Outlook Express 6
Outlook Express 6, which is not to be confused with the full version called Outlook, is a great little email/newsgroup program. It should meet all your basic email needs, but it also has some useful built-in features people rarely get around to configuring or using. This section covers the main Outlook Express tweaks. Note, if you don't have Outlook Express 6, use Windows Update to upgrade to this version and also make sure you've installed all the Critical Patches for it.
Basic Outlook Express 6 settings
Tool: Outlook Express 6 with SP1 and all Updates
This tweak covers the basic settings of Outlook Express which should be optimized for efficient, trouble-free use. Open the options box by going into Outlook Express>Tools>Options. Below are my recommendations for the important settings under each tab of Options. The remaining settings not covered can be set to suit your taste:
When starting go directly to my Inbox folder - Tick to skip the Outlook Express entry page.
Automatically Log on to Windows Messenger - Untick if you don't use Windows Messenger.
Note, you should refer to the Registry Editor section of my first WinXP Guide for details on how to permanently disable Messenger and fix the subsequent Outlook Express "slowdown" issue.
Automatically download message when viewing in the preview pane - Untick for security and virus safety reasons.
Read all messages in plain text - Tick this option if you want maximum security. All emails will display in plain text and there will be no active content in emails. This may cause some emails to display incorrectly. Note this option is only available if you've installed XP SP1.
I personally don't like sending (or receiving for that matter) read receipts. They can be quite annoying. Whether you want to send them is up to you, but for the 'Returning Read Receipts' section I recommend selecting 'Notify me for each read receipt request'. That way you know when someone's sent an email to you with a receipt request, and you can choose whether to accept the request when you open the email or not.
Secure receipts are similar, but might be more useful if you're sending a very important message and you want to make sure a) the recipient has opened the message; and b) the message arrived at the other end unaltered. Otherwise the same settings apply.
Send messages immediately - Tick so your emails are sent straight away.
Automatically put people I reply to in my Address Book - Untick for security reasons, such as when a virus hits your machine and emails all the people in your Address Book. The less contacts you have the better. Manually enter people you want to keep in your Address Book instead.
Compose, Signatures, Spelling
All can be set to your taste. If you want to know what any of these features do, right click on them and click 'What's this', or press F1 for Help.
The new security features in Outlook Express are excellent in protecting against most viruses and malicious code sent in emails. However you need to know how they work and configure them correctly. Here's what I recommend:
You can select either the Internet Zone or Restricted Sites Zone for your default email behaviour. When in Internet Zone mode, HTML-based emails with active content will display their content just like a web page in IE. In fact the security settings you chose under the Security tab in Internet Explorer Options also apply to Internet Zone email content. When in Restricted Sites Zone mode, Outlook Express will disable active content from HTML-based emails, which is much more secure, but reduces email functionality.
In most cases I recommend running Outlook Express in Restricted Sites Zone mode, as most HTML-based emails nowadays are spam, or worse still malicious or viruses.
Warn me when other applications try to send email as me - Tick this setting. It will protect you from having email sent from any of your accounts without your knowledge (e.g. through a script).
Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus - Tick this option for everyday use. This will protect you against attachments, the vast bulk of which are dangerous, unsolicited email viruses. It will not download or open such attachments.
If you receive an attachment from an address you don't know, never open it! For example Microsoft will NEVER email you an update or patch. If you receive an attachment from an address you know, it may well be a virus which was auto-mailed from that user's account, so double-check with the sender if you're unsure if it's a genuine attachment. Then open Options and untick this setting, and you should be able to access the attachment in the email for saving.
Certain file types, such as Executable (.exe) files are automatically blocked with this setting enabled. To configure which other types of files are affected when this setting is ticked, go to Control Panel>Folder Options>File Types, highlight a file extension and click the Advanced button. Select 'Confirm open after download' to add the file type to the unsafe file list which Outlook Express uses to block attachments when this setting is enabled. Remember some file types are on the unsafe list and cannot be taken off (like .exe).
Uses the same settings as Internet Explorer, so see the Internet Explorer section.
Set these options to taste. I recommend the following to reduce wasted disk space:
Empty message from the Deleted Items folder on exit - Tick.
Purge deleted items when leaving IMAP folders - Tick.
Compact messages in background - Tick.
Compact messages when there is X% wasted space - Set to 10%.
Clean Up Now - Click and select Compact to reduce existing wasted space immediately.
Store Folder - This is important as it will apply to the next tweak, so see below for more information.
That's the basics of tweaking Outlook Express. The next two tweaks deal with simple yet effective things you can do with Outlook Express.
How much to upgrade to x64 Edition?