Microsoft recently released Office 2011 for Mac. In the new version, Outlook 2011 replaces Entourage as the email client. For those of us at institutions with Microsoft Exchange email servers, this is a welcomed update. Both Entourage and the free OS X Mail lack robust calendaring integration, which can make it difficult to keep up with meeting requests at a university. While this may not be an issue for individual faculty, I’ve had professors in administrative roles tell me that they couldn’t consider switching to a Macintosh computer because of their concerns with email/calendar management.
Until recently, I used Parallels Desktop for Mac and a virtual copy of Windows to manage my email with Outlook 2007. While this worked well initially, the current version (Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac) seems to be designed for beefier machines than my two-plus year-old MacBook. I won’t go into details; let’s just say I was ready to try another solution.
After installing Office 2011 for Mac, Outlook only needed my email address and password to configure my Exchange settings, quickly loading all my folders, contacts, tasks, and calendaring information. I was even able to import .PST files, allowing me to have local access to older email messages directly within Outlook. The interface is clean. I much prefer the use of ribbons to the floating pallets found in the previous version of Office for Mac. As expected, there are some noticeable missing features. Mobile iCal users are unable to sync calendars with Outlook. Given the popularity of iPhones, this seems like something Microsoft needs to resolve quickly. Personally, I was disappointed that there wasn’t a default folder for all unread messages as I frequently triage email messages and leave messages that can be saved until later as Unread. Fortunately, a colleague showed me how to use the Search function to create a Smart Folder for Unread messages. I demonstrate how this is done in the video below.