Microsoft Outlook is a tricky beast at times. There are so many things that can go wrong, and so many ways to attempt to repair what has gone wrong. Read my answer to TechRepublic reader Beverly’s Outlook question, and then post your suggestions in the discussion.

Q: “Help! Outlook has gone bat *&$^ crazy on me! When I open it, the preview pane won’t open, giving me some strange cryptic error. Please tell me I don’t have to delete my profile and start anew! What can I do to fix this?”
A: Beverly, fear not, the solution to this problem is actually quite simple. Outlook has several switches that can be used to resolve some issues. The switch used to resolve navigation pane problems is resetnavpane. To run Outlook with that switch, do the following (I’ll use Windows 7 as an example): click Start and then type outlook.exe /resetnavpane in the Search Programs And Files bar. This will clear and regenerate the Navigation Pane for the current Outlook profile. Once you’ve run this switch, Outlook should run just fine.

These are other helpful switches that can be used:

  • /safe — Starts Outlook without Microsoft Exchange Client Extension, the Reading Pane, or toolbar customizations on. This switch also turns off Component Object Model (COM) add-ins.
  • /resetfolders — Restores missing folders to the default delivery location.
  • /profiles — Opens the Choose Profile window, so you can select which profile to use.
  • /noextensions – Starts Outlook with extensions turned off, but listed in the Add-In Manager. This is very helpful if you think Outlook extensions are causing problems with the Outlook client.

After you use one of these switches to troubleshoot Outlook, I hope you’ll be able to start Outlook normally.

Ask Jack: If you have a DIY question, email it to me, and I’ll do my best to answer it. (Read guidelines about submitting DIY questions.)