Outlook, RSS, & the user-agent string
10 October 06 03:46 PM | michaelaffronti | 6 Comments   

One of our dedicated MVP's, Patrick Schmid, reported in his post here that:

If you provide an RSS feed for your blog, then there is a good chance that you use FeedBurner. FeedBurner is a great tool to get accurate statistics on how many subscribers an RSS feed has for example. Unfortunately, FeedBurner doesn’t count any subscriptions from Outlook 2007 or IE7. It looks like FeedBurner just doesn’t know that Outlook 2007/IE7 can be real RSS readers. This is a pretty annoying problem for me, as I would assume that a large number of you are subscribing to my blog via Outlook 2007.

For Outlook 2007 we will unfortunately not be able to report any custom user agent string for our RSS aggregation.  Due to the way we integrate with IE across many parts of the application (the WININET stack is the underlying infrastructure for all of Outlook’s internet communication), we cannot easily and safely change the way we broadcast ourselves when connecting to external servers.  To do so would require a fundamental change in the way the WININET stack is called from Outlook and could affect all of the Office applications.  The scope of this fix is unfortunately outside of what we can provide this release.

We are going to work with Patrick, IE, and the Feedburner folks to see if there is anything else we can do. 

Thanks Patrick for helping us diagnose this.

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RSS & AutoArchive in Outlook 2007 – part 2
27 September 06 10:19 AM | michaelaffronti | 0 Comments   

A few days ago I posted on how to use AutoArchive in Outlook 2007 to help manage the size impact of your RSS Feeds on your Exchange mailbox. One of the downsides to using AutoArchive is that there is no easy way to apply a defined set of parameters to a number of RSS Feed folders at once – folders can either use the global setting or they need to have their parameters set individually.

Here's a trick that I use to workaround that limitation and keep my RSS feeds down, along with archiving the content should I ever need to find it with Outlook 2007's Instant Search (plug plug).

  1. Create a new .PST file from File: New: Outlook Data File. I called mine "RSS Archive".
  2. Select File: Archive from the menu. 

  3. In the resulting dialog, select Archive this folder and all subfolders:
  4. Click on the "RSS Feeds" folder.
  5. Choose a date that you would like to archive from in Archive items older than. I typically choose a date that's two or three days ago.
  6. Select your new PST in Archive File:
  7. Click OK to run Archive.

This will archive all of the RSS Feed items out of your default store that are older than the set date, and move them into the .PST file you created. This one-off run of AutoArchive does not change any of the settings you may have on the individual feed folders, it's just a quick way to get RSS Feed items out of your Exchange store. You can run it whenever you need, just follow the steps above (minus creating the new PST).

You've reduced the amount of RSS Feed items in your default store while retaining them in an archive PST – sweet!

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RSS & AutoArchive in Outlook 2007
22 September 06 08:53 AM | michaelaffronti | 5 Comments   

The volume of content on some RSS Feeds can be very high. When you add more RSS Feeds to Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, you might discover that the size of your Microsoft Exchange mailbox (mailbox: Location on a Microsoft Exchange server where your e-mail is delivered. Your administrator sets up a mailbox for each user. If you designate a personal folder file as your e-mail delivery location, messages are routed to it from your mailbox.) or Personal Folders file (.pst) (Personal Folders file (.pst): Data file that stores your messages and other items on your computer. You can assign a .pst file to be the default delivery location for e-mail messages. You can use a .pst to organize and back up items for safekeeping.) is quickly increasing in size.

The AutoArchive feature in Outlook provides an automatic way to delete items older than a certain date. Many RSS Feeds include news or other time-sensitive information. The need to keep older items is usually not as important as keeping your e-mail messages.


More about AutoArchive

AutoArchive is on by default and runs automatically at scheduled intervals, archiving and, if specified, removing older items from all Outlook folders. Older items are those that reach a specificed archiving age.

By default, Outlook creates the archive files in the following location:

  • Microsoft Windows Vista
  • Microsoft Windows XP or 2k3
    drive:\Documents and Settings\user\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook\Archive.pst

After Outlook archives items, you can access the items directly from Archive Folders in the Navigation Pane in Outlook. To see the Archive Folders in the Navigation Pane, on the Go menu, click Folder List.

When you open Archive Folders, you will see that Outlook maintains your existing folder structure. If there is a parent folder above the folder you chose to archive, the parent folder is created in the archive file, but within the parent folder only items that meet AutoArchive criteria are archived. If you decide you want archived items moved back into your main mailbox, you can import all the items from the archive file into their original folders or into other folders you specify, or you can manually move or copy items, including dragging between folders.


