So Microsoft has released a new version of Office for Mac Office 2011. I’m a heavy user of Office, in particular its email package, so here I’m concentrating upon things that effect email. For any Mac users out there who are thinking of upgrading, here are a couple of warnings:
Outlook Only In “Home & Business” Edition
Entourage is no more, Microsoft’s only option is Outlook. However, the “Home & Student” edition doesn’t contain it. To get Outlook, then you have to purchase the “Home & Business” edition. Perhaps this is a reflection of the success of Apple Mail, but it seems rather miserly to me.
No More Multiple Serial Numbers
The “Home & Student” edition no longer contains multiple serial numbers, as Mac Office had in at least the past couple of iterations: in fact, you could have it running on three machines. If you want to run Office on your desktop & laptop, you’ll have to plump for the dual-license version of “Home & Business” edition. Again, this is pretty tight-fisted.
Bye-Bye, Project Centre
Unremarked-upon by any reviews I read: Outlook no longer supports Entourage’s Project Centre. All your projects have been converted into categories. I’m not sure which outrages me more: the fact that Mac journalists didn’t highlight its loss (as they did when Office 2008 dropped AppleScript support) or that MS dropped Project Centre in the first place.
Dropping support of Project Centre may not bother you in the least. In day-to-day usage, you’ll probably not notice much difference, as assigning a message to a project is virtually indistinguishable from assigning it to a category. But if you were a heavy user of this feature, you’ll feel its loss keenly.
When you are searching for specific information associated with a specific project, which might be in any number of folders, tasks or notes, then the lack of a unifying Project Centre feature will hobble you significantly. I know that Outlook supports Spotlight, but frankly that’s not good enough: I for one get too many false positives in Spotlight, and the whole point of using Project Centre was to help you find items where you can’t quite remember the details well enough to search for it.
Worse, the removal of this feature is destructive. Upon occasion I used the built-in Notes feature within individual projects in the Project Centre to write meeting minutes. They’re all gone. Thankfully, I didn’t use it often: most often I wrote notes in Word & sometimes in TextMate. Nowadays all my notes are covered by Livescribe, which is pretty awesome.
Practical Advice on Upgrading
Importing your old mail can be problematic. Back up first (but you do that already, right?). When I first imported, Outlook crashed—and upon reimporting I found I had duplicated mail folders & categories. And when I started deleting some of the duplicate categories (that is, categories that were once projects), I found that Outlook started to delete thousands of messages associated with those categories. Which repeated category should you delete? Well, it appears to be a crap shoot, so tread lightly. Fucking hell.
Bugs, Omissions, Weird Decisions
- After I finished importing, I went to the preferences to see what was new. You have the option to hide items on your computer. If you tick that, your local folders are hidden. Now untick it. Your folders don’t show up again until you quit Outlook & restart it.
- Did you make any Junk Mail rules? Sorry, they won’t work any more.
- Did you keep a list of your completed tasks? Perhaps so you can verify that you did X or Y? Well, at first I thought they were gone. But don’t worry, they’re just hidden. I’m not sure who thought that was a good idea, but it set in a little bit of panic for me.
- You know that “Notes” feature? The one you probably didn’t use much because of the notes in Project Centre? If you relied upon the dates in which they were created or modified, get used to the fact that they are now marked by the date when they were imported into Outlook.
- Even if you choose to use Plain Text for your email, the options for using HTML in your messages are still on the screen.
- Any sound sets you have have used previously no longer work. For example, I used a sound of someone clearing his throat for when a notification popped up: gone.
All in all, this software doesn’t feel finished & I feel cheated. I’m severely disappointed in my purchase. I’ve not been a Microsoft-basher: in fact, I think they used to make good Mac software. But no more. I’ll be looking into converting to Apple Mail & using Daylite to manage projects. Now who do I talk to about getting my money back?
Update: I’ve also discovered that calendar events no longer support linked files. This is a another big problem—for example, I would attach electronic boarding passes to a travel event, so I wouldn’t have to root around for them.
I can see why they made these disastrous changes: it’s clear they want to have absolute compatibility with the Windows version of Outlook, which doesn’t support projects & linked files. While I don’t like their design decisions, my real problem here is the lack of clear announcement: we were left to find out all on our own. It’s really fucking shoddy.