How to Install Lookout on Outlook 2007

I got another request today from an old friend for how to make Lookout run inside Outlook 2007.  I’ve probably received a thousand such requests over the last few years…  Since I recently installed Outlook 2007, I finally was able to test it out. 

This fix should make Lookout work.  However, if you have other .NET addins running in Outlook, there is a chance they will no longer work.  The fix is reversible though, so don’t be too scared.  But this fix is definitely for the tech savvy.  Gory details:


Installing Lookout on Outlook 2007

1) First, you’ll have to find a copy of Lookout.  Microsoft doesn’t distribute it anymore, but issuing this search on Google seems to find it pretty handily.

2) Next, install Lookout.  You’ll need admin privileges (no difference from XP), and the install will go without a hitch.

3) When you next restart Outlook, you’ll probably get this very apologetic-yet-unhelpful error dialog:


4) The problem is that Outlook 2007 ships the Outlook 2007 Office PIAs by default.  Open a command shell (as administrator), and issue the following commands:

  • cd  %SYSTEMROOT%assemblyGAC
  • rename  Microsoft.Office.Interop.Outlook  Microsoft.Office.Interop.Outlook.OLD

5) Restart Outlook and you are good to go.


If this doesn’t work for you, or it breaks some other plugin, you’ll want to restore the interop library.  Just undo the command above thusly:

  • rename  Microsoft.Office.Interop.Outlook.OLD  Microsoft.Office.Interop.Outlook


Why does this dialog exist?

Only read this section if you are an Outlook plugin geek!

At the time Lookout was written, Microsoft’s strategy for shipping PIAs hadn’t fully been sorted out.  Prior to Outlook 10, there were no official PIAs.  Outlook 10 introduced official PIAs, which you could redistribute.  Outlook 11 had official PIAs as well (different ones), but Microsoft didn’t permit redistribution of them, and they weren’t backward compatible.  Further, with VS2003, it was pretty easy to create your own PIAs, which were almost identical to the official ones, but not signed.  There were lots of plugins out there, and some of them handled PIAs badly. 

At some point, Lookout ended up requiring that it be able to find the official Outlook 10 PIA installed, or it would assume it would fail.  It wasn’t smart enough to recognize that new versions of the PIA might be legit, and probably should have handled it better.  Who would have guessed that Outlook 12 would introduce yet a 3rd PIA distribution strategy?  OL2007 elects to install the PIAs into the GAC by default; so plugins no longer needed to redistribute them at all.  I do believe this is the best strategy.

What this simple fix does is temporarily uninstall the Office 12 version of the PIA.  As long as no other .NET Outlook addins are running (C++ based addins don’t use PIAs), this has absolutely zero negative impact on your system.  If other .NET addins exist on your system, and those addins are Outlook 11 or 12 specific (I don’t know of any OL12 specific plugins yet?), then you might have a problem with this fix.  These conflicts should be rare, but not zero.

Anyway, search on!

BTW – This fix is thanks to the Wayback Machine!  The original lookoutsoft support article ( is now long gone.  But the Wayback Machine had it!  Otherwise, there is no way I would have remembered what the heck this error was about.

Related Blog Posts:

Thanks to Rohan Deshpande for consolidating updated instructions from the comments posted here. On some systems, the above instructions need to be augmented with two more steps:

 * echo รขโ‚ฌย > Microsoft.Office.Interop.Outlook
 * rename Policy.11.0.Microsoft.Office.Interop.Outlook Policy.11.0.Microsoft.Office.Interop.Outlook.OLD

Spolsky, Lookout and when Better is actually Worse

Today, Joel on Software wrote about Outlook 2007’s recent search performance fixes, and mentioned Lookout.  I had a couple of thoughts about the article.

First – I’m so pleased to hear such nice things about Lookout when it hasn’t been updated for nearly 3 years ๐Ÿ™‚  Thanks! 

Second, Joel wrote that “Microsoft finally put Lookout up for download…”.  He makes it sound like it was down for a long time; I think the total down period was between 4-7 days.  I know people like to think Microsoft buys products to squash them, and it’s easy to cite this downtime as an example of it.  But I know for a fact that was not true in this case.   I hope people won’t conclude that.

Third, while lots of people really liked Lookout, it did lack some key features which were put into Windows Desktop Search.  Most notable is that WDS actually indexes new & changed email in real-time.  Google Desktop Search does this too, but Lookout never did. 

