Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac - Outlook 2011 review

Outlook has finally arrived for Mac OS X. Should Exchange-dependent Mac users finally rejoice? Dieter Begatin spends some quality time with Microsoft's new email program to find out.

This is a shame since Exchange-related tasks that never seemed to work particularly well, if at all, using Entourage just works with Outlook. Scheduling meetings, which was always a hit-or-miss affair using Entourage, works flawlessly with Outlook. Setup and auto-discovery also work properly, and the whole process of using Exchange feels more reliable and robust.

Contact management is similar to Entourage, including, unfortunately, one of the bugbears that annoyed us previously. Sadly, as with Entourage if you're using LDAP directory services, you can search for contacts but not browse for them. Having said that, searches are quick they feel faster than with Entourage which partially makes up for this odd interface design.

There is, however, no support for CardDAV, but you can at least synchronise your Apple Address Book contacts with Outlook. This process was a little slow when we tested with just under 1,000 contacts, but after the first sync it was reliable and fast enough.

Calendar support with Exchange worked flawlessly, but again Outlook is lacking in support for CalDAV. This means importing calendars from other applications is either painful or impossible, and there's also no support for using alternative calendaring systems like Google Calendar. Hopefully this will be something that Microsoft will address going forward.

One other minor calendaring change is support for two kinds of events: meetings and appointments. The only difference that I could see is that you can't invite people to appointments or rather, you can, but if you do it changes to a meeting! This artificial distinction is very puzzling.

Sadly, there's also no option to sync between Outlook and iCal at present since Microsoft has implemented support for Mac OS X's calendar Sync Services, Hopefully this will be addressed in a future version, but it's less important than it used to be, as most phones can sync directly to an Exchange server and don't need to sync with iCal .

Verdict

Judging Outlook is tricky. If Entourage had never existed, it would be an amazing product. However, compared to Entourage it leaves out a few key features while gaining better Exchange support. Overall, if you’re an Exchange user, and your company uses a compatible Exchange server, it’s worth upgrading immediately. If you don’t use Exchange, though, you may want to hang on to your copy of Entourage a little while longer.

Processor: Intel only Memory: 1GB RAM (minimum) Hard disk: Mac OS Extended disk with 1.8GB free hard disk space Display: 1,280 x 800 pixel resolution or higher OS: Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later

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