When I posted my recent account of how I got my overflowing inbox under control, one reader pointed out that I could have also automatically converted some of the remaining emails into tasks by dragging them into my task list. As it happens, I like to use my Outlook task list purely for stuff directly related to my writing career (assignments and invoices), with email as a separate, more general to-do area. Also, I’m not big on dragging and dropping, and I find the feature is often buggy anyway (as the screenshot indicates).
Of course, I’m not everybody. But Microsoft really wants everyone to use this feature: so much so that it actually removed some other options to make it work. When I first began using Outlook 2007 shortly after its commercial release, I was irked to find that it was apparently no longer possible to sort tasks by subject in regular task view, an option that had existed for several versions before. That seemed like a major omission, so I hassled Microsoft about why that change had been made. Several weeks later, I got a reply which explained that the lack of sorting was because the previous Subject field had been replaced with a new ‘Task Subject’ field:
The Task Subject field was added to Outlook as part of the work done to support treating email items as tasks. It is auto-generated by Outlook. Since a sortable ‘subject’ field was already available, the decision was made not to expend the resources to make this system-generated field sortable.
Me, I’m not convinced that this is much of an excuse (honestly, how hard is it to sort something?) — but it shows that Microsoft remains unafraid to break a perfectly good system just because it thinks it knows better. You can fix this limitation by creating custom views that use the existing Subject field, but I haven’t got around to it yet — and with my own system working, I don’t imagine I well in a hurry.