Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011 review

Outlook for Mac 2011 is a new email client and personal information manager from Microsoft, not just an upgrade to its predecessor, Entourage 2008 . Outlook 2011 has some features that Entourage had, but if you approach Outlook 2011 expecting it to be an upgraded Entourge, you’re going to be frustrated.

As someone who is, by any measure of the term, an Entourage power user, I found that once I stopped thinking about Outlook as “Entourage 2011,” my experience with the new software quickly became much easier.

Version 1.0

Outlook 2011’s Mailing List Manager, Scheduling Manager, and Rules implementation are mostly unchanged from Entourage. Otherwise, Outlook 2011 is all new. Anyone used to modern versions of Outlook on the PC, or for anyone on a Mac who needs to talk to Exchange, will find that Outlook 2011 will be kinder to you than Entourage ever was—as long as you're using Exchange Server 2007 or later. Outlook 2011 does not support the older HTTP-DAV connection method that Entourage used.

Outlook 2011 is a Cocoa application; it doesn’t have a legacy of over 20-plus years on the Mac and doesn’t have the kind of code base that the other Office programs have. Moving forward, the Outlook development team will have an easier time than the other Office development teams with operating system compatibility. Unlike the rest of the Office 2011 suite, Outlook 2011 supports Mac OS Services (so did Entourage), and you get some of the basic niceties that Cocoa has.

Though I did no benchmark testing, Outlook 2011 feels faster than Entourage. Outlook 2011 launches minutes faster for me on the first launch of the day after a shutdown. Some of the user interface (UI) lags in Entourage while checking mail or doing other tasks never appeared or were far less annoying than in Entourage.

Cocoa magic aside, drag and drop in Carbon applications always works more intuitively. As a result, Outlook 2011 takes a step back when it comes to drag and drop. You don’t have to do the click-and-hold delay when dragging text, and dragging an attachment into a background Entourage mail window is a far simpler experience than doing so with Outlook 2011, where I had to bring the message window to the foreground and then drag the file from a Finder window in the background to the message window. I’ve seen the same behavior in other Cocoa applications—Cocoa just doesn’t do drag and drop as well as Carbon.

I tested Outlook 2011 in the same configuration that I use Entourage on a daily basis: six IMAP accounts total, with three accounts using SSL for both send and receive, two Gmail accounts, and one Exchange 2007 Exchange Web Services (EWS) account. Back-end servers run the gamut from MobileMe, Kerio, and Communigate Pro to Exchange 2007. I have over 70 IMAP rules, a handful of SMTP and Exchange rules, and too many Mailing List Manager rules to count. I also have an Exchange Calendar with gobs of public folders (I live by my to-do lists), and I have three separate Directory Service accounts that I use as part of my work.

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