Windows Mail (Vista)

Microsoft has several generations and families of email programs.

  • Outlook is targeted for the corporate market, and until recently the only viable choice for Windows if you wanted to keep “PIM” data (and still the only choice if you want to synchronize with a mobile device — but hopefully that will change).
  • Outlook Express became Windows Mail on Vista and Windows Live Mail if you want to run the same program on different operating systems (or you want to interface to Hotmail / MSN / Live accounts and don’t want to pay for enhanced services).
  • Entourage is the email program for the Macintosh.

I actually use all of the Microsoft email programs for different tasks:

I need Outlook to synchronize my Moto Q and Moto KRZR (actually I don’t have to use Outlook for the KRZR, but there aren’t any options for the Q).

I use Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Windows Live Mail for various tasks; and I use Entourage on my Macs (I also use Apple iMail, but I’m haven’t drank Steve Job’s kool-aid, so I prefer to choose the program I like the best).

One of the downsides I’ve found with the Microsoft email programs in the Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail family is that they’re so busy changing the name and interface that they don’t focus on making it work.

At one time Microsoft did IMAP much better than any other email reader; unfortunately, the bugs they had years ago, they still have — and most of the other email readers have gotten better.

The two problems I see over and over and over with Windows Mail (and the other’s in it’s family) deal with subscribing to IMAP folders.  Here’s some scenarios you might be familiar with:

You create a new mail folder and you get an error; you try to create it again and it tells you that it already exists, but can’t be shown.  I haven’t figured out what’s happening here, but I do know that the IMAP server creates the folder, and sets the subscribed FLAG (and that other email clients have no problem with the folder); but for some reason Windows Mail refuses to show it (and will continue to refuse to show it even if you delete the account and recreate it).

The only work around to this I’ve found is creating a folder with a single character in it’s name, and renaming it to what you want (that seems to always work — but if you recreate the account you might find that some folders aren’t listed any longer).

The other thing I’ve found that Microsoft hasn’t fixed is cleaning up the local message store (I have no clue what they do when the compact the database, but it doesn’t seem to really achieve the desired goal).  What I do here is I export my accounts, remove the accounts, shut down Windows Mail, then delete the left over message store.  Start up Windows Mail, import the accounts, and then let it re-download the information from the server.  This works well for me, since most of my messages are on a local server (for archival); and I don’t keep much on remote servers (so it really doesn’t take that long), and it keeps the size of the local cache down to something manageable (you will really notice what a poor job Microsoft does on cleaning up the local IMAP store when you defragment your disk with a tool that shows you what is going on).

To find your local data stores, you can use any of the following paths:

  • %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Mail
  • C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Mail
  • %LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows Mail

 The folder for the IMAP store should match the display name (well — it may be what Windows Mail originally chose for you, but the first time you do an export / import you will get the name you chose — and that’s a good reason to do this once right after creating the account).


If you want to know my opinion on which email program from Microsoft is the “best” — well hands down it’s Entourage.  Why they don’t use that as a model to build an email program for Windows is beyond me — and why they don’t use common code for all their email programs and actually fix the bugs they have rather than continuing to change the name and look is also beyond me.

I would say you’re better off using Mozilla Thunderbird, but it still crashes with an IMAP store as large as mine.

I guess I could just start using my Mac for all my email.  But seriously, if you know of good options I’d love to hear from you.

Originally posted 2009-02-09 01:00:35.