I know, I know – Love is a strong word, but I can’t stop smiling when using the new version of Outlook – it is just so well designed that it makes me smile. This is just a list of the first ten things I like in no particular order (this list will grow).

1. The Auto-Organize feature reduces clutter in the inbox instantly. Instead of looking at 200 emails today, I can look at 15 unique topics, that auto-expand when I click on the thread.

2. The new Mailbox-Cleanup feature automatically eliminates redundant emails. For example, it keeps only the last email in a common topic because the body of the email already contains the comments from everyone else and so deletes all the previous emails in that thread from your inbox. The mailbox-cleanup reduced my inbox from 9,300 emails to 6,601, and my sent items from 6,830 to 5,127.  Imagine if all your users ran this mailbox cleanup, how much smaller your information store would be, how much faster backups would complete, and the reduced amount of disk and backups needed. Nice.

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3. The ribbon toolbar has been improved to includes quick step buttons that allow you to open a new email containing a pre-set subject and recipients. For example, you may have emails that you always write to your manager for approving things, or to your teammates for common team tasks. Now, you click once and it automatically opens a new email with the recipients and subject pre-filled with those things. I also like the Reply & Delete button which does exactly what it says. The meeting button automatically creates a new meeting request containing the body of the email message you have highlighted. Nice.

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4. Social networking is built-in. Like the popular Outlook add-in Xobni, Outlook now groups recent contacts, and when you receive an email from someone, it automatically shows you all the recent conversations you have had with that person. Very helpful for those users who ask you to re-send information back to them that you know you have recently sent them. At the bottom of an email, you’ll see this message:

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Then, when you take the bait and click on it, you get this nice menu of all your recent interactions:

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5. New 64-bit version – better performance. I run Windows 7 64-bit, so having a 64-bit version of office improves performance. The only drawback with the 64-bit version is some of the add-ins will not install – for example, the Live Meeting add-in for Outlook seems to only support 32-bit versions of Outlook.

6. Tight SharePoint integration. SharePoint lists appear integrated next to Outlook folders. Our helpdesk system is nothing more than a SharePoint list and so it is easy to manage those tasks directly from within Outlook now.

7. Mail Merge button built-into Contacts. This will automatically kick off the Microsoft Word process but it dynamically pulls from your Outlook contacts. Very handy.

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8. New ‘Suggested Contacts’ appears in My Contacts – all the unique people you have conversed with that you might want to create a saved contact for.

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9. Windows Search has built-in hints.Now, instead of typing the hint ‘hasattachments:yes’ in the search box, you can simply click on an Icon and it will filter search results to just emails with attachments. There are many new filters that it comes with, so this is a welcome and time-saving improvement. I’m one of those users who leaves everything in the inbox and rely on search to find emails, instead of the extra time it takes to store emails in custom folders. The search is now so powerful that folder lovers may now come to the light and abandon that age old habit. And this method improves performance too because Outlook slows down when you have more than 100 custom folders.

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10. When you get a meeting invite, you can instantly see if you are available in that time slot without having to click on preview. In the screen shot below you can see that my coworker sent me a meeting request for tomorrow at 8:00 AM, but I can quickly see that I already have an appointment scheduled. Love it.

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11. What, you noticed I could not stop at 10? Well, I couldn’t say ‘11 things that I love about Outlook because that wouldn’t be as catchy.’ So you’ll have to forgive me because I couldn’t stop at 10. The 11th thing I like is that RMS protected emails can now be previewed in the preview pane without having to double-click on the email. You’ll have to take my word for it though, because RMS does not allow you to take screen shots when any of its content is shown on the screen, and that includes this Outlook 2010 preview mode too =)

12. Ok ok. I couldn’t stop at 11 either. For those of you who did not like the Ribbon in Office 2007 (yes, there were ribbon-haters out there) MSFT now includes the word ‘File’ on it – there – ya happy now?

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[7/19/2010] Update:  SMS Sync. See blog post here.