Monday, I was helping my new officemate Jeff get Office 2007 Beta 2 installed on his desktop machine and discovered this neat tidbit I wanted to share with you.
For at least the last couple versions of Outlook, setting up your Outlook profile to talk to an Exchange server has been relatively trouble-free. You’d select Exchange from the list of choices, you’d fill in your name, you’d fill in the name of your Exchange server, and assuming all your credentials were in order, it would find your mailbox and everything would be good, as shown below:
This process contained a couple of potential road bumps that Microsoft tried to smooth out:
- Unless you’re an Exchange admin, the odds are good that you have no earthly idea what the name of your Exchange server is. Thanks to the magic of MAPI mailbox referral, you can enter any valid Exchange server name (either NetBIOS name or DNS FQDN, and IIRC DNS aliases will work too) and Outlook will be pointed to the correct server.
- Many users don’t know what their username is. You can try entering your real name (“Devin Ganger”), or your Windows account username (“dganger” or, if you have a multi-domain organization and need to specify the domain, “REDMOND\dganger”), or User Principal Name (“firstname.lastname@example.org”). Again, Outlook could use all of these to find your account in Active Directory and pull down the value it needed.
This has worked so well for me that I never stopped to think: can it get better?
Apparently, the Outlook dev team has, because what Jeff and I found was that Outlook 2007 automatically used his domain credentials to look up his mailbox information in Active Directory and configure his profile. I knew that the combination of Exchange 2007 and Outlook 2007 was supposed to really introduce some nice auto-discovery and configuration options for organizations with complicated deployments, but I didn’t realize that Outlook 2007 was making this process easier even against older versions of Exchange 2003.
So if you happen to be a member of the Outlook team and you’re reading this, very cool! Thank you!
 Normally we don’t encourage employees to install beta versions of software onto their production machines, but sometimes the nature of our work requires us to do it. So kids, don’t try this at home — we’re paid professionals.
 Sorry, I don’t really remember how far back this goes.
 If you weren’t logged in as an account that had access to Exchange, it would prompt you for credentials.