

      PlanPlus 4 adds quite a few features to Outlook, so it must be a fairly large and complicated program. Still, it doesn't do everything I would like, and I've had to make a few work-arounds. But it's better than what I had before. If you want to keep some of the FC functionality, you might want to give it a whirl. (They have free 30-day trials.) The one caveat is that folks in the past have reported difficulties removing all vestiges of the Franklin-Covey add-ins from their systems. (The same is true with the NetCentrics GTD add-in.) FC has downloadable files you can use to do a more thorough job of removing earlier versions than the Windows Uninstall does. I don't know if they have such a thing for PlanPlus 4, and this is something you might want to check into. But if you encounter difficulties, their e-mail support seems to be quite thorough and responsive. And it's free.
      Last edited by smithdoug; 09-24-2006, 11:33 AM. Reason: correct typo error


      • #4

        Outlink products look interesting, bridging your computer and a paper-based planner. They're from At A Glance.

        "Contains a Document Tray to keep all your info with you when you need it. Holds printouts of your computer calendar, contacts, tasks, or e-mails. The sidebar Task Pad gives you dedicated space to transfer vital information from your paper planning product to your computer planning software. Notebook has 80 lined sheets. Available in Black."

        I don't think I'd want it, but would like to see it.


        • #5
          I was never an Outlook fan until I got a Tablet PC...

          I'll admit it: I used to love paper planners. Every year I would dutifully purchase one, set it up, and enjoy scrawling in it for the next 365 days. Rinse and repeat every year. I got a PDA (a Handspring Visor), but it never quite "felt" the same way as the paper planner. So, I went back to the paper planner. Then, when my trusty laptop started to be more of a hinderance than an asset, I started researching replacement options and found out about Tablet PCs.

          Man, what a difference! I now use Outlook 2003 (with a great add in called Tablet Enhancements for Outlook 3.0 to add digital ink functionality along with the view enhancements from Total Workday Control by Linenberger) for my scheduling, contact management, and note taking. I use Mindmanager 6 Pro in conjunction with Outlook for brainstorming, task management, and project planning. This system has worked out great for me and has lead to great gains in productivity and organization.

          I get the free form notetaking ability of paper with the organizational power of a computer. It's one of the greatest purchases I've made in a long time. I can't imagine going back to a traditional laptop *shudder*


          • #6
            How do you protect your information?

            How do you protect your information stored on Tablet PC? What's your backup strategy?


            • #7
              My back-up plan

              I used a two-tier method for backing up my data. All of my document and support materials are backed up to a 2GB thumbdrive (which is synced with my office desktop) using Microsoft Synctoy . This creates three copies of my mission critical data.

              I also do a full image of my hard drive using Acronis True Image 9.0 periodically. I store this image on an external USB hard drive. Every so often, I also burn a CD of the frequently used apps that I have downloaded.

              This gives me pretty good data redundancy and spreads my data over several locations. It’s funny that you asked this question as I just finished backing up everything last night. I don’t do full system backups as often as I should, but I make sure to religiously sync my documents and support materials…


              • #8
                Originally posted by smithdoug
                And if I recall correctly, the number of Macintosh viruses out there is way out of proportion to their Windows counterparts when taking the installed user base into account.
                You recall incorrectly. There are NO Mac viruses in the wild. Apple provides regular security upgrades that work seamlessly, and you don't have to pay for 3rd party software to fix holes that should never have been there in the first place.

                By the way, the Franklin Covey software is so unstable they closed their online support forum because there were so many complaints. I tried most previous versions: they were all slow and buggy. Maybe they did better with version 4.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by mcogilvie
                  I tried most previous versions: they were all slow and buggy. Maybe they did better with version 4.
                  I tried it. I like it. I bought it.


                  • #10
                    smithdoug, not only are your "geek credentials" well below zero, you also probably never heard of the perils of using Internet Explorer for HTML mail rendering, including all its vulnerabilites (BTW, everyone sending HTML mails should be shot in the head in the first place), don't know anything about ActiveX, VBScript, RPC and all the other niceties of Microsoft crapware. Rootkits? Alternate data streams? Guess you never heard of those. And you probably also run your Windoze on administrator privileges (like almost everybody else). Yeah, better knock on wood.

                    mcogilvie is right, the number of Mac viruses you are likely to encounter is zero. And for good reason.

                    For all others: Do yourself a favor and use something else. Pegasus, for example, for mail. And did I mention that Outlook sucks for GTD? Try My Life Organized or EssentialPIM, for example.


                    • #11
                      I've been using computers a long time but I don't get the bashing of Outlook. I should mention I'm also a computer guy.

                      I am a proponent of using plain text mail. Outlook 2003 (free if your organization has Exchange 2003) has some great security enhancements that handles evil html mail. The latest release also plays nice with the rest of the world in that by default it doesn't send out Rich Text Formated messages to people outside of your company.

                      The GTD outlook add-in works really well and enhances my workflow. My world is very e-mail centric and as much I use to love Lotus Organizer it just doesn't work for me anymore. Being able to make Actions out of e-mails is key for me keeping my Inbox at zero.

                      I always crack up at the "Macs have no virus issues" argument as it is false. These folks forget that the Word Macro viruses were cross platform. Now that OS X is based on Free BSD you are seeing more activity with trojans and even the occassional virus. It would be stupid to run any computer system without using some form of virus protection. I even use such software on my Linux based systems.

                      FWIW, I tried the planplus 4 and thought it was a dog in terms of performance. The overall way the product works just doesn't do it for me. I prefer Outlook 2003 with the GTD add-in. It's not perfect but it's the best I've found for me.


                      • #12
                        Outlook the core of a trusted system

                        Hurling Frootmig, I guess I can not dispute your characterization of PlanPlus 4 as a dog. It's certainly not a svelte gazelle. But on my system--and to my great surprise--it is a vast improvement over PlanPlus 3 (which I found unusable) and speedier than PlanPlus 2, even though it attempts to do quite a bit more than PP2. Outlook must be a rather large and sophisticated program, so it's probably reasonable to expect a performance hit when one adds additional components that were never intended to be there in the first place. But the two or three seconds it usually takes for a PP4 view to open is tolerable, and not nearly as long as what I'm experiencing with other applications; our CRM application in particular. Even Word is often slower on my system.

                        I own a small business and will be installing an Exchange Server (with enterprise CRM capability so that my employees can better serve our customers) and some more robust workstations early next year; probably upon the release of Vista, Office 2007 and the new Adobe suite. I hope to experience much better performance then.

                        At this point in my work I have very little of the "wierd time" that David Allen writes about. Consequently, I find that I infrequently look at tasks or next actions filtered by context. I tend to look at tasks organized by project instead, and it was the project management feature that compelled me to take a look at PlanPlus 4 in the first place. It's useful for most of the projects I need to track, but I assign myself from a few to several fairly large projects each quarter that have more dimensions of complexity than the project management features of PP4 appear to be capable of handling. I've been having success using MindManager for organizing these (occasionally with the GanttPro add-in for scheduling) and am starting to better utilize OneNote to organize a lot of the project-related information. Both MindManager and OneNote can export and synchronize tasks with Outlook and I can link branches in MindManager to information in OneNote. The ability to integrate Outlook with such powerful tools is certainly one reason why I conclude that Outlook logically belongs at the core of a 'trusted system'.


                        • #13
                          I never use outlook I've had way to many viruses and such from it.