Investigating Outlook 2007's Outlook Mobile Service

I recently had a discussion with an American coworker about text messages—or, as we say in Europe, SMS (Short Message Service). He told me that he never used text messages and he couldn't see why anybody would. However, my colleagues and I frequently use text messages to schedule appointments or just to exchange quick information when email isn't available. My coworker also didn't know about Microsoft Office Outlook 2007's Outlook Mobile Service (OMS), which lets you integrate Outlook's mobile capabilities with your mobile devices. So I decided it was time to write about this lesser known feature. I'll provide you a good overview of OMS and how to set it up, then next month I'll take a closer look at some of its features.

OMS was introduced with Outlook 2007. When you want to send a text (SMS) or Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) message, OMS encodes the mobile message as a Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) message and sends it to an OMS Web service provider such as IntelliSoftware or SMSOfficer. There are many OMS Web service providers available; when you configure OMS, you'll get the chance to select the most appropriate provider for your country or mobile operator and your budget. The Web service provider encodes the message and delivers it to the service provider's mobile message gateway, which sends it to the recipient's mobile device.

That's enough of the theory; let's see how to configure OMS in Outlook. To start, select Tools, Options from the Outlook menu. On the Preferences tab, in the Mobile section, click either Notifications or Mobile Options and a dialog box appears asking if you want to configure OMS; click Yes. In the Add New Outlook Mobile Service Account window, you'll find a link to a Microsoft Web page that acts as a wizard to help you find appropriate mobile service providers for your region. When you enter provider account information in the Add New Outlook Mobile Service Account window, the information is also added to the E-mail tab of Account Settings, which you can find on the Tools menu; you can also go to Account Settings to change any provider-related configuration later.

Generally, your OMS Web service provider gives you two options for text messages: Either you use your own mobile number as Sender ID for text messages or you use a service-provider-defined number to act as a relay between the sender or recipient and you. (Some providers also offer a Web client to access text messages.) I send text messages only from my Outlook client, and I want to receive all text messages on my mobile phone. You should carefully examine what items your mobile service provider offers to ensure they meet your requirements.

Overall, this setup process if fairly simple and straightforward. After you've configured OMS, you can create text messages in Outlook, forward email messages as text messages, and have reminders sent to you as text messages. I'll talk more about those features in next month's column.

Sigi's Outlook Internet Site of the Month
For all you Windows XP people out there, this month I found something that will ease your life with Outlook 2007: additional preview handlers for Windows XP. Gil Azar's Web page provides you with an Outlook 2007 add-on to preview message attachments—such as .zip, .swf, MP3, MPEG, HTML, and others—in Outlook 2007's preview pane on an XP machine. Microsoft provides some preview handlers for Windows Vista, but the handlers don't work on XP. If you run Office 2007 on XP, just install this add-on! Here's the link for installation instructions as well as to download the add-on.

As always, if you find a link for an interesting new freeware tool or add-on for Outlook, let me know! Send me a message at [email protected].

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