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?


        Anonymous said...

        MS Office for Mac 2011...its working for that I receive and send email. It even has some of those "easy" intuitive niceties that Mac software always delivers. But its loaded with bugs and shortcomings. So whatever happened to the proverbial (or not) "software update?" I have had this software for 3-months at least. The calendar won't sync with my iPhone. Reminders don't work (both MAJOR inconveniences to say the least). "Undo" doesn't work. Tasks are weak. There's a LONG list of issues. Is anybody working on...uh...perhaps fixing them???

        Anonymous said...

        Sadly it's riddled with rather major bugs.

        1. It is impossible to cancel or decline a single calendar invite within a series. It just doesn't work. You have to go back in to the outbox and delete the cancellation notice which puts it back in the calendar.

        2. Sending large emails - 98% of the time I send an email over 2MB it doesn't get sent. I can see the indicator that shows that all or almost all of the file has been transmitted, it then sits at that point for a minute or two and then pops the email in to drafts as an unread. So frustrating.

        I'm bored of having to use OWA or even worse VMWare just to send emails :(