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Issue #550: February 4-10, 2018

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Q: I allowed Microsoft to update Windows 10 on my desktop computer recently. It took over 2 hours and after it was done I was no longer able to receive email via my Outlook 2007.  I cannot access my Account Settings; I get “Not Implemented” when I try to receive/send.  When seeking help at Microsoft I read that this program is “retired” but that this just means they will no longer provide support. Read instructions on how to uninstall the update but am reluctant to do that as I cannot tell how much work I’ll have to “clean up” afterwards (I’m no computer expert!). I do still have my MS Office 2007 software for reinstall if necessary.

– Deborah J.
Niceville, Florida

A:  I’m afraid I’m not going to have much good news for you, Deborah, but I can offer an explanation of how this happened, and some recommendations for the future.

Microsoft has settled into a rather predictable pattern of bringing software to what it calls “End of Life” after 10 years.  Being a software engineer by trade, I’m somewhat torn on this.  I know that well-written, robust software can last indefinitely, and it’s not like the ones and zeroes wear out or anything.  However, think about how quickly that technology advances.  Then consider how most users are always clamoring for new features and almost universally want software that’s on the very bleeding edge of technology.  Finally, realize that a company like Microsoft makes its money from sales, not support, and you have a formula for a perfect storm of planned software obsolescence, and a good case for “retiring” software that is as old as your version of Office.

What seems to have happened is that two things happened in 2017.  First, your version of office reached End-of-Life.  When Microsoft says it will no longer provide support for a product, it means more than not providing direct user support.  It means no more bug fixes, security patches, or feature upgrades will be released.  That brings us to the second thing that happened.  On Oct 31, 2017 Microsoft discontinued support for a using a programming technique called RPC, or Remote Procedure Call, over an HTTP connection to a Microsoft Exchange Online server.  RPC over HTTP was replaced with MAPI, or Messaging Application Programming Interface, a more modern, more robust architecture for exchanging e-mail data.  The reason this affected you it that MAPI via HTTP doesn’t work in Outlook 2007.  And, because Outlook 2007 has been retired, the required support for MAPI will never be implemented for that version.  That would seem to leave you with no choice except to upgrade your version of Office if you want to continue to use Outlook as an e-mail client.

The last sentence of that paragraph is pretty important, especially the part after the word “if”.  Outside of work, I stopped using Outlook as an e-mail client years ago, because of issues very similar to this.  In fact, I stopped using e-mail clients altogether, and instead now rely exclusively on Webmail applications, which have become almost ubiquitous in their implementation by ISPs.  Aside from never having to worry about your e-mail client becoming obsolete ever again, there are several advantages of using Webmail over a client.  Most significantly, by working with e-mail on the server rather than on once device, you can access your e-mail from any PC, smartphone, tablet, or other Internet-connected device, and they will all be in constant, continuous synchronization with one another.  In other words, if I delete an e-mail via my PC, it is also deleted on my phone, my iPad, my wife’s PC, my work PC, etc.  If I move a message into a sub-folder, I’ll find it in that sub-folder no matter what device I access it from.  It’s amazingly convenient – it just takes a little getting used to, and the time to set it up.

Aside from Webmail, there are other, non-Microsoft e-mail clients still hanging around, that are only a Google search away.  They offer none of the benefits of Webmail, however, and you may find them obsoleted over time, leaving you in the same boat you’re in right now.

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