Apple Calendar and Microsoft Outlook have long been leaders in calendaring and scheduling, with Calendar boasting a simplicity edge for Mac users. Has Outlook finally caught up?
The reputations were well earned. For years, Microsoft Outlook was a bloated personal information management behemoth, while Apple's Calendar was a simple, straightforward program that just worked.
Can an old app learn new tricks, though?
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Calendar, included by default within macOS, iPadOS and iOS, continues to be an easy-to-use program that provides stable, reliable operation. The app provides an easily navigated primary interface (Figure A) that displays either a Day, Week, Month or Year view. A left-hand navigation menu, meanwhile, makes adding and removing from active display individual calendars, such as are typically maintained for personal appointments and work engagements and even tracking new book releases or the Arsenal soccer team's upcoming fixtures.
Adding events is simple using Calendar. Click and drag the cursor within the corresponding time frame using the Day or Week view. Alternatively, you can right-click a date using the Month view and select New Event from the resulting pop-up menu. Supply the event's details, and you're good to go.
There is a catch, though. Calendar doesn't dedicate much space for notes. While configuring locations, alerts and repetitive occurrences and even accommodating estimated travel time are all immediately available within Calendar, the Notes section is somewhat abbreviated and, in my experience, slightly clunky. Maybe that's because others don't supply as much information for events as I sometimes do. The problem's proven slightly distressing, professionally, in my attempts to track customer histories, contact names and titles, highlights from previous telephone or email conversations and similar details directly within appointments.
Clearly, Calendar's developers know what they're doing, regardless. No reasonable user will debate the macOS calendar icon itself is brilliant, displaying the actual date directly within its Mac, iPad and iPhone icon.
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And then there's Outlook, the beast of an application packing email, contact management, task administration and calendaring within a single app. Microsoft Office products—Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook—have long been known to include a bewildering collection of capabilities, actions and settings. Available options became so plentiful, Microsoft ultimately introduced the contextual ribbon to try simplifying users' interaction with application features.
Outlook, of course, previously suffered from such bloat. But the new Mac version of Outlook, including Microsoft's "New Outlook" enabled using the sliding radio button embedded within the Mac app, dramatically reduces clutter. Instead of being assaulted with an anxiety-provoking array of buttons and icons, New Outlook presents a remarkably sparse interface that brings what you need most front and center. The rest? Advanced features remain and can be accessed from available menus, but they're not distracting and waiting just behind the scenes.
Judge for yourself. Witness the standard Outlook work week view (Figure B). It's easily navigated. New events are easy to add. Just double-click the respective space for the day and time of meeting you wish to add.
Provide appointment details within the space provided for entering the event's name, date, time and location, and you're set. Need more advanced features, such as setting a regular recurrence? Just right- or double-click the event and select Edit, which presents additional options (Figure C), while noticing there's ample space for notes.
Apple's Calendar app is proven. It's easy to use and offers the most commonly used features. Consider the program's readily connected to your iCloud or Exchange account, and it's hard to argue for an alternative. Microsoft's developers, however, have done their homework. The "New Outlook" presents a clean interface, while more advanced features remain available just behind the scenes. It's a smart and useful improvement that makes using the program throughout the day that much more efficient. And if your organization uses other Microsoft 365 apps, you'll find the unobtrusive integration with Microsoft Planner and To Do just more intelligent ways Outlook's been enhanced to provide access to the features and capabilities today's harried professionals require without being distracting.
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