In the last month three of my friends decided to buy new computers thanks to a special deal offered by a major supplier. Each computer came with a huge hard disk, tons of memory, Windows XP Home Edition, and an entire suite of software including Microsoft Office. Since I serve as "computer guru" to each of the three, they all called me to announce the great deal. As soon as they said Office was included, I knew what was coming. Sure enough, all three ended up asking me exactly the same question: What’s the difference between Outlook and Outlook Express, and which one should I use?
Both Outlook and Outlook Express handle the basics of Internet mail, including an address book, message rules, user-created folders, and support for POP3, IMAP, and HTTP mail accounts. Both were developed by Microsoft and so have a somewhat similar appearance. Both contain the word “Outlook” in their names. Believe it or not, that’s just about all they have in common.
Outlook and Outlook Express were designed by different programming teams for different audiences with different needs. Outlook Express was developed as part of Internet Explorer with the home user in mind while Outlook was developed as part of Microsoft Office with the corporate user in mind. Outlook Express is a basic Internet mail program that is part of Internet Explorer and Windows. Outlook is a full-featured personal information manager that is available as a part of Microsoft Office and also as a stand-alone program.
Outlook Express handles not only Internet mail but also Internet news, a feature that Outlook does not natively possess. But Outlook has a host of features that Outlook Express does not have, such as a calendar, a task list, a journal, and automatic backup into archive files. The address book in Outlook is a very sophisticated contact management system unlike the simple address book used by Outlook Express. Outlook can be programmed using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) but Outlook Express cannot. Outlook is highly interoperable and so can be used in combination with Word, for example, to perform mail-merge in e-mail or to automate outgoing mail messages. Outlook Express does not interact with other programs in this way except for creating a new mail message when a program requests it.
Outlook also has a very powerful Junk Mail feature which has received high praise and is envied just as highly by many Outlook Express users. In a similar vein, Outlook has message rules for both incoming and outgoing mail, while Outlook Express can only filter incoming. Outlook rules also offer a much wider range of actions than do rules in Outlook Express.
One important difference applies to network environments, whether an office intranet or a home network. Outlook Express was designed for use on a single computer and so its message store and settings cannot be stored on a server. Outlook however was tailor-made for networks, and so its message store can be on a central server that many machines can access. If you need to access your e-mail from more than one machine on your network, Outlook Express is just not the solution for you.
The list of differences could easily be extended to consume all the space for this column. For more details and help in choosing see Differences between Outlook and Outlook Express
. The Crabby Office Lady, in her regular column on the Microsoft Office Web site, includes a handy table to compare features in Outlook and Outlook Express: Brothers, not twins
Choosing a default client
A default client is the application that Windows uses when some action you take requires a particular type of program to handle the action. Clicking a link on a Web page to send e-mail is an action that requires an e-mail program, so Windows will open a message window in whatever program is configured as the default e-mail client. Opening a vCard, that is, a virtual business card requires Windows to open the default contact list client. Clicking a link to a newsgroup or newsgroup article opens the default news client.
All of the default clients are controlled in a single location.
- On the Start menu, click Control Panel.
- In Category view, click Network and Internet Connections, and then click Internet Options.
- Click the Programs tab.
If you have both Outlook and Outlook Express installed, you will have to choose one or the other for the default client for e-mail, newsgroups and contact list.
If you choose Outlook for your e-mail client, you should also choose Outlook for the contact list. Likewise if you choose Outlook Express for e-mail, you should choose Address Book for contact list. In older versions of Outlook and Outlook Express, it was possible to configure Outlook Express to share the Contacts folder in Outlook. In that case Outlook Express can be the default e-mail client but Outlook must be the default contact list. This feature is no longer accessible in current versions, although it is possible to enable it by editing the registry. This is not recommended however since this feature might not work at all in future versions.Tip:
The default client settings apply to all Windows User Accounts, and it requires administrator rights to change them, so consider how your choice will affect other users of your computer. If Dad wants Outlook as the default client but Mom wants Outlook Express, each will need administrator rights so that each can change the default after logging on to Windows. To avoid conflicts it is best that all users agree on the default selection.
The default newsgroup client is Outlook Express in a normal Windows installation. Older versions of Outlook also show as possible newsgroup clients. But as I said earlier, Outlook does not have native support for newsgroups, so this requires a bit of explanation. If Outlook is set as the default here, it causes Outlook Express to run in a special Outlook Newsreader mode
. This mode removes access to Outlook Express mail functions unless you have already created a mail account in Outlook Express. It also adds a Newsgroups
item to Outlook's Go
menu. But the truth is the Outlook Newsreader is really Outlook Express.Tip:
You don’t have to install Outlook to see what the Outlook Newsreader looks like.
- Make sure Outlook Express is closed.
- Click Start, and then click Run.
- In the Openbox, type msimn /outnews.
- Click OK.
There is one thing I should point out about newsgroups and the default e-mail client. If you are reading a news message and click Reply to Author
, this will invoke your default e-mail client. This surprises many people who expect the reply to be sent by Outlook Express since they are already in that program to read the news message. But doing that would be inconsistent with how default clients are supposed to operate. When Outlook Express is in news mode, it looks to the default client for any e-mail functions that are required. Likewise when Outlook Express is in mail mode, clicking a link to a newsgroup will open that group in the default news client, which may or may not be Outlook Express.
Best of both worlds
Once you have configured default clients, you are still able to use both Outlook and Outlook Express, even at the same time. In fact this is what I do all day long. All my work-related e-mail accounts are configured in Outlook so that I can keep better track of business correspondence and link it to appointments and contacts. My personal e-mail accounts that I use in combination with newsgroups are configured in Outlook Express. Since I love the ease and simplicity of Outlook Express, and also love the information management and Junk Mail of Outlook, the combination truly lets me enjoy the best of both worlds.