Monday, August 11, 2008

Delayed Sending of Email

Every once in a while, people pitch me a new feature for Outlook: "This is something I'd use every day!" For a large percentage of these, Outlook already does what they want, and it's just hard to find it.

A good example of this is delayed sending of email. Instead of sending the email when you hit "Send", you want to automatically send the email at a later time. Maybe you don't want to give someone the impression that you respond to their emails instantly. Or your press release goes out at midnight but you don't want to be awake at such a late hour.

This feature already exists. In Outlook 2007, it's called "Delay Delivery". When you're composing a message, click the icon in the menu bar, then check "Do not deliver before". In Outlook 2003, click "Options", then "Do not deliver before".



This is a great illustration of both Outlook's greatest strength and greatest weakness. I can easily imagine the corporate IT meetings in the mid-1990s where admins compared the feature matrix of Outlook to that of Lotus Notes, and decided to go with Outlook. Microsoft got everyone to use Outlook partly because it had a complete product with every feature box checked. On the other hand, it created a client with a lot of complexity, where every new release needs to carry the weight of the last one to assure backwards compatibility. Complexity leads to long cycles, and slow products. However, it can also lead to market dominance.

1 comment:

Andrew Lampert said...

Hi Gabor,

Of course, another useful Outlook feature is to automatically delay sending of all messages (without needing to do anything special when sending a message). This can be done using an Outlook rule.

I have such a rule setup that holds all sent mail in my Outbox for 1 minute before actually sending. The ability to edit or retract a message within that first minute after clicking the 'Send' button can be very useful!

Like many Outlook features, the options to setup a rule-based delay are well hidden and not widely used, as far as I can tell.

Cheers,
Andrew