Thursday, March 4, 2010

Nice solution to a Microsoft Outlook problem...

Nothing frustrates me more (well... only a few things :) than a software developer taking away an option and not providing a way to undo that change, particularly when it is or should be a user choice.

Case in point: Microsoft came late to the security party and when they finally realized that their software was riddled with security holes, they took a rather heavy-handed approach to "solving" the problem. As everyone knows, email allows attachments, which are a great thing for sending files of various kinds to your friends, co-workers, and clients. That's great, but the bad guys figured out ways to package malware into various file types, including such things as Microsoft Access databases (.mdb), web address files (.url), and even compressed files (.zip).

What did Microsoft do? They dropped in a security "fix" that completely disallowed these and many other potentially harmful file types. And the didn't provide a way to undo (either temporarily or permanently) these changes. Once you've installed the security "fix", those attachments are completely inaccessible to you through Outlook. To gain access to them, you have to have another email client handy and that's a real PITA.

Unfortunately, I occasionally get such files from clients or associates whom I trust and I need to be able to open them... Uh-uh. Microsoft knows better than me and won't let that happen.

Today that problem bit me again and I found a terrific resource on the web that allowed to me take care of that in a very intelligent manner.  A quick Google search turned up this page, which explained the situation nicely and then offered up a veritable smorgasbord of solutions. As always, there's a way to edit the Windows Registry , but that's not something you want to do regularly. If that is your cup of tea, see the section on the page titled ""Recent Outlook Versions". I started to do that and then happened to glance further down the page and found an even better solution. 

In the "Tools" section, you'll find an Attachment Options link which offers an Outlook plug-in (or COM add-in) by Outlook MVP Ken Slovak. This does everything that Microsoft should have done. It installs quickly and easily, and adds a tab to your Outlook "Tools | Options" window.

There you can see all the file types that are disallowed, and allow them, individually (or all at once if you like to take risks). Even better, once you've downloaded a particular file that you were expecting, you can easily go back to this tab and disallow them again, so you don't accidentally allow the bad guys to get you.

Now that's intelligent design!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Jon. I've been frustrated by this "fix" as well. Now I have an solution!