Read receipts, sometimes referred to as “return receipts” or “delivery receipts,” are not inherently implemented into Entourage (Microsoft’s mac-based version of Outlook). That’s a fact. Why, then, is it still implemented in Outlook? Here’s a note from some guy named Paul Berkowitz, “MVP” MacOffice:
The reason why is that it’s an almost useless feature which gives people false assurances, always a bad thing:
It doesn’t work when the receiving email client does not have an
automatic service that sends a reply. (Not only Entourage – there are
many, many other other email clients which don’t reply.) Therefore, if
you don’t get a reply you may incorrectly think it wasn’t received,
It doesn’t tell you that the recipient read the message anyway, only
that his email client received it. Therefore when you get the reply you
may incorrectly believe that he read it when he hasn’t.
– bad both ways round. It’s a really feeble protocol, and good that
Entourage does not (pretend to) implement it. The fact that Outlook
implements it is an indication that the Outlook developers, unlike the
Entourage developers, seem to think that everybody else in the world
uses Outlook, which they don’t. The Entourage developers, being on a
“minority” platform, know better, and are smarter in not implementing
it. To be a bit fairer, the Outlook approach probably reflects the fact
that, originally, back in Office 95 for PCs, Outlook was an extension
of an earlier client that worked only as intranet – something you used
only with other people on your own Exchange server. Outlook started
life doing the same thing – there used to be two modes – one for
“Workgroups” on an Exchange server, and another for “Internet”.
were some poor decisions made when Outlook was extended to the
Internet, that shouldn’t be there. This is one of them – it’s
inaccurate and unreliable, since it assumes that everyone can do it,
which they can’t. You’re much better off just not using it, since it
cannot be relied upon.
And that’s why Entourage does not implement it.
Yeah. Okay, there Mr. Berkowitz. Now let me just point out a few outside-the-box reasons why read receipts are good.
It all comes down to documentation. In an interoffice (or even intra-office) environment this is absolutely critical. You want your manager/boss/handler/whatever to know that you received a directive/file/email/TPS report. Most times, it’s desirable to notify the bossman exactly when and where you got their email (like when you’re sitting in a meeting and he/she claims that they told you three weeks ago, but you have an email and a read-receipt stating otherwise.) No, it’s not a reliable method and it (usually) requires end-user interaction, but if the recipient doesn’t shoot back a receipt then that’s when the ol’ phone gets dusted off and deployed.
Even with clients, read receipts are a phenomenally low-effort way to indicate that a document or file was received. I have yet to run into a client/customer that didn’t send a read-receipt when prompted – it’s to their advantage to send it.
Fact is, this isn’t outside-the-box thinking… I would imagine that this is precisely why read receipts exist in Outlook and should definitely exist in Entourage (or at least have the option.) Whether it’s unreliable or inaccurate is irrelevant – the option to use it should still be there. Saying “you’re much better off not using it, since it cannot be relied upon” is just silly. I’ve never been in a situation where someone took away one of my tools and told me I was better off not having it. I prefer to be told “here’s why I don’t use it” and let me make the determination to leave it at the bottom of the toolkit.