• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Outlook Express\program files\outlook express\msimn.exe

An Internet email client and newsgroup reader.

To Open

Start Programs Outlook Express

Double-click the Outlook Express icon on the Desktop

Quick Launch Bar "Launch Outlook Express"

Command Prompt msimn


Outlook Express is the email client included with Windows XP (see Figure 4-63). Outlook Express uses a familiar Explorer-like tree interface to manage the folders into which email messages are organized. Highlight any folder name to display its messages; the currently highlighted message is then shown in the preview pane. Double-click the message to open it in a new window for easier reading and other options.

Figure 4-63. Outlook Express is the rudimentary email application that comes with Windows

Newly received messages are stored in the Inbox folder. Files queued to be sent are stored in the Outbox folder, and are then moved to the Sent Items folder when they have been sent. The Deleted Items folder is like the Recycle Bin because it stores deleted messages until it is emptied manually. The Drafts folder stores messages as they're being composed. To add a new folder, select Local Folders in the tree and go to File New Folder. Messages can be moved from folder to folder by dragging and dropping.

The first time you open Outlook Express, a wizard walks you through setting up your first account. An account in Outlook Express is not actually an email account, but rather an entry in the Tools Accounts Mail tab that corresponds to an existing email account. Outlook Express uses either the Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) or the Internet Message Access Protocol 4 (IMAP4) Internet mail protocols to receive mail and the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) to send mail. Nearly all Internet Service Providers and many online services (like AOL and MSN) use POP3 and SMTP for mail transfer.

In addition to mail accounts, you can set up Directory Service accounts, which allow you to look up contact information using any of several online global contact lists. Outlook Express also functions as a newsreader for participating in Internet newsgroups; you'll need to add a News Account to Outlook Express before you can read any newsgroups (contact your ISP for details).

Much of Outlook Express is fairly intuitive, and given that it would require more space than we have here to cover Outlook Express in its entirety, the following sections highlight only some of the most useful and interesting aspects of the program.

Accounts (Tools Accounts)

As stated above, the Accounts window stores information about all of your email, news, and Directory Service accounts. Choose the All tab to list them all together. You can modify any account entry by double-clicking it. To add a new account entry, click Add and choose the account type. Unfortunately, the only way to set up an account entry is to use the cumbersome wizard; there's no way to skip ahead and use the Properties window to enter information. When you're done with the wizard, you'll probably have to use the Properties window anyway to set some of the more advanced options, such as whether or not to automatically check mail from this account, whether to leave copies of your mail on the server, or whether to use a different email address when replying to messages sent to this account.

Most problems encountered when sending or receiving email are caused by improper settings in this window.

If you have more than one mail account, you can choose the default by highlighting it and clicking Set as Default. Thereafter, that account will be used as your return address when sending outgoing email (unless you change it on a per-message basis).

The Set Order button, which lets you choose the search order when looking up contacts in your Directory Services, may be a little confusing at first. Since only an entry is shown, there's nothing to rearrange; to include more entries in Set Order, double-click each entry and turn on the "Check names against this server when sending mail" option (see Figure 4-64).

Figure 4-64. Configure multiple email accounts with the Internet Accounts dialog

Address Book (Tools Address Book)

The Address Book is used to store names and contact information for people to whom you send email on a regular basis. See Address Book, earlier in this chapter, for more information.

Options (Tools Options)

Specify options that govern the behavior of Outlook Express and apply to all mail and news accounts. This is where you control things like how often Outlook Express checks for mail when it's running and whether it is the default email program. The Dial Up tab lets you specify whether a connection is dialed automatically when you start Outlook Express, whether it should hang up after getting your messages, and whether it should dial automatically when you do a Send and Receive.

Identity Management (File Identities Manage Identities)

In addition to its support of multiple email accounts, Outlook Express supports multiple identities, a feature that lets more than one person use Outlook Express on the same machine. Each identity has its own set of accounts, settings, and mail. The preferred approach is to forget the Identities feature, and instead set up multiple users in Windows XP (Control Panel User Accounts), wherein each user would have his/her own Desktop, Start menu, and Explorer settings, as well as separate accounts and mail in Outlook Express. The Identity feature in Outlook Express is for people who don't want to go to the trouble of dealing with multiple Windows users, which would require a second user to log out and then log back in in order to check your mail (see Figure 4-65).

Figure 4-65. If more than one person needs to access their email on the same machine, use the Manage Identities dialog to switch between them

It's tempting to use Identities if you want to send out mail using more than one persona; but this really isn't what the feature is designed for. Instead, you should set up multiple accounts, one for each "persona" you wish to assume.

Say you have three different email addresses — one for work, one for personal email, and one left over from a previous job — all of which are still being used to receive email. You'd like to retrieve all your mail at once and store it all in the same place. In addition, you want to preserve both your work and personal email addresses, so when you respond to messages sent to either address, the return address and "real name" are set appropriately. In this case, you would set up three accounts in Outlook Express, but only one Identity.

