Outlook is part of all versions of MS Office, so why don't you experiment with your existing version? If you use Outlook Express you won't find Outlook that strange. It has lots more features of course, but you'll enjoy exploring them.
I remember asking very similar questions about Outlook a few years ago (Outlook 97 was horrible).
Your version Outlook 2000 changed that and personally I think it is a superb programme and have managed to get Outlook 2003 working properly (anothe r possible clash on my computer that has been resolved - it used to hang when Word was used as the email editor).
Initially there's a steep learning curve, but it IS worth it.
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