Customizing AutoArchive for RSS items

There are two sets of AutoArchive settings — global settings and per-folder settings.

  • Global settings
    Called default settings, determine whether AutoArchive runs at all and what it does by default with the items in any Outlook folder except Contacts, which is exempt from AutoArchive.
  • Per-folder settings
    override default settings so you can AutoArchive individual folders differently

If you don't specify AutoArchive settings for a specific folder, the folder is not archived. AutoArchive settings apply to the current mailbox only. This means if you select a folder in your Exchange account, and then set Global settings for AutoArchive, the settings apply only to the Exchange account.


Turn on AutoArchive

Although AutoArchive is on by default, you can turn off and turn on the feature when required. AutoArchive must be turned on for the procedures in this article to work.

If you want to use AutoArchive for RSS Feeds folders only, we recommend that you modify the default settings so that AutoArchive is turned on, but takes no action except on the specific folders you configure. This helps prevent accidental archiving or deletion from folders that you did not intend to affect.

  1. On the Tools menu, click Options.
  2. On the Other tab, click AutoArchive.

    Select the Run AutoArchive every n days check box.
  3. Enter a number between 1 and 60 in the box for how often you want AutoArchive to run.

    To effectively use AutoArchive with RSS Feeds folders, we recommend that you use a value between 1 and 7 days. This is not the number of days that items are kept, but how often AutoArchive runs. The more frequently you run AutoArchive, the more accurate your retention periods are.
  4. Under During Archive, clear the Delete Expired Items (e-mail folders only) and Archive or delete old items check boxes.

    Clearing these check boxes helps prevent accidentally performing AutoArchive actions on folders that you do not intend to affect. Later in this article, you specify AutoArchive settings on a per-folder basis.

    If you already use AutoArchive and some of your folders use the default global settings, it is not necessary for you to change your settings.


Specify AutoArchive settings for each RSS Feed folder

  1. In the Navigation Pane, right-click the RSS Feeds folder you want to specify settings for, and then click Properties on the shortcut menu.
  2. Click the AutoArchive tab.

  3. Click Archive this folder using these settings.
  4. In Clean out items older than n period , where n represents the numeric value of 1 to 999, and period equals months, days, or weeks, enter the maximum length of time you want RSS items to be kept.
  5. Click Permanently delete old items.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Repeat for each RSS Feeds folder that contains items you want to automatically delete.


Manually run AutoArchive

  1. On the File menu, click Archive.
  2. Specify whether to archive all folders using their AutoArchive settings (that is, either the default settings or per-folder settings you specified for individual folders) or whether to archive an individual folder using the options you specify in this dialog box.
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new blog from the Vista Shell team
20 September 06 12:27 PM | michaelaffronti | 3 Comments   

The Windows Shell Team has a new blog entitled "Shell Revealed". From the site…

Welcome to shell:revealed, the home of the Windows Client team. We're the folks that build the core user interface for Windows and we love every minute of it!

shell:revealed isn't about Windows Vista, it's about Windows. Many of the people on the Windows Client team have been here a very long time and have plenty of knowledge to share with the world. This is the place to find out what we're doing, how we're doing it, and why. This site is dedicated to all Windows users.

They were also on /. this morning. Sweet!

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Beta 2 TR requires a new version of WDS
19 September 06 04:07 PM | michaelaffronti | 5 Comments   

Windows Desktop Search (WDS) 3.0 is a native component of Vista, and is being shipped separately as a system component for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 users. WDS is a system service that indexes file, email and other content in order to provide fast searches over content and properties. It is an upgrade to all previous 2.x versions of Windows Desktop Search you may currently use. Outlook 2007 will have a new version of Instant Search technology that is built on top of WDS and is dependent on its presence for search to work.

The Beta 2 Technical Refresh of Outlook will prompt you to download and install a new version of Windows Desktop Search 3.0 if you are running on WinXP. This is required in order to support our new Instant Search capabilities in Outlook.

"Windows Desktop Search 3.0 (WDS) enables fast search on your computer using indexing technology. It helps you to find your documents, email, music, photos and other items. The search engine in Windows Desktop Search 3.0 is a Windows service that is also used by applications such as Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 and Office OneNote 2007 to index application content and deliver instant results when searching within an application.

