Just the other day a co-worker of mine asked me if our Exchange Server was having problems. It was not so I asked why he was asking about that. It turned out that his To Do bar in Outlook was just a big gray box with the message “Loading” displayed. He had left it for literally hours, restarted Outlook and rebooted his machine all to no avail.
My previous experiences with Outlooks shortcuts and calendar lists disappearing popped to mind so I had him exit Outlook and rename his Outlook.XML file. Sure enough, it worked! When he restarted Outlook his To Do bar came back to life. He had to reset it to show the items he wanted, but everything has been fine since.
This is just another example of Outlook frequently corrupting a file it uses for UI settings. I still do not know why it seems to be so fragile. I have submitted my experiences to Microsoft but I do not know if there are any plans to make the process a little more robust. Given the importance of Outlook in today’s business world (for many companies at least) I hope that this issue will get the attention that it deserves. There are some in my company that are greatly affected by Outlook problems.
If you happen to see any weird Outlook UI issues, first thing to try, in my opinion, is renaming (and therefore rebuilding) the Outlook.XML. Good luck to all!