Vista Mail vs. Outlook Express

An under-the-hood comparison between the older and newer Windows email clients.


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Windows Mail is fundamentally a new application. Though it is clearly perceived as a successor to Outlook Express and even maintains some of the look and feel, beneath the hood nearly everything is different. Microsoft has taken its built-in mail client and converted it into a JET database-driven application that is so tightly integrated with the operating system (OS) that messages and news posts are treated the same way as system files. Even the security of identities has given way to the Windows profile, and the much-anticipated functionality of Instant Search within Vista is showcased within the new mail client.

Taking full advantage of the newer features of Internet Explorer, Windows Mail arrives with a heightened focus on security. Features relegated only to Outlook or Internet Explorer are now a part of the application and are even enabled by default. The powerful SmartScreen filter used by Exchange is at work within Windows Mail, making the filtering capabilities of the application extend far beyond those of simple filters, and the Phishing Filter recently introduced in the latest Internet Explorer delivers up-to-date security checks from the blacklists maintained at Microsoft.

More than just another version of Outlook Express, Windows Mail delivers robust features and a usability that will be a “first” for many users. In this chapter, we’ll take a look at some of these structural changes to the built-in mail client of Windows Vista, and we’ll compare these to the shortcomings of Outlook Express. We’ll also examine the powerful security tools incorporated to secure the Windows Mail experience.

Comparing Windows Mail with Outlook Express

When Microsoft released Outlook Express in November 1997, the user community had just undergone a seismic shift brought about by the earlier release of Microsoft’s first graphical-based OS, Windows 95. For more than two years, personal computers, thought to be forever tied to their owners’ drab and dreary cubicles for tasks limited only to work, were now making their way into homes and dormitories at an exponential rate. The Internet was also growing at an exponential rate, and the tools shipping with each revision of Windows needed to be tailored to this exploding home-based population. So, with the release of Internet Explorer 4.0 in Windows 95 OSR 2.5 came the successor to Internet Mail and News: Outlook Express.

Although Internet Mail and News was a simple freeware add-on client available to users of Internet Explorer 3.0, Outlook Express was built into Internet Explorer 4.0. Every user who purchased a Windows 95 OSR 2.5 and subsequent Windows 98 machine would get this new application as part of his Internet-browsing arsenal. In fact, Outlook Express was built with the integration of Internet Explorer in mind, something that would be both a blessing and a curse for users of the application.

With the advent of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)-based e-mail came the exposure of myriad security holes for Outlook Express users. Because Internet Explorer managed its content and security by “zoning” different Web sites, Outlook Express was relegated to the same approach. Outlook Express rendered mail through Internet Explorer, and the behavior and “trusts” of Internet Explorer were passed along to its news and mail counterpart. Because Internet Explorer traditionally ran all code and scripts it encountered in an effort to streamline the user’s browsing experience, Outlook Express followed the same behavior.

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