To add a new identity, go to File Identities Add New Identity. You can then enter the name of the new user and select a password, if needed. To switch identities at any time, select File Switch Identity. Note that the first time you use a new identity, Outlook Express will act as though it's the first time you've started the program, prompting you for personal contact information and account settings. The identity in use at any given time will be shown in the titlebar of the main Outlook Express window.

To share contacts in your Address Book between identities, open the Address Book and select View Folders and groups. Contacts, by default, are only made available to the user that created them, but they can be shared by moving (or copying) them into the Shared Contacts folder.

Message Rules (Tools Message Rules)

Outlook Express can be set up to automatically handle incoming mail in a number of different ways. For example, you can set up rules instructing Outlook Express to store all email retrieved from your business account in a certain folder, all email retrieved from your personal account in a different folder, and all junk mail (spam) in the trash. Furthermore, you can have Outlook Express automatically respond to certain messages and mark some messages as urgent and others as potentially annoying.

Go to Tools Message Rules Mail to view the mail rules currently in effect. If you haven't yet set up any rules, you would be prompted to do so now; otherwise, click New to create a new rule. Each rule is set up as follows:

  1. Select the conditions for your rule. Choose one or more conditions that, when met, will instruct Outlook Express to take the desired action. For example, to create a rule that applies to all email from Grandma, Place a checkmark next to "Where the From line contains people."

  2. Select the actions for your rule. After you've chosen one or more conditions (above), these options allow you to decide what to do with messages that meet those conditions. For example, you may wish to place all of Grandma's email in a certain folder, in which case you would place a checkmark next to "Move it to the specified folder." On the other hand, if Grandma drives you nuts, you may wish to place a checkmark next to "Delete it."

  3. Rule description. The third box displays a summary of the conditions and actions you've chosen, and allows you to input the specifics. For example, if you've chosen to move all of Grandma's email into a certain folder, the phrase "contains people" will be underlined and hyperlinked, as will the word "specified." Before you can complete this rule, you must click each of these links; in the case of "contains people," you would type Grandma's email address. Likewise, in the case of "specified," you would select the image of the folder in which to store Grandma's email.

  4. Name of the rule. Finally, choose a label for the rule; although the name makes no difference, it will allow you to easily identify and differentiate the rules.

    Don't expect to get all your rules right the first time. For example, after setting up several rules to delete spam, you may find that some legitimate messages are being inadvertently deleted as well. After creating a new rule, scrutinize its performance as new mail is retrieved.

    You can also create new rules on the fly, using some of the context-based tools in Outlook Express. Start by opening a message, and then go to Message Create Rule from Message. Here, the familiar rule dialog box is shown, but some fields have been filled in with information from the selected message. Likewise, you can go to Message Block Sender to place the sender on the Blocked Sender List (Tools Message Rules Blocked Sender List), which causes subsequent email from the sender to be deleted automatically. While not technically a new rule, the Blocked Sender List does have a similar effect and is easier to implement and manage.

Be sure to read the message that pops up right after you add a sender to the Blocked Senders List. Selecting the Yes button will automatically move every message in any folder from this sender into the Deleted Items folder. This is especially dangerous (if you select Yes by mistake) if you've checked the Tools Options Maintenance "Empty messages from the Deleted Items folder on exit" box.

Message Flag Message

This does exactly what it sounds like. Select one or several messages and click the Flag Message command to add a little flag in a column (as long as the column is activated at View Columns) near the message to remind yourself that the message needs a follow-up. You can also just click in the flag column to add a flag to a message. To remove the flag, select the message(s) and click the command again, or just click on the flag itself. You can sort the messages by this column to group all the flagged messages for later review.

Conversations (Message Watch Conversation, Message Ignore Conversation)

A conversation is a continuous series of email or newsgroup messages, often called athread. For example if you were to write an email with the subject "Propane Elaine," it might spark a series of messages between you and the recipient, all of which would have the subject, "Re: Propane Elaine." This thread of messages is called a "conversation" in Outlook Express, and there are tools included for dealing with conversations.

You can "watch" a conversation that is of interest to you by highlighting a message and going to Message Watch Conversation. Likewise, you can "ignore" a conversation by going to Message Ignoring Conversation. Either of these will place an icon in the Watch/Ignore column: sunglasses or a red circle with a line through it, respectively. Click the icon to toggle between Watch, Ignore, and nothing.

For the most part, this is merely a decorative setting; it doesn't affect the way Outlook Express handles these messages. However, you can choose to highlight Watched conversations and hide Ignored conversations, as follows. You can customize the color of messages in watched conversations by going to Tools Options Read tab Highlight watched messages. To hide all messages in a conversation marked as Ignored, go to View Current View Hide Read or Ignored Messages. Then, go to View Current View Customize Current View, place a checkmark next to "Where the messages watched or ignored," and click the links (see above) so that description reads: "Where the message is ignored, Hide the message."

