Software

Two reasons Outlook 2011 isn't ready for prime time

Erik Eckel notes the improvements made in Outlook 2011 for the Mac, but finds that there are two big obstacles that still hold it back for use in the enterprise.

It was a long time coming. Expectations were high. Mac administrators anticipated the day native Outlook support arrived for Macs. Microsoft Office for the Mac Home and Business 2011 was thought to be bringing full email compatibility to Macs. It hasn't happened.

Improvements apparent

Don't get me wrong. Microsoft's done well improving the new version of Office for the Mac. New features, including updated ribbon toolbars, SkyDrive cloud-based sharing, numerous new predesigned templates, and improved preview modes, make Office 2011 worth its purchase price. There's no debating that. Just don't buy Office for Mac 2011 expecting full Outlook compatibility compared to Windows systems. It's not there. While there are improvements, issues remain.

Microsoft's done well eliminating Entourage. I've never met an Entourage user or administrator that spoke well of the problematic Mac email platform. It's gone. Retired, mercifully. Now Mac users receive Outlook as part of Microsoft Office for Mac Home and Business 2011. Conversations, which collect email threads together, are included, as is the ability to connect to other staff members' calendars. That's a huge new feature not to be minimized.

No native .PST file

Don't go looking for .PST files on the Mac, though. They're not there. Instead, Outlook on the Mac drops messages and attachments into multiple new folders. Internet chatter suggests the reason is such architecture makes it easier for Apple's native Time Machine backup to incrementally back up email changes.

That's true, and that's an argument for the new Outlook email file structure. Just don't expect to work with .PST files on the Mac. It's not going to happen, although Mac users can import .PST files. But that's not why Outlook 2011 isn't ready for prime time.

1. It still looks like Entourage

The first reason Outlook for the Mac proves problematic is Outlook on the Mac doesn't look like Outlook on Windows. It looks more, to me, like Entourage, albeit new and improved.

Option and preference windows still leave me feeling like I'm working on a platform ported to the Mac and not the standard Microsoft Outlook app Windows users swear by (or at, depending upon the day). Neither do Contact windows or Task panes closely mimic their Windows counterparts. Instead, they more closely resemble, in my mind, a Web 2.0 version of those interfaces.

Maybe the simplification is good. Maybe it's better that Microsoft's developers have reduced much of the clutter in an effort to make navigation and use more efficient and intuitive. But it still means users familiar with the Windows Outlook interface will have to retrain themselves as to the location of common features and processes using the Mac counterpart.

2. No selective archiving

More offensive is the lack of proper archiving within Microsoft Outlook for Mac. Windows users are accustomed to selectively archiving email. Traditional Outlook email archiving enables Windows users to selectively archive mail within a single folder, multiple folders or an entire mailbox as required or on a predetermined schedule. No such feature exists in Microsoft Outlook for the Mac.

That needs to change. How else are Mac Outlook users to properly manage their Exchange mailboxes? Other than deleting email, there's no simple way, other than exporting the entire contents of a mailbox to an .OLM file. Microsoft would be well served to add an archiving feature to Mac's Outlook application as part of a service pack upgrade. Without such functionality, Outlook is simply not ready for prime time use in the enterprise.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

26 comments
mathiasbeck
mathiasbeck

- No separate window for Mail/Calendar ... always one window for all - No Voting Button support - No "Propose new time" for meetings (That's a killer!!!) - No Archiving solution - No multiple file support (doesn't have to be PST) - No Text Templates - All fonts get displayed far to small - No mail attachment button (only drag and drop/copy paste) - Moving mails per drag & drop from any other exchange server folder than the Inbox results in copy&paste instead of cut&paste (Why the heck? Who'd need that?) - With multiple calendars open, calendar overlapping and calendar coloring is missing (looking for joint meeting space is a nightmare) - and personally.... Look and Feel is too dark. All these grey shades ... Feel free to add to the list.

davidmjackson
davidmjackson

In Outlook on my PC I compose emails in Arial size 10. In Outlook for Mac 2011, Arial size 10 looks very small. If I increase it to size 12 - all the emails I send look ridiculously big when received on a PC. Is there a way around this? How could they have got this so wrong. For memory this was a problem in Entourage as well!!!! Ahhhh...very annoying!

