Sunday, December 26, 2010

Upgrade suggestions for Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011 Review

Polished in many areas, rough on some edges, Microsoft Outlook for Mac would benefit from the following enhancements:

User Interface:
  • Move the Junk Mail folder up higher in the navigation list, and allow me to change the position and order in the navigation list
  • Move the icons for Mail, Calendar, Contacts etc to the top, or allow me to choose where they are positioned.
Functionality (which used to be part of Entourage 2008):
  • Need ASAP!: Sync integration with iCal.
  • Allow me to add a domain to the safe domains list without having to copy and paste it from the email, opening a dialog box, and changing tabs.  This used to be a right click action in Entourage and it's missing.*
  • Allow me to selectively print text from an email message*
  • Duplicating contacts
  • Master contact record: when there are multiple contacts at one client, I should be able to have a master record and link to it...
  • Calendar: Ability to auto-assign default category 
  • Exporting email addresses: after all these years, a user can only export ALL addresses, not selected addresses or by category.  Feels so 1999. Claris Emailer, where are you?  Needs the ability to selectively export email addresses
  • Conversation management: Oulook's navigation pane gets confused and multiple conversations take on new titles when deleting (bug).  The navigation pane is not doing an effective job of keeping track of conversations. 
  • Ability to duplicate contacts (so I don't have to reenter all the same info (2/17/11)
*Missing feature: not ported to Outlook from Entourage

Features you may like that are new or improved:
  • The ability to save all attachments with one click
  • Faster, more effective search.  Did I mention it was faster?

    Sunday, December 05, 2010

    Micrososoft Office for Mac 2011 Outlook review and first impressions

    Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011 disappoints; not ready for prime time

    So far, aside from the unfamiliarity of the interface,  I'm not impressed at all with the new Outlook for Mac 2011 (apart from the fact that it doesn't crash every time I try to read an HTML email).  Email is a necessary and essential part of my business, and a solid software tool is mandatory.

    After an unsuccessful first attempt to import my Entourage 2008 data (corrupt database, needed repaired. Microsoft could improve the user experience by doing a database integrity check prior to importing from Entourage 2008), the second import was successful, or so it seemed.

    With this first install, the day separators in the mail list column did not appear.  Only after uninstalling and reinstalling did they appear.

    Still, the My Day application did not work at all after importing the data.  I spent another hour uninstalling every Microsoft file from my computer, including the apps, and reinstalled the complete Office for Mac 2011 suite.  This is a common Outlook for Mac 2011 My Day bug, and a fix should be a priority.*

    After the Microsoft updater installed a 110MB update, I checked the empty install of Outlook and My Day appears.  So if you're content with starting from scratch with a blank install of Outlook, you're all set.  The rest of us are probably upgrading, and since you can't Can't sync Outlook 2011 and iCal without dragging and dropping from Outlook to iCal, then it's not an option.

    Outlook interface improvement suggestions:
    • Move the icons links for mail/calendar/contacts to the top of the interface; at least make them an option for customizing the toolbar
    • Junk mail folder buried at bottom of interface and not easy to access if you have a long list of folders.  Defaults to hidden preview pane.
    Other features (Microsoft Outlook for Mac BUGS) that should be addressed:
    • Not compatible with the upgraded  C'mon, why can't sync services work with any of the Mac OS and Mac software seamlessly?
    • Calendar sync does not work with Mac OSX, iCal or Mobile Me. After HOW many years? There is no calendar sync as of December 2011 for Outlook for Mac
    • Sometimes the conversation groups get confused and display the wrong email in the conversation
    • If you quit the app, it marks all emails read.
    • Unread emails aren't readily distinguishable from the read ones.  Heard of bold?  Why can't I change the list font to my preference of typeface, and size?  As with Microsoft's browsers, the developers seem to think that "Small, medium and large" are options that should apply to CSS, type size and interface design.  Small, medium and large are clothing and beverage sizes, not for interface design.
    • Preview panes disappear even after being set to display in the Junk Mail and other folders.
    Ordering Microsoft Office for Mac is confusing at best due to the licensing.  There are several versions:
    Confused?  So was I, until I investigated further.  My recommendation is to buy the 1 Pack, which allows installation on a single computer.  The difference: 1 Pack: 1 User, 1 Mac. 2 Pack: 1 User, 2 Macs.(so if you want to install the copy on your laptop and desktop, you need the 2 Pack.  This marks a change in Microsoft licensing.  The price difference is generally $100, so consider carefully what license you buy.

    Overall user experience: 5/10.  Keep trying Microsoft, someday you'll get it right.

    *I solved my problem with the My Day bug: no window showing in this manner:
    1. Open the Microsoft Database Utility
    2. Create a new identity; give it a new name to distinguish it from your main identity
    3. Export your contacts in case this process does not import or update them successfully.
    4. Copy the Contacts, Events, Folders, Mail Accounts, Message Attachments, Message Sources, Messages, Note and Signatures folders into the new identity's Data Records folder.
    5. Rebuild the new identity database.
    6. Open Outlook; you should see your email, folders, events and contacts
    7. Check to see if My Day window appears.  Mine did.
    Note: I had to manually import my contacts, from VCF files.

    I resigned myself to having to recreate my rules and signatures... often they get corrupted, and after a couple of hours of trying to figure out which folders may be causing this problem, narrowed it down to Rules and the UID folder, although another may be the culprit.  At any rate, highly annoying.  How many productivity hours are lost worldwide due to Microsoft software bugs?

    12/6/10: the saga continues.  While My Day appeared with the rebuilt database, Send/Receive no longer worked.  I have reverted to my original imported data files for the time being.