This release is an update to the Beta Engine Preview release of Windows Desktop Search 3.0. The most noticeable improvements include full Desktop Search UI, 64-bit support, and better performance. The installation process will automatically upgrade 2.5 and higher versions of Windows Desktop Search. Earlier versions of Windows Desktop Search should be uninstalled from Add/Remove Programs before this version is installed."

The download button will take you to this page for installation. If you're running a 64bit machine you can find the WDS build on this page instead.

If you're running on Vista RC1 or later, you'll be good to go with no separate installation needed. J

Happy searching!

RSS in Outlook - upgrading from Beta 2 to B2TR
18 September 06 10:01 AM | michaelaffronti | 8 Comments   

With the Office Beta 2 Technical Refresh now live on the web, I wanted to take a few minutes and talk about the best way to get your RSS feeds up and running after you upgrade. The B2TR installation is actually a patch that installs on top of the original Beta 2 and makes upgrading very simple.

In B2TR we made a significant amount of changes to the way that are RSS Feeds are stored internally inside of Outlook. These changes were made to deal with several cases where users could receive duplicate items for an individual post, have duplicate feed folders, or even experience the loss of feeds or sync breaking when using an Exchange account.

If you've got a lot of feeds in the original Beta 2 and are going to be installing the B2TR patch, we recommend a few steps to get your RSS setup using the new architecture.

Upgrade Steps

  1. In Beta2, export your feeds as an OPML file.
  2. Patch to the B2TR.
  3. Run Outlook with the /cleansharing command. Do this by going to Start: Run, then type "Outlook /cleansharing".

    1. This will remove ALL of the RSS Feed subscriptions from Outlook.
    2. It will not remove the folders or the data, but if you go to the Account Manager's RSS tab (Tools: Accounts, RSS) you will not see any more feeds listed.
    3. This is an important step since it clears out all the feeds using the old architecture.
    4. Note: this will also remove all of the subscriptions to Microsoft SharePoint sites and Internet Calendar subscriptions.
  4. You can now delete the folders for your old RSS Feeds since the next step will create new folders.
    1. If you're on Exchange give this operation a few minutes to sync to your server and other Outlook clients.
  5. Import your OPML file.

Those steps should get you working cleanly with the improved RSS architecture in the B2TR. If you've got any comments or issues please use your normal support channel (if you're a corporate beta user) or drop me a comment below.

Internet Explorer 7 Integration

Outlook B2TR's integration with the IE 7 RSS Platform will require the IE7 RC1 build for WindowsXP, or Windows Vista RC1, in order for the sync to work correctly.

Thanks! Good luck with the B2TR build.

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new Office Word team blog!
17 September 06 10:57 PM | michaelaffronti | 1 Comments   

Check it out at http://blogs.msdn.com/microsoft_office_word/default.aspx.  It's being written by Jonathan Bailor, a Program Manager on the Office Word team focusing on compatability of the new Word document format with previous releases. 

Jonathan will be discussing everything from mainline scenarios that Word 2007 makes better to his thoughts on program management.  Check it out!

IWCenter podast
17 September 06 10:37 PM | michaelaffronti | 2 Comments   

About two weeks I did a great interview with Shawn Murrary for his podcast on the IWCenter.  Shawn's site is a fantastic source of information on Office 2007 and how many of the new features across all of the products will change the way information worker go about their day. 

My direct podcast is located here, and Shawn keeps a repository of all his podcasts on this page (including one with SteveB!). 

Thanks Shawn for this great opportunity to talk about some of the exciting work we've done in Outlook 2007.  If anyone has any questions based on what Shawn and I discussed feel free to let me know.

Happy listening...  :) 

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Paul Thurrott review of Office B2TR
14 September 06 01:40 PM | michaelaffronti | 1 Comments   

Another great review by Paul Thurrott over on the Windows SuperSite:  http://www.winsupersite.com/reviews/office2007_beta2_tr.asp

He's got some great information on Outlook and talks specifically about the new Instant Search functionality. 