But it brings up an interesting point which requires some background. Building incremental indexing in Outlook is quite tricky.  The problem is that changes can happen in your exchange mailbox while Outlook is not running.  When you next start Outlook, you need to make sure these changes are reflected in the index.  Because Outlook/Exchange don’t have APIs to do this efficiently, the only real way to do it is to start combing through folders trying to find what changes exist.  There are a whole bunch of nuances (cached mode, exchange mode, internet mode, online/offline, etc) and many APIs available (OOM, MAPI, CDO, ECS, etc).  When you try to make it work across the 4 different Outlooks (OL2000, OL-XP, OL2003, OL2007), each one presents a new set of problems.

So, Lookout punted on real-time indexing, and elected a “wake up every hour when the user is idle and index then.”  While this approach isn’t perfect, it is much much simpler.  And, it turns out that users usually don’t need to search for things which were sent to you less than an hour ago (although some did complain).  But the biggest benefit is that because it’s not trying to be real-time, it is much less prone to bogging down your system doing indexing.   And “system hogging” is a problem which both WDS and GDS took a long time to get right.  Reading reviews of these products indicates that even today, they still are pretty resource intensive.

In my opinion, this is a classic example of “Better is the Enemy of Good”.  The indexer doesn’t really need to be real time, even though it is “better” to be real-time.  If you weren’t confined by the limits of Outlook & MAPI, my thoughts on this would probably be different.  The fact that people are still talking about Lookout after both Microsoft and Google have continued to work on real-time indexers for 3 years is proof to me that in this case, better is actually worse.

Lookout for Outlook is Gone

In the past few days I’ve received a flurry of email from frantic Lookout users asking how they can get a copy of the product.  I thought I’d help them out and go dig out the location for downloading from Microsoft, but after a fairly deep search, it appears it has been removed from the Microsoft site, as well as other distribution sites like CNet

Since I no longer work for Microsoft, I don’t know why.  I’m not surprised, though, as the product is getting a bit stale.  If you are one of the many folks using the product, I don’t know what the support plan from Microsoft is.  I don’t have a copy of it myself any longer.

If you do know how to get a copy, please post a comment for others!

Lookout Lives

I read the following post over at Gordon’s Tech. Its a nice post with nice things to say about Lookout, but it’s kind of depressing to read! Nobody has died here!

So, its been a long time coming, but its about time that I post a little ad for MSN. ๐Ÿ™‚ If you want to know about the future, you’ll want to read this.

On the surface, I can see why people feel that Lookout’s “time has passed”. Lookout is definitely no longer the focus of our team, and if you are a Lookout user, that seems bad. But let’s not pretend that Lookout was better than it was either.

Lookout was a great first generation indexing tool. It was great because it helped solve a real world problem in a reasonable way. In particular, I think it was the first tool of it’s kind which really focused on Outlook first. This was the mind shift which was hard for many search products. Focusing on email-only seems too narrow for many. But Eric and I both think that for a lot of users – outlook is the operating system. You can agree or disagree, but its with that mindset that we built Lookout.

MSN recognized the value of Lookout and bought the product. Users wondered if MSN would re-brand it, or use it as its base for new products, or something else. Some think that MSN killed it. But that is far from the truth. What we decided to do was to leverage the Lookout knowledge, experience, and themes to help build a better product. MSN was already loaded with technology which could easily implement the features, and they would have gotten a lot of it right even without Lookout. But bringing in Lookout seemed like a good way to increase MSN success.

At the same time, Lookout couldn’t have survived on its own. Fast search is much bigger than just Outlook, and frankly, should be in the operating system. The fact that it is not should be (and is) a bit of an embarrassment to all of us at Microsoft. (Note: For those that would ding Microsoft, however, please note that Linux doesn’t have search either! It seems obvious now, but search as a feature of the OS was not obvious.)

In the end, for Lookout to survive, it needed to evolve. And while the exact code of Lookout may not exist in its original form, I think the themes, vision, and future of Lookout very much does still exist within MSN + Windows Desktop Search.

Where things stand now is that most Lookout users have already switched happily to MSN + Windows Desktop Search. It has a lot more features, better indexing, and a better UI. At the same time, I do know that a lot of users think MSN is too heavyweight to replace Lookout. And that seems to be the primary reason for people still using Lookout. We know that. But do you think we like it that way? NO WAY!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ We’re fixing it. We have the technology, and more importantly, we have the desire and passion to do it.

The focus on hard-core Outlook integration is continuing as MSN goes forward. I wish I could say these features had made the cut for the first draft of product, but they didn’t fully, and I think that is why some users still prefer Lookout. But as I sit here looking at what is coming from MSN, I can honestly say with conviction for the first time that with the next rev of MSN, there is just no way any users will want to continue using Lookout. The new version of MSN rocks – its so much better – and its not too heavy. And users should also be delighted to know that we probably couldn’t have built this product this quickly from a startup. We needed MSN’s help.

