Outlook 2011: Up from Entourage
There may be Mac users of Office who actually like Entourage, but they're a rare breed. For the rest of us, Entourage is the ultimate proof that Microsoft treats Mac users as second-class citizens. Entourage left me longing for the full set of features -- from very easy integration of tasks with calendars to the plethora of add-in functionality available from third parties -- that defined Outlook in its Office 2007 release for Windows.
Outlook 2011 brings a lot of the functionality and most of the user interface of the "real" Outlook to the table. The mail, calendar, tasks, notes, contacts, and ribbon interface, as well as integration with other Office applications that Windows users are accustomed to, are now present on the Mac, and they allow for uncomplicated moves back and forth between Outlook features and other apps. It's not always as smooth as it should be. For instance, launching an email message from within one of the other Office applications fails to include email signatures. But in terms of the interface and integration capabilities, Outlook 2011 is a major step forward for Macintosh users.
That said, I'm not switching yet. The first reason is that all of the tools to integrate with outside apps and systems (notably Google Calendar and Google Tasks) don't work yet. I've no doubt that they will work at some point, but until that time, Outlook is a scheduling castaway on Exchange Island. That's a temporary problem common to first-release products.
The second issue may be tougher for Microsoft to fix. Outlook 2011 is slow -- really slow -- to accomplish basic tasks such as downloading and displaying mail, moving messages from inbox to folder, or from one folder to another. There are a number of possible reasons, ranging from storing email messages as individual files to simply not having programmers who are as accomplished on the Macintosh as they are for Windows. Regardless, if having a snappy email client is important to you, then Outlook 2011 will be an exercise in frustration.
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