    12/8/10: one more try: First I deleted and recreated all of my Mail Accounts, then followed the procedure above.  Success!  My Day is visible and Send/Receive email works.

    Contacting Tech Support is an option (1 year of tech support!) according to the box.  Until you actually try to contact them, and are lead down a rabbit hole of screens until you reach the end, where the final screen says it's going to cost $295.00.  Why can't Microsoft make the user's experience pleasant, and not hide behind screens and obfuscation for tech support for software that they know contains bugs when they release it?

          Thursday, November 25, 2010

          Sooy+Co at 15 years

          I'm not one for nostalgia, but reflection is healthy and valuable so that we can evaluate where we've been and where we're going. It's no different with Sooy+Co – celebrating and observing in 2010 – 15 years of business, all of which we are extremely grateful for.

          Business ownership and entrepreneurship weren't a consideration when I graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1984 (the year that the Macintosh was announced to the world). I suppose it was inevitable – my father is one of the most entrepreneurial individuals that I know – and the DNA of entrepreneurship was part of our family from the start. I often say that entrepreneurship can't be taught, it's a way of thinking, but it is possible to teach people how to think differently. When we think differently, it's transformational – and transformation is at the heart of innovation and entrepreneurship.

          Needless to say, 15 years goes by fast when raising two children and running a business.

          In 1995, expecting our second child and laid off from my position as a creative director at a Cleveland, Ohio design firm, my wife (and business partner) and I decided to form "Brian Sooy & Co." We worked out of a 154 sq ft basement home office, affectionately known as the Design Cave. In 2007, we renamed the firm Sooy+Co, and moved into a 2,500 sq ft space in the Entrepreneurship Innovation Center at Lorain County Community College.

          Considering that 50% of new firms survive past five years, I'm happy to be in the half that survived. Most remarkably, we're not the same type of firm that we were when we started, and that's been a key factor in our growth and longevity. We started as a design firm – offering tactical services to our clients – but now lead our clients with consulting on differentiation, positioning, branding and strategic planning (thinking) before we talk about things like logos, brochures and web sites (doing).

          Sooy+Co, like any campaign or client engagement, has its own objectives and goals and culture. A successful design firm needs to focus on its own culture and business structure as closely as it focuses on the client projects it is working on. In essence, Sooy+Co has been a 15-year project, with perhaps 20 years to go.

          We've won awards for projects we've designed and for business growth, but at 15, that just doesn't matter any more. We're considered a mature business, and we don't have to prove anything to anybody. What matters now are meaningful relationships and big picture thinking: the impact we have on our client's business objectives, our roles as thought leaders and community business leaders, developing the leadership qualities of our staff, leading our clients well.

          We're grateful for the clients who have shared our journey with us – for those who have followed other paths, those with whom we still consult with after 15 years, and for those who chose to work with us now. We're grateful to our strategic partners who help us help our clients to succeed. Thank you for your continued confidence in Sooy+Co!· We value our relationships with you, and are fully committed to your success.

          Friday, January 02, 2009

          A new year requires new thinking

          I've said it before and I'll say it again: Entrepreneurship is a way of thinking, not a way of doing. Are we as designers learning to change the way we think?

          Are we applying the same principles and processes (not formulas) that we advise our clients with to ourselves?

          Does the way we think lead to greater economic gain for our clients, and by extension to ourselves?

          Are we becoming more adept at what we do, by applying experience and thinking learned from previous opportunity to new opportunity?

          Are we thinking beyond the current state: beyond branding, beyond marketing, beyond doing?

          It's never too late to change the way we think.

          Tuesday, December 23, 2008

          New Pepsi logo and font: What went wrong

          If you confuse the the new Pepsi logo and packaging with a store brand, it's understandable.

          It is an ambitious effort to re-brand a line of products such as this, but perhaps PepsiCo over-thought the effort. Nike has brilliantly made its symbol synonymous with its corporate name, but I don't foresee this happening with Pepsi. The company should revisit the brand and start with the typography, and hope that the consumer smiles when they say "Pepsi," instead of trying to own the smile and hoping that the consumer thinks of Pepsi when they smile.

          The new Pepsi brand has the look of and creates the perception of a store brand, and here's why:

          The visual symbol: The familiar red and blue circle has been replaced by a mark that seems inspired by animé or aerospace. Under Consideration compares them side-by-side, with quotes from Ad Age and BVNet:
          "The brand's blue and red globe trademark will become a series of "smiles," with the central white band arcing at different angles depending on the product."
          While the intent may have been sincere, it's poorly executed (what consumer is going to notice that each brand has a different angle?) Perhaps each bottle will soon include a legend to let the consumer know what the smile means. Perhaps the last three years of election cycle rubbed off on the brand as well, with its similarity to the Obama campaign logo.

          The typography: The Pepsi logo, set in lower case, alludes to vintage typography (disco anyone?) while trying to be modern. Stem and stroke weights differ, and joins bloat. This lettering was possible accomplished with a Rapid-o-graph pen, straight edge and circle template. It reflects years of amateur-looking type design in the packaging and advertising industry, and reminds me of type downloaded from a free font site.

          The color palette: Eeeeew. It's not friendly, it makes me wonder if I'd actually enjoying drinking what's in the bottle. It's depressing. The entire dark palette of colors on the packaging seems to infer that PepsiCo is taking itself much too seriously.

          The packaging: some of the comments at Under Consideration suggest that the new small bottles have similarities to, well, other objects. While the design of two-liter bottles (show here) don't change much, the wrapper combines all of the shortcomings of symbol, color and typography into a tired-looking design.

          Who's thirsty? ;-)