This morning, I set out to file a bug report with Microsoft. All I wanted was a simple form on a web page to file a bug report for Outlook and Outlook Express*. I did a Google search for "microsoft bug". One of the top results is http://msdn.microsoft.com/bugs/default.asp, which has a nice big "Report a bug" link. That looked promising. I followed it and created the required Passport account. After signing in, I got a page allowing me to report bugs, but only for Microsoft's development programs (Visual Studio, Visual C++, etc.). Denied.
So, I Google'd for "microsoft bug report" and found a blog post titled "Mission: Impossible. Submitting a Bug Report to Microsoft". Fantastic. This morning, I'm Tom Cruise. I'm going to file a bug report.
Next, I searched around the Microsoft web site. Starting at http://support.microsoft.com/, I went to the Outlook 2003 Solution Center. Nothing. So, I went back and followed the link to Microsoft Support Services. Then, Personal Support. Finally, I got to the Outlook 2003 help and support site, only to find nothing about filing bugs, only information about contacting a support professional for 35USD. No, thanks. Then, I searched the Microsoft Knowledge Base. Nothing.
Back to Google. One of the other results for "microsoft bug report" is Bug Reporting Information And Links. The page was on members.tripod.com, but I figured I'd try it anyway. I followed a link there to "Visit the Microsoft Bug Reporting Webpage", which took me to http://support.microsoft.com/contactus/. Finally, a Microsoft page that talked about reporting bugs! I followed the link to the bug report page and got... a phone number.
Fine, if that's what it's going to take to file a bug report, I'll give them a call. So, I called 1-800-MICROSOFT. And that's where the problems started. The menu didn't have any option to file bug reports. The closest thing was technical support, so I went with that option. I eventually got a human who didn't understand that I didn't want support, I just wanted to file a bug report. He took down a lot of personal information, including a Windows XP product ID. I don't actually use Windows XP at the moment, so I had to borrow the product ID from another computer in the house. Then, he told me that I'd need to talk to someone in customer support. After explaining to him again that I just wanted to file a bug report, he said I'd have to get talk to customer support to file a bug report even if I didn't need support. And it'd cost 35USD. If they agreed that I'd found a bug, they'd refund my money.
By this time, I was already on the phone and it looked like I had no other option, so I said OK, I'll pay the money. He took my credit card information and transferred me to customer support. I explained the issue to someone in customer support and he said I should talk to someone in Outlook support. Fine. The guy in Outlook support started by asking for my Outlook product ID. Luckily, the Windows XP system I borrowed before also has Microsoft Office, so I borrowed the product ID from there. Apparently, you're entitled to two free support calls if you have a retail version of Microsoft Outlook. Unfortunately, we have an OEM version, so he told me again that I'd be charged 35USD and that I should talk to an Outlook technician. Optionally, I could send the bug report by snailmail**, but I opted to talk to the Outlook technician. So, he transferred me to the Outlook technician.
I described the problem to Kim (she was the first person that had a name I could pronounce), the Outlook technician. "Let me see how I can solve this for you," she responded.
"You can't solve this. I just want to file a bug report," I said.
"Ohh! OK, I'll file a bug for you."
"Is there any way I can track the bug?" I asked.
"Well, no, but I can have someone e-mail or call you later today."
"That would be great."
She took down a description of the problem, then we said our goodbyes. Fifty minutes, 35USD, and four humans later, I'd filed my first bug report with Microsoft. I don't think I'll be doing that again. Since I started this process, I've received six e-mails from Microsoft: one describing my new Passport account, one asking me to activate my Passport account, two receipts for 35USD (I hope that doesn't mean I paid twice), and two form mails from Kim, one saying she was taking charge of my case and one saying my case had been resolved by filing a bug report. I hope that means I get my money back.
* Curious what the bug was all about? Outlook and Outlook Express don't support RFC 2231, which describes how to send file attachments with international or long names via e-mail. If you send such a file attachment from a program supporting RFC 2231, such as Opera, Thunderbird, Kmail, or several other clients, the attachment name comes out as "ATT#####.dat", where "#####" is some random number.
I don't actually expect to see this bug fixed in any of the Microsoft's current products, but if they could at least read the filenames correctly in Windows Mail (which replaces Outlook Express in Windows Vista), that'd be a step in the right direction. Several other clients, such as The Bat! and many web mail systems (including Gmail) also don't support RFC 2231, so I'll be filing some more bug reports. Hopefully they won't be such a hassle.
** To send bug reports to Microsoft via snailmail, send a letter describing the problem to:
Product Name Development Group Microsoft Corporation 1 Microsoft Way Redmond, Washington 98052
where "Product name" is replaced by the name of the product you want to report a bug about. In this case, I would have used "Outlook".
Update (2006-03-22 9:51pm): A lot of people are giving me flack for calling this problem a bug and not a feature request. First, you probably only say that because I provided the solution. If I had just said that Outlook isn't displaying file attachment names with international characters correctly when sent from certain MUAs, you wouldn't be so quick to judge. And that's what the end-user sees. Software developers need to keep the user's perspective in mind when deciding if something is a bug report or a feature request. That's why I called it a bug.
I also could have said that Outlook is violating RFC 2045 - 2049 since those RFCs forbid the use of the =?charset?Q/B?text?= syntax in filenames, which is what Outlook sends and receives. RFC 2231 is the only way to encode such characters in MIME headers. Is it still a feature request? I say no.
And all that is beside the point. The point here is that I couldn't find a way to just file a bug report with Microsoft. I could have described another issue, but it would still have been just as hard to file a bug.