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Return Receipts with Meaning
[November 24, 2005]

Return Receipts with Meaning

By RICH TEHRANI
President & Group Editor-in-Chief

I'd like to start by saying Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you are all healthy, happy and warm.

I think one of the minor features Microsoft Outlook e-mail can use is a return receipt that thinks for you. In other words, I send many e-mails and on some of them I request a receipt. Of course receipts are most useful if you know the person you are sending the e-mail to has this feature enabled.

Currently, when I send a receipt enabled e-mail I notice when the first receipts come back. Then if I need to know who hasn't opened the e-mail yet, I can retrieve the message and then search to see if I have receipts from the others on the To: list.

OK, I have a question. How useful is this feature if you send more than a few messages with receipts? Should the user be tasked with having to worry about who responded, when they responded and if they actually read the message?


What Microsoft Outlook desperately needs is a mechanism that keeps track of receipts. Did I receive a receipt from everyone you sent a message to? If not, I want to know about it. In fact I would like to be able to set a timer on an e-mail -- let's say 2 business days (this should be set by the user). In that time, I expect my messages to have been read. If not, then I want an e-mail from the system with a list of those who haven't opened the message. Furthermore I would like a private database of receipts so I can check later to see which receipts are outstanding.

This leads me to the next point. An e-mail receipt is not really a receipt. In some cases the receiving system doesn't support this feature. In other cases a person can read the message in the preview window without sending a receipt.

I have a solution to part of this problem. I suggest the option of having a checkbox on the e-mail that confirms it has been read. We can't expect our customers to check such boxes but within an organization at least we can expect coworkers to check them. In fact I can't imagine how a modern day company can function without such features. Spam is becoming an epidemic at TMC. I receive well over 1,000 e-mails a day and that is with multiple spam filters that auto-delete messages that are (hopefully) all spam.

Perhaps the voting buttons Microsoft Outlook supports will help solve this problem. Ideally these buttons should be more visible on a sent e-mail. Whether you think Google is a real threat to Microsoft or not, if this threat makes Microsoft innovate faster, we will all be winners. I can't even call my simple and modest requests innovations really. They are more like common sense.

Let's hope that Microsoft programmers return rested, relaxed and full to their Redmond cubicles after this long weekend and start working on this small but important feature.

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Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor in Chief at TMC. In addition he is the Chairman of the world's best attended VoIP event, Internet Telephony Conference & Expo.




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