Overall, it’s great that MSN bought Lookout. It’s not the same code as Lookout, and it’s not even the same developers (they are much better than we were!!), but the theme of Lookout is absolutely still part of MSN, and that may have been the most real value that Lookout ever had.

Desktop Search Summary

With Yahoo now in the game, all the major players have now officially entered the desktop search market! I should writeup at least a short and completely unbiased summary.

MSN Desktop Search BETA. Launched Dec 13, 2004.
The MSN product has been pretty well received. As you’d expect from Microsoft, it integrates with the Desktop, Outlook, Explorer, and Internet Explorer. The user gets a common interface from all entry points, and the product can search across email, files, and a rich set of content types.

Yahoo Desktop Search BETA. Launched Jan 10, 2005.
The Yahoo product was built by X1. (I love their company motto – “Breaking the found barrier”)They are one of the oldest desktop search products that have been on the market. As expected, the product looks just like X1, and has received high marks over the last year for its depth of features. Because it is the X1 product, I expected it to be pretty stable. I was surprised that my installation of X1 immediately crashed while indexing – twice! But, after it finished, it seemed to work okay. The great thing about X1 is the great features – it indexes very quickly, has a wonderful “search while you type” feature, and a great preview pane. It indexes more types of files than any of the other desktop search products. The only other complaint I can see with it is still its garrish user-interface. X1 really wants to be its own application; you need to leave it up and running all the time if you want to use it effectively; and it takes up a lot of space on your screen and task tray. For some users, this works well, however I personally prefer the search tools that are more concealed into the locations where you use them, so that you don’t have to see them when they aren’t in use.

What is unknown about Yahoo is whether or not they had plans to build their own desktop product, and that X1 is a bridge, or whether this is their real entry into the market. Either way, starting with X1 was probably a great step for Yahoo, as X1 is one of the top products available today.

Google Desktop Search BETA. Launched Oct 14, 2004.
I’ve reviewed the Google product before. And much has been written about it. Overall, people seem to agree that its a good little engine, and it works for some people. However, the Web-Centric approach which Google took is not really what most users want. The product has a number of security issues, limits the user to viewing 10 search results in a web browser, and lacks any sort of email search capabilities. For the world’s search leader, this was quite a surprise to many.

Ask Jeeves BETA. Launched Dec 15, 2004.
Poor little ask jeeves. The product works, and its fast, and provides the basics of desktop search. But, considering that they bought Tuckaroo to help build this engine early in 2004, Ask just arrived too late with too little to be interesting. For a smaller player like Ask Jeeves, they really needed to get this out 6 months earlier in order for it to have market impact.

Lookout Released 1.0 May 25, 2004.
Lookout is the oldest of the products I’m listing here. Its an email search tool, designed and optimized for searching Microsoft Outlook email only. For desktop search, its just not up to par with the file indexing of the big engines. But for email search, it still provides the most in-depth search capabilities.

One quick note: A lot of the reviews say things like “Microsoft and Yahoo are just copying Google, who released desktop search last year.” While it may seem like that on the surface, its a pretty naive statement overall. In the case of MSN, for instance, we know from Microsoft that the product was built from the ground up. Since it was released only a month or so after the Google product, we know that there was very little copying done. Anyone in the software business can tell you that in order to ship a product within a month or two of a competitor, not only did you have to be working on it before the competitor launched, but you basically had to be code complete and in final test. Further, the approach taken by Microsoft is radically different than the web-centric approach used by Google. To say its a copy, or a knee jerk reaction is pretty silly. In the case of Yahoo, the same logic also applies. They were probably at least talking to X1 before the Google product launched, although it may be a close call. Its pretty fast to close a licensing deal and build a re-branded version of the product in just two months. Who knows. Maybe it was a copy of Google. But the innovation in the product existed WAY before Google even existed.

Anyway, kudos to all the players now in this space. When a user gets that first, fast search (regardless of which Desktop Search product they use), there is a common reaction of amazement and understanding – how much better our lives are when we can find stuff.

Now, where is the “find my car keys” search each morning?

MSN Desktop Search now in Beta

As you may have heard by now, MSN Desktop Search has now shipped to beta! This is the product I’ve been working on with a team of great engineers at Microsoft.

I could write a gushing review of the product, but I’m too close to the product to be credible anyway. Perhaps a better way to do it is to quote from another blog (this one is from Sriram Krishnan), but many others are saying similar things as well:

Mr. Krishnan writes:
So what is the answer to the big question – who has the better desktop search product (taking into consideration that both of them are beta products and may change radically) ?

Answer: Microsoft. Totally. MSN Desktop Search takes Google Desktop Search to the cleaners. And here’s why (apart from the major points covered by all those reviews)

Lastly, you can check out the MSN Search Blog for the latest tips & tricks.