When I first started using a Mac, one of my biggest issues dealt with email. I used Microsoft Outlook on my PC and had done so for years, having a large amount of archived emails that I regularly mined for information. My first purchase for my Mac was Microsoft Office for Mac, which contained a similar program called Microsoft Entourage, which I had hoped to use as avidly as my beloved Outlook. My, how mistaken I was. Flash forward to 2010: imagine my surprise when I discovered the new version of Office for Mac, Microsoft Office 2011, would come with Microsoft Outlook. A bit skeptical, I decided to give it a look under the hood before I started rejoicing too much.
At first glance, the interface is very similar to the Outlook I was using previously (2007), with a ribbon-like interface and the same objects I used, including Email, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and Notes. Stylistically, this new Outlook does have a very “Mac-Like” feel to it, but it definitely made me feel at home as I was on my Windows version. This being a Mac program, Outlook 2011 also is supported by Spotlight, the Mac’s universal search, which is a nice touch. However, looks are a very small part of why I hated Entourage so much, so I dove deeper.
With Entourage, I had assumed that I would be able to import my Outlook data file (the ubiquitous PST file format) and have all my emails, contact, calendar events and more available to me from the very start. I was shocked to discover that Entourage didn’t even support PST files, and the process of converting everything to be shockingly difficult. This epic failure on Microsoft’s part has been resolved in Outlook 2011. I imported a decent-sized PST from my Windows machine, about 4Gb in size, and had no hiccups whatsoever when it imported all my emails, contacts, and calendar items. It also was able to import my Mac Mail messages and settings with no problem, unifying my email accounts into one program. It should be noted that iCal doesn’t yet work with Outlook 2011, nor does it sync with Google Calendar… yet. The version I am using is pre-release and Microsoft hopes to add this functionality very soon. I currently use iCal to sync with my Google Calendar, so I’ll be looking forward to this integration.
This new version of Microsoft Office for Mac will be well received by business users; Outlook can now be used for Exchange-based email systems. While Mac Mail could do some of the basic tasks, the more robust features Outlook supports are now available. Pricing for this new Office suite is based on the version you buy, just like with any other Microsoft product, it seems. The Home and Business Edition will retail for $199, and the Home and Student Edition will be $119. However, the latter will not include Outlook, which is a must for Windows folks wanting to switch over completely to using a Mac. There will also be a $99 Academic Edition that includes Outlook, but doesn’t allow for multiple installations.
Mark your calendars: on October 26, 2010, the new version of Microsoft Office for Mac, Office 2011, will further level the playing field between Windows and Mac users; I’ll see you on the other side.