Today Microsoft released a new patch for Outlook Express that corrects problems caused by the April security patch (KB911567). As I reported here last month, and is now confirmed by MS, KB911567 removes the feature that allows you to save unsent messages for use as message templates. KB911567 also caused problems for some address books, which the new patch also corrects. But the fix is not quite as simple as installing the patch. After installing you will have to edit the registry before you can use saved *.eml files as message templates.
To make this easier you can download this small registry file to make the change for you. Just save the file to your desktop, right click on the file and select Merge.
I am thankful that the OE/Winmail team jumped on this and got a patch issued so quickly, just five weeks after the problem arose. With Outlook Express it usually takes more like five years.
Last week Microsoft released several security updates, including one for Outlook Express. If you rely on saved *.eml files for templates, you do not want this patch! There have also been reports that the Address Book stops working or is blank after installing this patch.
After installing KB911567 Outlook Express no longer recognizes the X-UNSENT: 1 header in *.eml files. Many OE users rely upon that feature in order to save unfinished messages to be used as templates. Manually entering that header is also the only real way OE users have been able to resend a message. Finally, the best way to work around an OE newsgroup bug relies upon the same use of X-Unsent:1 in a saved *.eml file.
The following is outdated thanks to patch KB918651:
Removing this extremely useful functionality is just not acceptable to me. I therefore recommend that you do not install KB911567. If it is already installed, uninstall it:
Then go to Windows Update and select Custom Install. There you can select to hide the update from being shown in the future. If you do not do this, the patch will be installed again automatically.
Update 29-Apr-06: Microsoft has taken notice of the problems with the Address Book caused by KB911567. I disagree with their proposed resolution. Exporting and re-importing the Address Book results in losing all groups you might have created. If you use multiple OE Identities, all contacts from all Identities will be imported into the current Identity. Uninstalling KB911567 seems to make the allegedly corrupt *.wab file fully functional again.
I've received several questions regarding the consequences of running OE without the patch. Microsoft says there is some vulnerability, but so far have offered nothing more detailed than that. You therefore have a choice of accepting loss of functionality in exchange for protection against some hypothetical threat, or you can continue using Outlook Express with all features intact and not worry about things hypothetical that have not been shown to exist. The removal of X-UNSENT functionality is quite intentional, and so is not just a regression bug that might be fixed. This applies also to Windows Mail in Vista and any future products that might grow from OE/Winmail. This makes no sense to me. The OE Powers That Be seem to think we users won't notice that they are removing a useful feature instead of fixing deficiencies that have plagued us for nine years.
For over nine years I have been writing to help others use and understand Outlook Express. During that time I have seen the product make its impressive debut in OE4, followed by significant improvements in OE5, followed by almost no changes in OE5.5 and OE6. In fact for five of those years you wouldn't know anything had changed in OE unless you peeked "under the hood", where a small crew of MS developers made incremental but real improvements in security and stability. But that crew had too few resouces to tackle some of the most frustrating bugs and quirks that have plagued OE users. So after nine years of complaining, pleading, ranting and hoping, I decided I had had enough. I set out for the 2005 MVP Global Summit in September with the clear intention of saying goodbye to Outlook Express forever.
After spending two days with the Outlook Express development team it was apparent that they have been listening to our complaints, suggestions and feedback, and have devised some exciting new approaches to solving long-standing issues. The Outlook Express that will be included in Windows Vista promises to be a great advance over current versions. A new and less confusing name (Windows Mail), a far more stable and robust file system, a powerful and award-winning junk-mail filter, a completely new face on the Windows Address Book, and built-in access to the Microsoft public news server are just a few of the changes we will see. Although the final version of Windows Vista is still many months away, what I have seen so far in Windows Mail is very encouraging and has convinced me not to give up just yet. I plan to continue my long struggle to make Outlook Express, or rather Windows Mail, the best possible email and news client for Windows.
I will be adding much more about Windows Mail over the coming months as I get to know it better, and as its feature set becomes public knowledge. But if you want to follow the development path, bookmark Bryan Starbuck's blog. He is the Development Lead for Windows Mail and so will probably be the first to announce any changes.
If you want to see for yourself, check out Windows Mail in this video presentation from Channel 9.
Microsoft has released an update for Outlook Express on Windows XP with Service Pack 2 that includes fixes for two very old bugs: the so-called Begin bug in which OE sees an attachment that does not exist, and the Watched message or "loose catch-up" bug. This update also addresses two issues in which Outlook Express stops responding.
Download details: Update for Windows XP (KB900930)
Looking for earlier patches and updates?
former Microsoft MVP
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Tom Koch on the Alexander Technique