Microsoft has released an add-in for Outlook 2007 and 2003 that lets you link to social networking sites like Facebook in a similar way to the People Pane in Outlook 2010. It’s not perfect but it’s a start.
You can tell when Microsoft is really serious about something when they support it for previous versions of their software – not just the latest release. We’ve heard a lot about Redmond’s ‘excitement’ about social networking links with Outlook but that was just talk. Now we have action with a free download for Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2003 users.
The Outlook Social Connector does more than link Facebook, MySpace etc to Outlook, it also adds the ‘People Pane’ features of Outlook 2010 to earlier versions of Outlook. By default the People Pane is minimized below the reading pane for messages:
Outlook Social Connector - minimized view in Outlook 2007
Click on the up arrow on the right to see the entire pane. Here’s a ‘blank’ people pane item in Outlook 2007.
Outlook Social Connector - view in Outlook 2007
Alas the silhouette photo ‘blanks’ still appear whether you like it or not. At least the release version of Outlook 2010 has an option to remove these ghostly images but we can’t find it for Outlook 2007 nor Outlook 2003.
When will Microsoft’s obsession with photos in the people pane end? When will Redmond discover that not everyone wants their photo appearing all over the place and not everyone has the time or interest in updating their contacts to include photos?
The Microsoft Outlook Social Connector 32-bit is available for free and you must also install the 'update' Update for Outlook Social Connector (KB983403), 32-Bit Edition.
Note: you’ll also need Windows Search v4 for Windows XP or Windows Vista (it comes with Windows 7).
After installation, start Outlook and you should get an automatic prompt
Outlook Social Connector - startup screen
Click next to proceed.
If you haven’t installed any account connectors there’s an empty list.
Outlook Social Connector - Accounts screen
Click on the link to go online and get some connectors. At the moment there are four available:
- Windows Live Messenger
Facebook and Windows Live Messenger have just been added. ( At last Microsoft’s Windows Live division has decided to support Microsoft Outlook – apparently quite shameless that they could not / would not do it earlier.)
Under ‘Settings’ are some options to consider.
Outlook Social Connector - Settings
Once you have some connectors installed they’ll show up in the accounts dialog (available from Tools | Social Network Account Settings in Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2003). Click on a connector to fill in the login details:
Outlook Social Connector - Settings with some connectors
Fill in your login details then click the Connect button. The connection will be tested.
Click Finish to return to Outlook.
Once installed you can now link Outlook contacts to their social network identities.
Under the photo, click on the green plus sign and choose which social network connector to use. That done, an icon will appear next to the plus sign.
As you can see, the Windows Live connector needs some work with a long string if digits instead of her name or email address which shows up in the Messenger view on the same machine.
Outlook Social Connector - Windows Live curiousities
That could be related to the notice (see the blue ‘i’ on the Messenger icon) which says that the ‘user’ is ‘pending confirmation’ from Messenger – however in this case the contact is already approved and shows up as an approved contact in Messenger so there’s really a problem with the Messenger connector into Outlook.
Microsoft is being uncharacteristically forthcoming about some problems with the connectors in a FAQ. We suspect there are a lot more glitches in individual connectors and the underlying system yet to be fixed.
By all means try out the Outlook Social Connector, keeping in mind that it looks like a work in progress.
Article posted: Saturday, 17 July 2010
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