Outlook 2003 Annoyances and fixes

I was given a new PC at work this week. It has Microsoft Office 2003 which I have been avoiding using for years. I first used Office 95 and moved up through 97 to 2000 as each was released. When Office XP and 2003 came out I looked them over but found there to be no useful features for me vs. 2000 so I passed on the upgrades. The majority of changes in the new versions are UI changes that for me typically cause more down time learning than they are worth. Of course being an engineer I do most of my work in text editors and CAD programs so I tend to prefer very basic easy to use office applications (IMHO, AmiPro 3.0 was the best word processor ever).

The one Microsoft Office application that I use all the time is Outlook. Outlook 2000, and 97 before it, have worked very well for me. I rely on the e-mail, calendar and contact functions ever day and I know how to fix its occasional quirky actions. Over all these years using OL2000 I’ve become very efficient in using a particular configuration for Outlook. With the default Outlook 2003 configuration I was lost so, I set about changing the configurations to try and make it the way I like. I did get it setup to my preference but along the way I hit a number of annoying roadblocks.

The first problem I hit was e-mail account setup. I have seven e-mail accounts setup that I export from OL2K to IAF files for configuring the three workstations I use Outlook on. I was shocked that Microsoft had removed IAF file import from Outlook. Not wanting to manually enter all that configuration information I searched the net and found the solution here.
Import IAF configuration file to an Outlook 2003 / Outlook XP
I just can’t fathom why the heck Microsoft would take this feature out of their flagship e-mail product but keep it in their free product. I guess I’ll just not upgrade my other workstations so that I’ll only have to use the IAF support in OE on that one workstation.

The next very annoying problem is not a Microsoft caused annoyance but rather an Adobe Acrobat created annoyance. IT also put the full Acrobat 7 program on the new PC. This put a PDF toolbar and top level menu in Outlook. The annoying part is that when you remove them in Outlook they come right back when you restart OL, screwing up the toolbar layout in the process. I found a number of solutions on the net (sorry lost the links) but the best one is to simply run the add/remove process for Acrobat and uninstall the Outlook integration option. I actually removed all the integration options, I guess I’m old fashioned but to me it’s easiest to just use a PDF printer driver.

I like to have OL open up with Outlook Today. Well OL2003 has an annoying bug when you simply copy over an OL2000 pst file. Here’s the solution from Outlook 2003 – Today Screen Problem
Go to the Outlook Today screen.
Right click on Personal Folders – Outlook Today.
Select Properties for Outlook Today.
Go to the Home Page Tab.
Click Restore Defaults.

The new default calendar view was not to my liking because it was missing the two nice navigation calendars I’m used to. To get them back select view Taskpad and move the window divider until you can see the two navigation months.

The next item I tried to change back to 2000 standard was to eliminate the icon that 2003 puts in the system tray. It turns out there is no way to remove the icon so I’ll just have to live with it. On an XP system you can hide the icon, here’s the Microsoft info: Hide the Outlook icon in the notification area of the taskbar I hate the hide function so I didn’t bother trying it.

The last thing that bugged me was their removal of the built-in folder list drop down with pinning. I worked around the missing button by adding a Navigation Pane button just above where the old button was. This is a toggle button so for myself it is just as functional as the old button. You’ll get a better idea of what I did in this 2000 vs. 2003 picture.

Another annoyance is one the IT guys fixed before giving me the PC. The default setup causes Messenger to open with Outlook. I think IT did a registry hack to stop Messenger but in my searches I discovered this site with a nice clean way to fix this annoyance. Removing Outlook 2003’s Dependence on Windows Messenger “If you go to the Options Form and select the Other tab, the last section is labeled Person Names. If you uncheck the Enable the Person Names Smart Tag option, Outlook will no longer mysteriously start up Windows Messenger.

There is one feature in OL2003 that I think is great! I set it to only show e-mail as plain text, if only they’d had this feature back in 98 I would have avoided the one and only virus infection I’ve had since starting to use PC’s in 1982.

Why the DMCA is a problem

A recent EFF newsletter pointed me to a great article in the IEEE Spectrum magazine Death by DMCA. This 4 page article is the best summary of DMCA related problems that I have seen. IMHO, the DMCA is the worst piece of IP legislation in US history.

Windows update verclsid.exe problem

Well Microsoft has done it again, the latest Windows updates are causing problems for many users.

Not all PC’s have problems after update (I’ve seen reports ranging from 0 in 80, up to 2 for 2). I just installed the updates and they caused a 16 second pause for right click context menus. This delay would likely be up to a minute on sub-Gigahertz PC’s and would make a lot of people think that Windows is hung. Un-installing the 908531 update cured the problem for me.

Partial list of symptoms and fixes from MS

In addition to these symptoms others have reported:

  • Can’t “Save As” any file from MS Office.
  • Can’t run Outlook Express, IE, Windows picture+fax viewer, PaintShopProX, Quick View Plus.
  • Can’t activate the start button via keyboard (but by mouse click OK).
  • Can’t activate the start button by any means.
  • Hang for no apparent reason right-clicking on the desktop.
  • Typing a URL in the IE6 address bar, it does not auto complete.
  • Using explorer to look at any folder, on closing it launches another instance of explorer, but it is blank.

In addition to the fixes in the MS KB article others have had success with:

  • Renaming verclsid.EXE to verclsid.OLD it is located in %SystemRoot%System32.
  • Un-install security update 908531.

Note that Windows warns of possible update conflicts when you start the un-install however I, and others on the net, have so far seen no problems from ignoring the warning.

Blog Alerts fixed

The Blog Alerts box at the bottom of the right side menu has been fixed. The Committee to Protect Bloggers had to change their URL’s so, if you need to fix your own site go to the “Add BlogAlert to Your Site” page to get the corrected URL’s.

Explorer using 100% of CPU time in WinXP

Last Sunday I started working on some wedding video editing and transfer to DVD for a friend. Right after I finished rendering the first 1.5Gig MPEG I noticed Windows Explorer using 100% of the CPU resources for a minute or more when I opened the directory with the large file.

I started playing around and found that all my folders with large AVI or MPEG files caused this problem. The problem was especially bad in one folder that has an 18Gig AVI capture file.

Searching around the net for information on this problem I found a number of forums with people having the same problem. The information led me to a Microsoft Knowledge base article with details about the problem. The culprit is Shmedia.dll analyzing the file contents to let Explorer display media specific information about the file. The Microsoft article states that the problem was fixed in SP2 but, since my PC is fully patched I think the problem has come back. Also the article says the problem is only with AVI files but I was seeing it with MPEG files as well.

There are a few different solutions posted around the net for the AVI problem. Looking at the various solutions I chose to use the CLSID renaming method as detailed at pc-speed-up.com.

As I expected, renaming the CLSID to:

 {-87D62D94-71B3-4b9a-9489-5FE6850DC73E}

fixed the problem with AVI files but did not help with the MPEG files.

I looked in the registry to find out what CLSID provided the hook to Shmedia.dll for MPEG files. I found that

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT CLSID{c5a40261-cd64-4ccf-84cb-c394da41d590}

is the key for MPEG’s. I renamed the key to:

{-c5a40261-cd64-4ccf-84cb-c394da41d590}

and it fixed the problem for MPEG’s. I hope this helps someone else having this very frustrating Windows problem.

WARNING – manually editing the registry is extremely dangerous if you are not careful you may have to re-install windows to get the PC working again. You have been warned so, don’t complain to me if you screw up your PC by following my information.