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?