A Thrown Gauntlet via Outlook

Posted on Wednesday 21 November 2007

So, I was mentioning to my wife this morning about the latest “Train Wreck” of an idea that Microsoft(MS) implemented. It would appear that they are trying to yet again rewrite a standard, this time with Outlook. Anyone who uses a different email package (instead of Outlook) has of course complained about the poor quality of emails coming from those who use Outlook. I knew MS liked to screw up everyone else with embedded code, I just never realized how badly they were doing it.

It would seem that they have taken it to the next level by now screwing up anyones email coming into Outlook from somewhere else as well… In other words, the only email package that will read properly in Outlook email is email created in Outlook! Strange but true… Here is a great article by Andrew Mckay covering the whys and the bizarre hows of what MS is now doing with their latest version of Outlook.

So all of that explanation led to a comment by my on how she really liked Outlook because of its calendar and how you could schedule emails that could be sent at a future time, which she said would really help her with managing her Kiwanis meetings and such… Suffice to say the gauntlet was thrown!

As those who have read some of my previous postings, I’m a big fan of freeware. Needless to say but, I’m a great supporter of the Mozilla’s software and really believe their way is the future. It should come as no surprise then, when I say that we use Thunderbird as our email program at home. It’s free, very quick, very powerful and has tons of options, plugins or extensions that you can use to customize it to fit exactly into your routine and way of doing things.

I just knew that there must be something out there that would do exactly what she wanted to do – i.e. schedule emails. And once again, using Google, I was able to find it.

The first item that I acquired for her was Mozilla Lightning. It’s a Thunderbird extension that incorporates their calendering project – Sunbird – within the Thunderbird Mail Client. With it you can schedule meetings between other users, and email out notices etc etc. It’s pretty slick and blends in perfectly with Thunderbird.

However, after experimenting with it, I found that it might be limiting in what she wanted to do.

  • It did not offer enough flexibility in formating the message (i.e. no fancy fonts or graphics like you can do in a “normal” email message)
  • There did not appear to be anyway to add an attachment (like an agenda or other docs)

It took a little bit of extra digging to finally find what I wanted. It’s called Send Later or sl8r. It’s perfect for creating very fancy emails or adding attachments. You create a normal email within Thunderbird (as if you were going to send it right away.) Creating the message with all the design choices you could hope for, and adding whatever attachments your heart desires.

Then, instead of clicking on the “Send” button, go up and click on the word File in the top left hand corner. If you look down the menu you will find two “Send” options. The first is to send it right away, the other says “Send Later”. Choosing “Send Later” will pop up a little window allowing you to select the Hour, Minute, Day, Month and Year that you would like your message sent. After you have made all those choices just click on the “Send Later at a Specific Time” button. And your message will be put into the Drafts folder waiting for the appointed time that you selected to have it sent.

An Addendum:

Sorry, I wrote too soon… I hadn’t quite finished testing the “Send Later” utility as thoroughly as I should have. Although it appears to be a great little tool, it looks like all support and development stopped on in sometime in May’07. As such it still does not “play nice” with all releases of Thunderbird and with some of the plugins that people use – some (a lot?) of experimentation may be required for this one, sorry… Redfaced / Embarassed

The “Lightning” plugin still works great – it just can’t do as many fancy things with it – so I would give it five stars for sure!

So, now she has plenty of options and once more I’ve found a solution already solved and entirely free. I just “know” that another challenge will be coming my way – till next time then! Big Grin

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