Crabby is as crabby does

As long as I'm being crabby today about email clients, let's talk about Criminally Stupid Bugs.  I'm not talking about basic programmer errors.  We all make mistakes.  No, I'm talking about things for which some programmer deserves to be tarred and feathered.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • For the last several weeks, development builds of Vault have been beeping.  Nobody knew why, but every so often the app would just emit a beep.  It was driving people crazy.  It turns out that we had a silly bug which occasionally caused the app to try and append an empty string into the user messages pane.  This should be harmless, right?  Nope.  It turns out that in the .NET Framework, if you call AppendText() with an empty string on a RichTextBox, sometimes it beeps.  Apparently somebody at Microsoft thought this would be cute.  If I ever find out who it is, I'm going to invoice him for the cost of the psychiatrist we hired to help those employees here who went insane listening to that #^%!^% beep.

  • One of the third-party tools we use in our automated build system has an unforgivably bad habit.  It's a command-line tool which is being used in an entirely automated fashion.  We even pass it a special flag which supposedly makes it "quiet".  Nonetheless, every so often this tool pops up a dialog box to let us know that a new version of the tool is available at the vendor's website.  This brings the entire automated build to a stop until we visit the build machine and click the cancel button.  In other words, we can't do automated builds unless we're here at the office to babysit the build machine.  I'm not going to name the vendor here, but I'd like to say a word to the CEO of that company:  You know who you are.  You need to find the programmer who thought this would be cute.  Do not fire them over this, because then it would be more difficult for you to torture them on an ongoing basis.  You need to keep this employee on your staff and make it a part of your corporate mission to continually find new ways of making him miserable for the remainder of his days.

I'm sure I'll be less crabby after the weekend. 

 Outlook 2003

A bit begrudgingly, I am ready to admit that I like Outlook 2003.

When it comes to email clients, I am probably one of the fussiest people in the world.  I've used lots of different email apps and most of them are just lame.  I've been crabby about this topic for so long it seems like the last decent email client I used was Eudora 3.0.

If I were to rank the worst email clients I have ever tried, the various versions of Outlook would hold the top few spots on the list.  Outlook 2000 was particularly awful. 

But I recently switched to Outlook 2003, and strangely enough, I actually like it.  Here's why:

  • It doesn't feel absurdly slow like its ancestors.

  • It doesn't treat me like a villain for the fact that we don't use Exchange.  We've had our mail server running under Linux for ages, and we've never found a compelling reason to change.

  • It doesn't treat me like a luddite for the fact that I don't like HTML mail.  This is the first version of Outlook which works well with good-old-fashioned plain text email.  I had to fiddle with the options quite a bit, but the result works perfectly.  All my incoming mails are converted to plaintext.  All my sent emails are in plaintext, even if I am responding to a message in some other weirdo format.

  • It still lets me see HTML mail when I want to.  Even though I have all my incoming mails converted to plaintext, I can click a button in the message window to show that message as HTML.  It doesn't change my global setting for other messages.  It simply allows me to see the underlying HTML.

  • It doesn't load inline images in HTML unless I specifically say so.  No more unwanted pictures in my face.

  • It has taught me that I'm not quite as good of a speller as I thought I was.  Believe it or not, I have never used a mail client with built-in spell checking.  I'm a pretty decent speller, so it hasn't been much of an issue.  But since I switched to Outlook 2003, I've been amazed at the number of typos and spelling errors caught by the spell checker.  My apologies to all those people over the years who have endured as I misspelled the word "committment".

  • It has cool flags for followup.  I like to click the flag column to mark messages which need my attention.  Outlook 2003 keeps a special folder which aggregates all my flagged items together in one view, regardless of where they are located elsewhere in the folder hierarchy.  Neato.

  • It groups items in folders by day, with tree control behavior, allowing me to expand and collapse a whole day's messages at one time.

  • NewsGator.  I like SharpReader, but I'm now giving NewsGator a try.  So far I am very impressed.  It's cool having my subscribed feeds show up right there in my mail reader.