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Delayed Sending in Outlook and the bug

You can delay sending an email in Outlook – here’s how, why and a long standing Outlook bug.

by Office Watch

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Outlook has an option to delay sending an email until future date or time – it looks simple but we found important details and bugs as we dug deep.

In Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2007 go to Options | Delay Delivery | Do not deliver before

Outlook 2010 - Delayed Sending image from Delayed Sending in Outlook and the bug at Office-Watch.com

The same feature is in earlier versions of Outlook as far back as we can remember.

Just set the date and time for sending then click ‘Close’. Keep in mind that the time you nominate is the earliest the message will go out, see below for details.

Finish writing the email as usual and click ‘Send’. The message will sit in the Outbox folder until the at least nominated time.

All that is pretty simple but like many things with Outlook (and Office) a simple thing is more complicated when we delved into it.

Timing

Keep in mind that the time you choose for the delayed message send is NOT the exact time the email will be sent – it is the earliest time the message will go out.

There are a few factors that will affect when the message is actually sent.

Outlook has to be running to send the message. It seems obvious but is sometimes overlooked. When Outlook next starts it will check any pending Outbox messages, if any are past their delayed sending time they’ll be sent immediately.

Even if Outlook is running, the message won’t go out at exactly the time you nominate – it will go at the next scheduled ‘Sent Items’ event after the delayed send time.

For example, you have Outlook scheduled to send messages every 15 minutes: 00, 15, 30 and 45 past the hour. A delayed message set for sending at 9:05am will sit in the Outbox for another 10 minutes until 9:15am when the next scheduled send event occurs.

All this means is that you can’t rely on a delayed send email to act as an alarm or reminder for an exact time.

When was the message sent?

You would expect Outlook to show when an email was sent, but that doesn't happen for Delayed Emails.

Once the message is sent, copy should be in Sent Items. However, there’s nothing we can find in the sent item that shows the message had a delayed sending or even the actual time of dispatch.

In fact the Sent Item is quite wrong – it shows the sent time as the time you clicked ‘Send’ to create the message. The actual time the message was sent or was scheduled for sending is missing.

This could be important when there’s a dispute about when a message was sent. The sender could allege a sending time well before when it was actually dispatched.

Exchange Server admins would have the option of checking the logs to see details of when the message was actually sent, but that’s a lot of hassle.

It would be far better if Outlook had a clear record of the messages activity. Customers should expect that the Sent Items folder be an accurate record of an emails history, especially for an important matter like the time it was sent.

Microsoft and it's proponents will say that Outlook is acting 'as designed'.  We think that Outlook isn't showing the actual time a message is sent and the failure to do this simple thing is a classic bug that needs fixing.

Why use delayed email

So why would you use delayed email at all? I’m sure there are many situations, here are some:

  • Sending a press release or other document that is embargoed until a particular time.
  • Sending a message to someone in another time zone when you’ll be away from your computer but you want the message to appear during the receiver’s working day.
  • As a reminder or follow up for a task. If the person completes the task earlier than expected, remember to delete the delayed email from the Outbox.
  • Sending large emails at offpeak times to reduce the bandwidth usage. This applies when the Internet access is slow and large emails can ‘hog’ the limited bandwidth. We’ve had this problem when travelling and trying to share pictures – we use delayed sending to dispatch the images once we get back to somewhere with faster internet.

Article posted: Tuesday, 20 March 2012

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