Jhon Maul
Jhon Maul

How can I export my Microsoft Outlook 2011 for Mac email messages to Windows Outlook? Freeware tool is not available in the recent market for OLM to PST Conversion! You can use third party tool (having some cost) and export OLM mailboxes to pst mailboxes. I recommend you to use SysTools Outlook Mac Exporter software (its price is much cheaper than others') and convert database of Outlook 2011 to Outlook .pst files. Get the trail version tool from http://www.convertolmtopst.net/

Tim.Holmes
Tim.Holmes

The fact that you cannot have more than 1 mail data store (PST / OST files) severely limits the use of this product for people who large amounts of archived emails and emails from other accounts that they want to keep separate. Also the inability to have large distribution lists stored on the server rather than individual Macs makes it very difficult to update a shared distribution list or to create the lists from a former PC user's PST file.

henry3
henry3

Oddly enough, Outlook 2011 does not sync with pda's as the earlier product Entourage 2008 did. Maybe Microsoft does not understand mobile computing. Or perhaps it just wanted a crippled Mac product. Either way, Outlook's inability to use the Mac's excellent sync program is a major bummer.

macmanjim
macmanjim

Actually, Outlook Reminds me more of Apple's Mail more than Entourage in terms of look and feel. What broke for me upgrading here is using it as an Outlook client for Kerio. Entourage worked fine for that. With Outlook 2011, I have to use IMAP and it loses calendaring. From what I understand, Kerio didn't get much of a jump on this as MS didn't share right away. Oh well. Outside of that there's some performance issues. It's slow and has some weird bugs. I was hoping for something better. It looks like it'll be several revs away.

nocogeek
nocogeek

Outlook 2011 does not have the capability of performing a "Save As. . ." text or Word file on messages. Instead, one must either drag the e-mail to one's desktop or perform a copy and paste of the message's content into Word and then save it. When I go to send a message to numerous recipients, some of my contacts appear in the "Find in Contacts" field while others appear in my "Find in Address List" field. I preferred the old Entourage method of being able to see all Contacts and then simply dragging them to the list of recipients.

Don1958
Don1958

I have to agree on your main points. I would add that on Outlook for Windows users can right click a folder in the navigation pane (say, Calendar) and open a new window for that folder. Outlook 2011 for Mac cannot manage that simple feat. Add to that the inability to respond to read receipts, no support for voting buttons and you have some big disappointments. Biggest for me, though is the lack of support for using PST files for archival. Unforgivable, considering the clamor made by users on the Mactopia blog and forums for that feature as far back as Entourage 2004.

BBaldwin803
BBaldwin803

One of the reasons I got very excited about the new Outlook was the improvements with working with the public folders on our Exchange Server. Although the new and improved Outlook does allow better access to public folders and calendars it is still limited in it's usefulness because it will not allow you to send "invitations" for a meeting that is setup in a calendar in a public folder (like you can in the Windows version of Outlook). It appears that you can because you can add invitees to the scheduled meeting (and attachments too), but when you click "Send" it comes up with a message stating that you can't send invites from a calendar that is in a public folder (how lame is that setup?). At my department in our organization we use a public folder to schedule our conference calls so that everyone has access to the schedule (even those who aren't invited to some of the conference calls) so that we do not overlap calls just incase there are people who need to be on two calls that otherwise might be scheduled at overlapping times. This is the ONLY reason that I still have Parallels on my MacBook? so that once every three weeks or so I can setup a meeting in a public folder with invitees and attachments. I realize that there is talk that public folders are eventually going to go away, but until they do Microsoft should fully support the use of the feature.

logicbit
logicbit

Your rants are so superficial. I'm no fan of Microsoft. In fact I would never-ever use a Microsoft product unless I had to. We are a Mac shop. We develop legal practice management software for the legal industry. We recently added support for MS Office integration and during this process we had to get familiar with Outlook 2011 for Mac. I have to say that I'm very impressed with this product. The product looks great, has been very stable and has all the functionality one would expect. I never thought I would say this but Microsoft did a great job with this Mac version of their popular office suite. Frank A. Rivera CEO HoudiniESQ

Steven
Steven

And for those of us who do use something different, like gmail, Outlook makes a really poor client for that too. In the case of gmail, it connects to mail, but don't expect it to successfully do anything with your contacts or calendar or tasks. I was hopeful that it might serve as an better interface for gmail (specifically Mac-friendly keyboard commands and list grouping options to make mail management easier), and for those mentioned reasons it does function well. However, that is the extent of the capabilities that did anything for me. Beyond that it is just another pop3/imap mail client. That isn't what I would expect in 2010 nor is that all that is possible for a company with the resources of Microsoft.

