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Exchange 2010, Outlook 2002 (XP), Plain Text don’t mix

Alexander Zammit

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Alexander Zammit has been developing server applications for over 15 years. Most of his works involve Exchange integrated applications, including a FAX server, a mail security product and anti-spam products.

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Be warned that Exchange 2010 does not support the Office XP, Outlook 2002 client. From my experience I know that many still use Office XP. So today we discuss one problem that may cause some headaches if you decide to go ahead and run these two together.

In organizations with more than a few 10s of desktops, it is not uncommon to come across a few Office XP installations. For various reasons, successful software releases tend to be very hard to die. Very often this is not a licensing question. Office XP crops up even when the licenses of the latest releases are available. Sometimes it's because users don't want to learn a new interface, or else it could be because of some Office add-on that won't support later versions.

Whatever the reason, old releases can become an administrative headache. Today I will discuss a problem I came across when using Outlook 2002 (the one included in Office XP of course) with Exchange 2010.

Before going further let me straight away say that Outlook 2002 is NOT SUPPORTED for use with Exchange 2010. You can see this from the support matrix at the link that follows. Just expand the Clients section to see the matrix.
Exchange Server Supportability Matrix

Why Talk of Outlook 2002 if Not Supported?

Too often many only discover that something is not supported after running into a problem. So I want to alert all those in the process to upgrade to Exchange 2010 to get their house in order first.

I also want to document this because the problem is strange and will take some by surprise. Once you run into a problem it's nice to know you are not alone!

Lastly the lack of Exchange 2010 support for Outlook 2002 is less obvious than for earlier versions. For example I tried running Outlook 2000. However I was immediately unable to connect this to Exchange 2010. This was not the case for Outlook 2002. I was still able to work with the client just fine, until I ran into this problem...

Problem Details

Apparently Outlook 2002 has a problem displaying plain text email bodies. When you open such an email, the body text is not shown. Here is an example:

Plain Text Body

Of course the original email did contain some body text. It's Outlook that is not showing it. Here is the raw email:

Raw Email

Luckily at the forums this problem was already discussed here:
Outlook 2002 Blank Email Body and Exchange 2010

If you are currently dealing with this problem I suggest you to read this forum thread. In this thread there is the suggestion that the problem can be solved by recreating the Outlook Profile. This did not work for me. What "solved" the problem was to force the emails to be downloaded to a local Personal Folders File (PST). In my case as long as the emails are in the PST the text body is visible. As soon as the settings are reverted to open the email directly from the server mailbox, the problem is back.

Of course using PSTs is very often not a valid solution. If like me you prefer to keep all emails at the server you certainly don't want to get into the hell of managing PSTs because of this. However this solution was at least helpful in confirming that something is wrong with the Exchange 2010/Outlook 2002 mix.

PST Configuration

To complete this article I will just document the steps how to configure Outlook to deliver emails to the local Personal Folders.

  1. From the Outlook client select
    Tools | E-mail Accounts

  2. From the Email Accounts dialog that opens select:
    View or change existing e-mail accounts

    View or change existing e-mail accounts

  3. In the step that follows, if you don't already have a PST, click on
    New Outlook Data File

    ...and complete the 'New Outlook Data File' steps.

  4. Once the PST is created, click on the list box under:
    Deliver new e-mail to the following location

    Deliver new e-mail to the following location

    We should find the Personal Folders listed here. Select this as your email delivery destination and click Finish.

Reopen Outlook and try receiving a plain text email now. Magically Outlook will have no problem showing the body text this time.

Problem Solved

Final Tips

If you are responsible for one of the many Organizations who still run Office XP, I hope you come across this article at an early stage of your Exchange 2010 migration. This is one of those problems that can go easily unnoticed in a test lab. My personal experience was that apart for this Outlook 2002 worked fine with Exchange 2010. Thus one could easily be tempted to ignore the fact that this release is officially not supported. However once you go live, it won't take long until the first plain text emails start coming in, at which point you will have to quickly find a solution.

References

Exchange Server Supportability Matrix

Outlook 2002 Blank Email Body and Exchange 2010

User Comments - Page 1 of 1

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Raymond 30 Mar 2012 07:01
I don't dispute Outlook 2002 is not supported but this problem of being unable to view Plain text emails is an Exchange 2010 problem as this problem exists with Outlook 2003 and '07 clients as well (Haven't checked 2010). This issue is Exchange is converting the email to html and not doing it well.
People fix the problem with new profiles BUT my bet is when they create the new profile they enable the OST and that fixes this issue as well. Can't enable OST's on Terminal servers.
Come on Microsoft PLEASE help, Its a disaster when you get a client to commit to an upgrade and the outcome is worse than the beginning.
Tony Bhanot 13 Feb 2012 12:35
Your article was very clear and helpfull.

Thanks
Tony Bhanot
Ken W. - An IT Guy 15 Nov 2011 15:53
I've got a desktop running Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit and Office 2010 Pro. He is running off of a standard POP account and using a local PST. He was fully patches as of 11/1/11. He is getting the error as well. I know he is getting "no visible body text" from my Office 2007 32-bit "text only" emails. He said he is getting the symptoms in emails from outside sources as well. You'd think that a text only email would be th easiest thing to deal with.
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