Outlook on Outlook

In the past few weeks, the Groton community made a tough switch from the dependable email provider First Class (after its nineteen years of service) to the newfangled Microsoft system “Outlook.” This change has not been a smooth one, and it seems that the only advantage of Outlook is that it is well integrated with Word programs. According to Alix Kearney from the Tech Office, First Class needed “frequent support” and “didn’t integrate well.” Outlook is the “industry standard” meaning that its new software is used by most companies.

But the truth of the matter is that First Class has diligently served as our school’s workhorse for nineteen years, and it did a perfectly good job. Students were accustomed to it and were able to do all that was necessary, no more or no less. Becca Gracey ’14 seems to agree: “For me, I think Outlook is harder to use because it’s less obvious about how to organize one’s mail and documents and it was hard for the kids who have had First Class for so long to transition to a new mail system in the middle of the year.” First Class is superior to its shiny new counterpart Outlook because First Class had a no-nonsense approach to its few (but useful) applications.

Comparing the two email systems, First Class decidedly has advantageous physical aspects to it. The folders for “Student Conferences,” “News,” and “Form Issues,” among others, already go to separate inboxes without having to set up a “rule” like on Outlook. It was also easier to create personal mailing lists and class conferences as well as Drop-boxes, a feature commonly used by the English department where students can deposit papers for easy access by teachers. First Class also requires users to enter their password upon opening the program, whereas Outlook does not, thus potentially creating issues with regard to security.

While Outlook offers a sleek display, the features of First Class far outrank those of its newer counterpart. The most prominent three are the history option, the unsend option, and Instant Messaging (IM) application. For the past nineteen years of First Class’s reign, students and faculty could click the history button on an email and have access to information that allowed them to know who read the email when, if the email was forwarded, or if someone replied. This was extremely helpful and also fun seeing who viewed an email you sent to Student Conferences and when they forwarded it. But now with Outlook, there is no such option.

It is impossible to see if that teacher “read-no-replied” you or if they just haven’t seen it yet. You have no way of knowing if people even opened your “lost” email to the new “Group Student.” In addition, there is no way to unsend emails that in hindsight were probably not funny, or were embarrassing, or sounded too sassy. This aspect of First Class had more than once saved a teacher’s opinion of me or even my reputation when I tried to send “hilarious” emails to Student Conferences. The new email provider also lacks an IM application. How else are we supposed to ask a teacher a question in the afternoon or message a friend during a boring class? The Messaging app also provides a list of every person in the school on First Class at that time.

Though we are still making the transition from First Class, most have already formed strong opinions against the new email system. Many say that it’s just “gloomy,” and switching to Gmail would have been a better option. The whole program is a bit of an abyss, and the full extent of its features is unknown and would require too much time to try to figure out. Overall, the switch has been a great inconvenience to the community. An anonymous choir director said “I don’t know what all this email palava is about; I much prefer using carrier pigeons.” Perhaps this switch of email system is a great chance to consider how we all communicate with each other.

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