11 August 06 05:01 PM | michaelaffronti | 0 Comments   

Figure 11. The GridView Theme has Been Added to the App_Theme Folder

Rename the GridView Theme to DataWebControls (right-click on the GridView folder in the App_Theme folder and choose Rename). Next, enter the following markup into the GridView.skin file:

<asp:GridView runat="server" CssClass="DataWebControlStyle">
   <AlternatingRowStyle CssClass="AlternatingRowStyle" />
   <RowStyle CssClass="RowStyle" />
   <HeaderStyle CssClass="HeaderStyle" />   
Microsoft shows off improved search
08 August 06 09:28 AM | michaelaffronti | 1 Comments   


"Most search engines today use a somewhat two-dimensional approach, matching user queries with the content and link structure of Web pages to return a list of results. We're looking at how to add a third dimension--the users themselves--to improve the search experience," said Eugene Agichtein, a researcher in the Mining, Search and Navigation Group within Microsoft Research.

Paul Thurrott’s Review of Office 2007 Beta 2
18 July 06 09:20 AM | michaelaffronti | 3 Comments   

Paul wrote a great review of Office 2007 Beta 2 at his Windows Supersite. The second part of the article focuses in on Outlook 2007, and I'll quote directly from the site as Paul talks about some of the features that are near and dear to my heart…

Instant Search

"In my Word 2007 Beta 2 review, I bemoaned the fact that Microsoft wasn't adopting inline search. Well, in Outlook 2007, they are: A new instant search box appears front-and-center at the top of the Inbox pane (as I'll call this second pane in its default view). This instant search box replaces both the horribly week Find and slightly-better but hard-to-find Advanced Find functionality from previous Outlook versions (though, oddly, they're both still available). Good riddance, I say.

Instant search is truly instant, using what Microsoft calls "word wheeling" to search as you type. Instant search is also context specific. That means that the search query you type will search the current email view by default, but you can expand the search to include any and all email folders very easily. Search results, naturally, replace the default Inbox view in the second pane.

I've found instant search to be one of my absolute favorite new features in Outlook 2007, and while it would be easy to wonder aloud why it took so long, let's just be happy it's finally there: With the proliferation of personal information and email we must now manage, this is a must-have feature."

RSS integration

"There's an ongoing debate about where users should consume information published to RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. One obvious outlet is your Web browser, because that's where people tend to read Internet-based information now, and not surprisingly, Internet Explorer 7 (see my Beta 3 review) does offer this functionality. However, information published via RSS is pushed out to users, sort of like email, so some argue that you should use an email application to consume RSS-based information. Too, each post from an RSS feeds is conceptually similar to an email message. To satisfy this latter crowd, Microsoft is adding RSS support to Outlook 2007.

The smart thing here is that both IE 7 and Outlook 2007 will use the same RSS engine and data store. So if you're using both products, you can subscribe to a feed in IE 7 and view the feed posts in Outlook 2007 (or vice versa). The back-end data store is the same.

In Outlook 2007, RSS feeds are available via a new RSS Subscriptions node in the tree view that appears below All Mail Items in the Navigation pane (it's at the same level as Inbox, incidentally). You view RSS posts just like you do email, using Outlook's familiar Reading Pane. And because RSS feeds are pushed to you, like email, Outlook will continually ping your subscribed feeds and download new content as needed.

If you're curious about my take on RSS and where it should be consumed, I utilize a hybrid approach. Outlook is absolutely the right place to manage and view feeds. But since many RSS feeds only publish a small portion of each post, you'll often find yourself clicking on a link to view the rest. Those links, of course, open IE 7 (or your browser of choice)."

Thanks Paul for taking the time to really think through the implementation of the features and highlighting some of the big wins they offer our users.

Top 10 Ways to Motivate a Geek
18 July 06 08:46 AM | michaelaffronti | 2 Comments   

I couldn't resist posting about this article. It's a decent read and highlights some of the issues I see affecting us here at Microsoft every day. It's my first visit to the Retrospector's blog and I've already subscribed; another good read is the linked article on "how to become an early riser." I get chided on all the time because I'm one of those "sleeps four hours a night" people and am always up early, but after reading that article maybe its totally normal to do so.

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FeedBurner acquires blog analytics firm
17 July 06 08:27 AM | michaelaffronti | 1 Comments   

CNET has an article about how syndication firm FeedBurner has acquired blog analytics firm BlogBeat.net in a move designed to give FeedBurner customers more insight into what types of headlines and articles its users are viewing and interacting with.

Server-side and client-side analytics are becoming increasingly more important as content producers aim to make their syndicated data more relevant to users.

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another convert...
14 July 06 10:39 AM | michaelaffronti | 1 Comments   

Robert and I had a great discussion the other day about how RSS Feeds and their related information are roamed through Exchange when using Outlook 2007 as your aggregator of choice.  He's posted about it here.

Thanks for the great feedback Robert!

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