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Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011 Review

A weak e-mail program for Mac users is missing many business features available in Outlook for Windows 2010

By definition, I’m a Mac Fanboy. Just here in my home office there’s a MacPro Tower with everything on it, three MacBook Pros and two MacBooks, two Mac Minis, a dozen iPods, nanos, shuffles, several iPhones a couple of iPads, it looks like Steve Jobs threw up in here. I am a Mac lover and, what’s worse, I love Mac’s even when they don’t work the way they are supposed to.

However, I am also a DOS/Windows baby and there are certain things you just can’t do on a Mac. This has always been true. For Windows XP through Windows 7 my solution has been the Parallels desktop. It is virtual machine that allows you to run Windows or Linux programs on Intel-based Macs with excellent results.

As far as operating systems go, it’s not bad being “Bi.” I have been very happy living in a predominantly Mac world and using Parallels to access and run the only two Windows-only programs I use daily: QuickBooks Premium Accountant Edition and Visio.

Why don’t I have both Windows and Mac computers around the office? Because there was truly no need, everything was right with the world until January 2011. That’s when several very reliable sources told me that my SoHo would benefit from the features of Outlook, over the AppleMail/Daylite 3 Productivity Suite system we were using. I did some cursory research, but was told to make this switch by people who “really know” Outlook and were sure that it was the exact solution I needed.

As I said, I’m “Bi-OS” so I was happy to setup my own office in Outlook. I’ve used it on Windows computers for years and, although it is far from a perfect solution, it truly does the job.

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As most of you know, Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 made its debut this year, and the big change was the addition of Outlook (which replaced the practically featureless Entourage). I was psyched. No need for Windows in the Shelly Palmer world, now Outlook is available for Mac Fanboys! After installing the program, I spent days setting up a Microsoft Exchange Server, then I designed workflow that would fit my needs. I wasn’t paying too much attention to what was missing, but I should have.

After a couple of weeks of testing Exchange and getting all of my categories and CRM stuff together, I added two additional people to the system. It was at that moment I realized that Outlook for Mac 2011 and Outlook for Windows 2010 have almost nothing to do with one another.

A few examples: Mac version does not have an email merge, cannot assign categories to contacts in the global address book, has no reliable search function and is practically useless when it comes to rules. Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 does not feature One Note, nor is it compatible with any of the Microsoft CRM products, nor does it interface with social networks, nor does it store/keep a history of your interactions with clients, and on and on and on …

What a monumental waste of time.

The fix was pretty simple, but pretty expensive. To make everything work like 92 percent of the offices in the world, I now have Parallels 6 Desktop running on all the Macs in my home office. I’ve installed purchased copies of Windows 7 on each machine. I’ve installed a licensed copy if Microsoft Office 2010 (for windows) on each machine. What will I do with the Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 installs? Well, for one thing, they will take up a lot of disk space. On the other hand, it does make opening a file a little more tricky and painful. All bad … no matter how you think about it.

Is the version of Outlook that is included with Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 a step up from AppleMail? Not really. Is it better than Gmail? No. Is it worth the time to set up Exchange for it? Absolutely not!

Which begs for the question: Why is this true? Why should Microsoft software for Mac products be so much weaker than Microsoft software products for Windows computers? The obvious answer is unsatisfactory in the extreme. If you are going to sell a crippled product to Mac owners, why bother at all?

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The good news is that Parallels has a mode called “Coherence,” which allow you to open a Windows program as if it were a floating window on your Mac. It’s very slick and a very nice solution. So, expensive as it may be, our all Mac office is now running Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows everywhere and we are happy, functional, and compatible with the rest of the business world.

Don’t Try This at Home!
The bad news is that, aside from having to purchase several copies of Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 and eat them, most of the reviews I’ve seen of the product say it’s wonderful. Take if from me. Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 is in no way wonderful, nor does its version of Outlook offer any benefits at all. If you upgrade to Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 do not expect it to work like its Windows counterpart. And, like I said, don’t try this at home!

About the Author: Shelly Palmer is the host of “Digital Life with Shelly Palmer,” a weekly half-hour television show about living and working in a digital world which can be seen on WNBC-TV’s NY Nonstop Tuesdays at 10p Eastern and online, and the host of “MediaBytes,” a daily news show that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment. He is Managing Director of Advanced Media Ventures Group, LLC an industry-leading advisory and business development firm and the President of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, NY (the organization that bestows the coveted Emmy Awards). Mr. Palmer is the author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV (2008, York House Press) and the upcoming, Get Digital: Reinventing Yourself and Your Career for the 21st Century Economy (2009, Lake House Press). You can join the MediaBytes mailing list here. Shelly can be reached at shelly@palmer.net For information visit www.shellypalmer.com

Also reviewed by:
Macworld, NY Times, PC Magazine

More reviews by Shelly Palmer:
Apple iPad 2
HTC Thunderbolt 4G Smartphone (Verizon Wireless)
Motorola Atrix 4G Android Smartphone (AT&T)
Motorola Xoom Tablet

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