Sat, 02 Oct 2010 Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011 review
New email client and personal information manager from Microsoft
- Manufacturer: Microsoft
- Pros: New interface makes many tasks easier to access, improved Exchange support, faster than Entourage, redesigned AppleScript dictionary, no longer reliant on a single database, better support for Time Machine and Portable Home Directory Sync, redesigned preferences make setting up the application easier, UI more compatible with Outlook on Windows.
- Cons: Assorted 1.0 bugs, AppleScript implementation holes mar improvements to AppleScript Dictionary, Exchange support requires Exchange Web Services, Exchange 2003 and earlier not supported, Exchange support limited to what EWS allows, Time Machine limitations, UI changes hardest on existing Entourage users.
- Min specs: Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later, Intel only
- Price: Business Edition only: £189 inc VAT for one home business, £239.99 two activations.
- Star rating:
Contact management stays much the same, with any changes in the UI being more for the benefit of Outlook/Exchange than anything else. If you’re using Outlook 2011 with LDAP directory services, you can’t browse those directories, but the search works well. One complaint here is that Outlook 2011 assumes all directories are Active Directory (AD). If you’re using, say, Apple’s Open Directory, some things don’t show up correctly. Data like supervisor/supervisee information don’t show up if you aren’t using Exchange/AD, and you get an incorrect error message for that screen that there’s no directory service available—there is a directory service, just not AD. Providing directory/LDAP mapping information would be helpful in allowing system administrators to work around some of these issues.
My test results with Exchange were odd. I could not get contact searches to work with Exchange 2007 in the Contact view, although they did work correctly for e-mail and meeting lookups as long as you sent from an Exchange account. If you sent from a non-Exchange account, Outlook 2011 never was able to correctly do lookups in the Exchange Global Address List (GAL). While GAL browsing is enabled when used against Exchange 2010, I was unable to test this, as I used Exchange 2007 for this review. (It is entirely possible my GAL issues were due to a configuration problems. Because the GAL searches didn’t work only in the Contact view or from the search field on the Outlook Ribbon, it was probably a problem with my network setup, not with Outlook itself. However, Outlook’s error messages were of no help, something that could and should be enhanced in future updates.)
Search Contacts: During this review, contact searches using the Contact view didn't work with Exchange 2007.
LDAP searches were flawless and fast, faster than in Entourage. Searching for contacts is easier, although your options are limited to search names only, or search all fields. Simple, but a bit limited. As with Entourage, Outlook 2011 doesn’t display any picture for a contact from an LDAP directory, even if one is present. Maps are provided by Microsoft Bing.
As with CalDAV, there’s no CardDAV support, so you are unable to use Outlook 2011 with Apple’s Address Book server or any other CardDAV server. As with CalDAV support, I hope to see CardDAV support in a future release. There are a lot of businesses running on CalDAV, CardDAV, and IMAP, and Outlook 2011 could be a great option for them if it extends its open standards support to CalDAV and CardDAV. Contact syncing via Sync Services worked well, with no noticeable issues.
Notes, Tasks, To-Dos
There’s not a lot of changes here; not a lot needed to be changed. Tasks and Notes sync with Exchange, and you can use public Task and Notes folders on an Exchange server. You can create local folders for both tasks and notes. If you have flagged an IMAP message as a to-do in, say, Entourage, those to-dos will show up correctly in Outlook 2011.
Notes are extremely simplistic, which is fine. I did notice that although I can see the folder for Apple Mail To-Dos in Outlook, if I actually click on one, it shows up as a plain-text e-mail message with the warning that I am to do nothing to it, because it is managed by Mail. I was not able to see Mail’s notes.
Outlook’s AppleScript support has been almost completely revamped and reorganized, which leads to a mixed bag of results. Each major functional area has its own suite, including Tasks and Notes. There’s even a new Schedules suite. That’s nice, but there are a lot of changes that go along with this. For example, to get the selected message, you can no longer use “selection”; you have to use “current messages” or “selected objects.” Also, Outlook finally doesn’t add garbage characters on the end of HTML messages when you get the contents of an email message.
There are a lot of things that are read-only that shouldn’t be, like message, contact, and task folders. It would also be nice if you could explicitly set the contents of a message to HTML, rather than having that be derived from the contents. There’s no easy way to move or copy messages between folders.
On the upside, there’s now a Debug suite for Outlook 2011 that lets you run a small number of tests, including junk score testing. Unfortunately, the way the debug suite is set up, you can only see it in Late Night Software’s Script Debugger, not the default AppleScript Editor. (It may also be visible in Smile, but I don’t use Smile.) I love Script Debugger, but the debug suite is something that should be available to any AppleScript tool.
A huge downside for me is the elimination of the “part” element for e-mail messages. In Entourage, this feature made it trivial to pull just the HTML or plain-text content from an e-mail message. Without it, you have to do a lot of parsing of the message source. That’s a problem for quite a few of my scripts.
AppleScript: Outlook 2011's implementation of AppleScript is a good start, but it has room for improvement.
The Outlook development team acknowledged these shortcomings and a few others, and said that they are working on an update that will fix a lot of AppleScript support. If you do use AppleScript with Entourage, I would recommend waiting until Outlook 2011’s AppleScript implementation gets the necessary fixes. It’s just too incomplete at the moment to really use. Once the holes are patched, I think this will be an amazing application to script.
Before we move on: there’s no VBA in Outlook 2011. If you were counting on it, sorry. But seeing what a pain it has been for Outlook on Windows over the years, I regard this as a good decision.