One of my biggest gripes with all previous versions of Office for Mac is that Outlook was not included. Sure, there was Entourage, but seriously, it was no Outlook. This turned off many corporations because they needed the features of Outlook. Microsoft has listened to its users, and Outlook for Mac is now available for the first time with Office for Mac 2011.
This is the first time Outlook has been offered as an actual application, so expect some bugs and some differences between the Windows version and the Mac version. I will not go into any of those in this review, but I will give you an overview of Outlook as compared to Entourage.
Entourage has been the email client included with Office for Mac since 2000. Entourage 2008 allows you to add Exchange, IMAP, and POP3 accounts. This is also continued within Outlook for Mac.
Outlook for Mac 2011 changes some items to make Outlook more OS X like. The biggest change is the Preferences pane. In Entourage, the preferences pane was just a section of items and the options would be available on the right.
Outlook shows a ‘System Preference’ like setup. This setup makes it easier for those who use are used to the Mac OS X interface to be able to more easily navigate and choose their preferences.
Entourage 2008 does not display the current number of unread messages, which is an item that some users depend upon with Apple Mail or other readers. Outlook changes this behavior and displays the current number of unread messages. This is a huge feature that many users who need Exchange will be grateful to have.
A new feature of Outlook for Mac is the ability to have threaded conversations. Threaded conversations allow a user to view all of the emails that are related to that particular email. This is good for being able to see the origins of a particular topic within an email.
Another new feature is notifications of new emails. Just like its Windows counterpart, Outlook for Mac displays new email message notifications in the lower right corner of the screen. This feature makes it much easier for users to determine if the incoming message is important enough to warrant their full attention, or whether to let it just slide into the background.
The final new feature is the ability to have a unified inbox. The unified inbox allows users to see all of their email within one view instead of having to view each mailbox individually, as they had to do when using Entourage. This change makes it much easier to view all of your pending items at one time. If you do not like this feature, you can easily turn it off by clicking the ‘Organize Tab’ and clicking the ‘Conversations’ button.
I had one issue when using Outlook for Mac. I connected one of my email accounts, and when it downloaded all of the emails, it considered them all ‘unread,’ despite this being an IMAP account. I’m not sure how this got past the Mac team, but it did somehow.
Overall, Outlook for Mac 2011 is a good upgrade and a much needed addition to the Office for Mac Suite, particularly for enterprises. Yes, Entourage did have many of the same features, but it was not Outlook. If you’re an Exchange server user and you use a Mac, you will want to see if your company can acquire a copy of Outlook for Mac 2011 for you to use.