glenstorm_98
glenstorm_98

Re: your point #1, the Mac has *never* been about looking as much like Windows as possible. Remember the "look and feel" lawsuit? The argument never was whether MimicSoft stole the paradigm, only whether Apple could patent it. While I haven't seen it yet myself, the changes you describe don't seem to me to be ones that degrade the program. They do *differentiate it* from the Windows version, and that's just fine.

dayoamon
dayoamon

You forgot to mention the biggest blunder of all, the fact that Outlook 2011 does not natively support WINDOWS LIVE HOTMAIL, a Microsoft Product!!! You can only work with your email using POP3 - an outdated protocol which does not sync your mail and folders! Even though the iPhone now allow you to connect to Windows Live Hotmail via Exchange, you can't do this on Outlook 2011. Outlook for Windows for years had provided Outlook Connector for native connectivity to Windows Live Hotmail.

david.foye
david.foye

Looking at the way things have gone, why would a company stick with Exchange/Outlook? Gone are the days when MS was the only game in town, there are other mail servers and clients that do a vastly better job and are more useable...

greg.mcallister
greg.mcallister

When everyone rants about why use a Microsoft product I am rarely perturbed by it. And whenever I see discussion, good discussion, where a product may be put down due to its weaknesses, I am not bothered. But what does get to me is when it becomes a bashing as seen in several of the posts before this one. This note by Frank does happen to sum up the reason that people buy Microsoft. And it simply is because anything else that is not specifically Windows oriented only provides "...all the functionality one would expect". See...non-Microsoft organizations expect less like Franks group (and I mean that relatively). Those that have not been there, appreciate the product because it has more than they expect. Then you have those that rant...because they get a product that is less and they expect more because they USED to be on the Windows/Microsoft Enterprise. Greg McAllister SharePoint Architect and Developer

BBaldwin803
BBaldwin803

As a fairly recent convert (switched to Mac two years ago) I have to respectfully disagree with you on one point and that is that, although it IS fine that Mac applications in general are differentiated from Windows programs there is a difference from being different and missing features. I do miss my ability to archive old email files automatically so that they are stored on my local hard drive and removed from the Enterprise Server. Our company has storage limits i place for our email accounts so i order to comply I have to manually move things around so that I can keep the old email without storing them on the server.

Bryansix
Bryansix

David, Name one enterprise class alternative to Exchange. I can think of only one but I'm not giving any hints. I want to see what all these other email servers are according to you. By Enterprise class I mean able to support large mailbox stores, Client and Web based access, support for mobile devices like Android and iPhone, support for clustering and failover and redundancy. Please let me know of this list you have of alternative email servers that do all that.

efeist
efeist

I can't find a way to use email templates in Outlook 2011 for Mac. Am I missing something or is that feature not there?

logicbit
logicbit

There is no getting around the fact that a large number of users (especially in the Legal industry use Outlook.'' Outlook is entrenched. As a software developer integration with the clients tools are required. You just can't say Why would you use Outlook.

Geoff
Geoff

The native mac mail client still does not have a 3-pane view, let alone a 4 pane one (with calendar/tasks in the 4th.) With wide screen monitors and macbooks, the default mac mail client view is just wrong. Yes, I know I can install 'wide mail' or something like that. But Outlook has the best actual reading mail desktop of any client (IMHO)

nwallette
nwallette

Each 200x release is a minor, minor improvement over the last in terms of features. And often a significant step back in usability. I used 2010 during the beta, and then for a while after. My HDD died, and I put 2007 back on. I would've gone back to 2003, but all the new X files wouldn't open without the compatibility pack. We've just implemented SharePoint and OCS internally. And we're upgrading to Exchange 2010. Seeing all the problems with installation issues, patch conflicts, stupid and pointless limitations, bugs, promised features that just don't work.. I think Outlook on the Mac is the worst thing to ever happen to the Mac. How about we get something else on PC instead?

BBaldwin803
BBaldwin803

The reason many folks use Outlook is because the company they work for still uses Exchange and they (the user) has no say in the matter. No, for the second question, why a company would stick to Exchange/Outlook? I have no answer for that one other than entrenched and invested maybe!?!?

durex_alain
durex_alain

You found a way to use templates? I'm looking for a solution on the web as well but can't seem to find one. Help appreciated

BBaldwin803
BBaldwin803

The entrenched don't like my comments (negative votes). Oh wel...

durex_alain
durex_alain

Let me know if someone found a solution

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