Finally, if you select View Current View Group Messages by Conversation, messages in conversations will be grouped in expandable branches, like the folders in Explorer.

Signatures and Stationary

A signature is a bit of text that is automatically placed at the end of every outgoing message you write. Go to Tools Options Signature tab (see Figure 4-66) to create and edit signatures. Make sure you turn on the "Add signatures to all outgoing messages" option. You can have as many signatures as you want and you can even have a different default signature for each account; just click Advanced and choose the account with which the current signature should be associated. To use a signature on a per-message basis, go to Insert Signature in the message composition window.

Figure 4-66. Use signatures to add a footer to every email you send

Stationery is just as you expect; it imposes a visual style on your message, including colors and even images. Stationary files are just .html files (web pages), stored by default in \Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Stationary. They can be edited with any web page editor or plain text editor. To create new stationery or to use one of the supplied templates, go to Tools Options Compose tab. Click Create New to start a wizard to build a new stationery file for you. Place to checkmark next to Mail or News, and then click Select to choose an .html file to set as the default stationery. Unfortunately, you can't set default stationery for each account (something Eudora lets you do), but you can choose stationary on a per-message basis by going to Format Apply Stationary in the message composition window.

Both signatures and stationery are shown in your message as you write, so you can modify them as needed without disrupting the permanent signature or stationary file. To make a template, useful when repeatedly sending messages that are similar, open a stationary file in a web page editor (or plain text editor, if you're familiar with HTML) and type whatever text content you need.


  • Alternatives to Outlook Express include the popular Eudora Email (http://www.eudora.com) by Qualcomm, the web-based Hotmail email service (http://www.hotmail.com) by Microsoft, and PINE for those die-hard Unix users.

  • Since it is an integrated component of Windows, Outlook Express is often the target of virus and Trojan horse attacks. Many of the recent widespread virus infestations have exploited the vulnerabilities in Outlook Express to replicate themselves, sometimes by sending a virus-infested attachment to everyone in your contact list. The same applies to Outlook, OE's big sister, which is included with Microsoft Office. To protect yourself, you should consider installing antivirus software, or even using a different email program.

  • If you have more than one account setup in Outlook Express, only one account can be the default at any time. Although you can choose a From account each time you compose outgoing mail, the default account is the one that is used if you don't make a choice. Unfortunately, there's no way to set up a Message Rule (see above) to change the default account used when responding to incoming messages; for that, you'll need a more full-featured email program like Eudora.

  • The filename msimn.exe gives a taste of the history of this program. Originally called Microsoft Internet Mail and News, it was renamed Outlook Express to position it as the "lite" version of Microsoft's Outlook application. In fact, the two programs share nothing but the name.

  • By default, Outlook Express automatically compacts your mail and news files when it detects that 20 percent of your storage space is being wasted. You can adjust this percentage using Tools Options Maintenance "Compact files when...". You can also click Clean Up Now here to perform the compression whenever you want.

  • If you want to use Outlook Express when you're not connected to the Internet, go to File Work Offline. If you are using a dial-up connection, you may even want to further reduce online time by configuring Outlook Express to hang up after sending and receiving messages. To do this, go to Tools Options Connection tab and turn on the "Hang up after sending and receiving" options. If autodial is enabled, Outlook Express will reconnect automatically when you go to Tools Send and Receive.

  • If you access the same account from two different computers, you may wish to set up one computer to download messages, but not delete them from the server. Set up your other system to delete messages after downloading them. This way, one system always has a complete set of messages. Do this by using Tools Accounts any account Properties Advanced tab Leave a copy of messages on server.

  • If you have multiple accounts set up and do not want one included when you click Send and Receive, go to Tools Accounts any account Properties General tab, and deselect "Include this account when receiving mail or synchronizing."

  • To send a file along with an email message, go to Insert File Attachment in the message composition window, or just drag the file from your Desktop or Explorer into the body of message. If Outlook Express is your default email program, you can also send a file as an email attachment by right-clicking it and selecting Send To Mail Recipient. This opens a new, blank message with the file attachment included.

  • Outlook Express supports rich text email, which adds fonts, color, images, and other formatting to otherwise plain text-based email. There is a drawback, however, in that users of older email programs may not be able to read rich text email, instead seeing only gibberish. You can configure or turn off the support for rich text email by going to Tools Options Send tab. Also note when you send an attachment with a rich-text email message, recipients who view messages in plain text will often not receive your attachments intact. If you are have that problem, you can either disable Outlook Express's support for rich text email or simply change the format for an individual message using that message window's Format menu.

  • It can be annoying to wade through the thousands of messages that can exist in a single newsgroup. Custom views work like Rules (above) and let you weed out some of the extraneous messages. For example, you can hide messages written by certain users (in Usenet parlance, this is referred to as a "bozo filter"), contain certain words in the subject, are over a certain length, or are over a certain age. Go to View Current View Customize Current View to set your preferences.

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint