Early users of Outlook 2007, the latest version of Microsoft's market-leading e-mail client, are voicing widespread complaints about the software's sluggish performance.
Symptoms being reported by users include temporary freezes when commands are executed or windows are opened, an inability of Outlook to keep up with text as it is being typed and slowness in sending and receiving e-mails.
Most of the problems don't appear to be the result of underpowered PCs or of faulty or misconfigured e-mail servers. Instead, users say, and Microsoft acknowledges, that 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 MVP who works as a Microsoft Exchange consultant at 3Sharp, an IT services firm in Redmond, Wash.
For Robichaux, Outlook 2007 tends to freeze when he's trying to download e-mail from his Exchange Server. It also holds outgoing e-mail indefinitely instead of sending the messages promptly, he said. Robichaux is sure that the problem isn't with Exchange because other, near-identical PCs that are running Outlook 2007 and are connected to the same e-mail server work fine. "Clearly, there are some things I don't understand," he said.
Jason Clarke, who works in the technical sales and marketing department at Wenco International Mining Systems in Richmond, British Columbia, receives about 100 e-mails on a daily basis. He said that on his PC, Outlook 2007 "hangs completely for three to seven seconds typically, and up to 20 seconds in worst cases when new mail is being downloaded."
Turning off Outlook add-ins that he has installed, such as ClearContext Corp.'s e-mail management software and Caelo Software Inc.'s Nelson Email Organizer, "does improve matters marginally, but not nearly as much as it should," Clarke said. "The hesitation is still very noticeable, jarring even."
Clarke, who oversees Wenco's e-mail system, has posted information about Outlook's slow performance on his personal blog. He blames the problems on the new e-mail indexing engine that Outlook 2007 shares with Windows Vista.
The indexing allows searches to be done almost instantly in Outlook 2007, 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.