Let's talk about Outlook. Specifically, let's talk about your contacts. Before I explain my plan, I should admit openly that I haven't installed Windows 7 yet. Although I doubt it will significantly improve the arrangement of the Office suite of programs -- Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc. -- I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I just haven't seen the new OS yet.
But with that out of the way, I need to get a point through directly to Mr. Gates's minions who engineer Outlook, and for that matter Outlook express and any other contacts database, before they go releasing any new versions of anything. And here it is:
Guys, (and I do mean guys,) people marry. People have families. Now, I know this may be a rare occurrence in Redmond, where the male to female ratio is might be more than slightly skewed in favor of those with the Y chromosome, so let me just explain how that affects email. When people marry, they become deeply connected. They share money. They share clothes. They share germs. They develop intermingling familial connections. They become deeply connected in every way EXCEPT the Outlook way. In Outlook, you are considered an individual, regardless of your marital or familial status. You could be a Siamese twin, and you would still need your own separate contact information to fit into the Outlook contacts file. And if you were a Siamese twin, there would be no way for others to see the unique relationship between you and the other with whom you were sharing fleshspace. That is the Outlook way.
In Outlook, an entry can be associated with multiple physical addresses -- home, business, what have you -- but a physical address can't be associated with multiple entries. This leads to a lot of duplication, because you have to put in the same address for two different contacts over, and over again. And it leads to confusing naming entries like this one, which is for my parents:
First Name: Dick & Fleur
Last Name: Middaugh
(I know it sounds crazy in the age of free Gmail, but a lot of families share one email address, too.)
The problem gets sticky when you go to search for your entry. In Office 2007, entries are indexed by first name, so you have to remember who you entered first -- Mom? Or Dad? Bill or Sharon? Zendyl or Abraham?
Outlook does get a little personal by soliciting your contact's birthday and even their anniversary -- but it would never go so far as to assume that your contact could be married to another one of your contacts. So be prepared to enter any anniversaries twice.
To give credit where credit is due, Outlook took the bold step of including a field for your contact's Web address and even -- wait for it -- their IM name. But although my own version of Outlook is called "2007," a year when the social networks were well established and on their way to virtual hegemony, still it does not include fields social networking links.
<Knocking on glass> HelLLOOOO! Microsoft Outlook makers! Are you in there? Wake up already and make some changes!
Or don't -- and I'll be over soon to crack the whip.