The Blog

Apr 29, 2008

Switching to Entourage from OS X Mail 

by Maxim Porges @ 9:40 PM | Link | Feedback (4)

I recently switched from OS X Mail and iCal to using Entourage in Microsoft Office 2008. It has been a bit of an odd transition; iCal and Mail really came of age with Leopard, and moving from them to a Microsoft product has been tough.

Of all the Office 2008 apps, Entourage feels the least polished. Moving around the app causes things to happen that I wouldn't expect (hard to define anything specific, it just isn't as intuitive as iCal and Mail), the UI is often cluttered, and stupid things like not being able to save the location for the preview pane as part of a saved search really annoy me. It's not horrible, but it's certainly less than Mac-like in many ways.

It's not all bad. Importing items from iCal, Address Book, and Mail was very easy and mostly intuitive. Much of the placement of favorites and commonly used items is flexible and intuitive. I am getting used to the way that Entourage manages to dos, and things like keyboard shortcuts for saying "do this task some time next week" (after which it sets the start and end dates for you) or "make this mail message a to do" (after which it shows up in my itinerary as a hybrid email/to do item) are very useful. I miss iCal's integrated windows and workflow, though; Entourage uses a lot of modal dialogs, which always bothers me - especially after years of using OS X, an OS that never uses a modal dialog unless it absolutely has to.

Some other things Entourage does well include the reminder system. I love being able to "snooze" an event. I often set reminders well ahead of time so that I have a chance to reach a reasonable stopping point on my code before mentally changing lanes to handle a meeting or a phone call, but I often dismiss a notification and then find myself late for my next commitment. Entourage lets you "snooze" an event, after which it reminds you again - very cool.

One final item I have heard about from other people at work is that our Kerio server (basically a cheaper, reverse-engineered implementation of groupware emulating an Exchange server) doesn't play completely well with Outlook on Windows. However, I was able to hook up to the Kerio server no problem with Entourage, so that was a nice addition.

All that being said, having Exchange server support and being able to put things in my desktop calendar/address book/email and get them on my company-issued Blackjack within seconds is pretty darn cool. Cool enough to suffer Entourage in its current state, at least. I think Entourage has potential, but Microsoft's Mac BU really needs to work on the UI and workflows.

Something I discovered today has certainly made me enjoy Entourage a little more. By default, Entourage uses Microsoft Office shortcuts, which means that you have to use the Home and End keys to do certain things (like selecting a line of text). I was retraining myself to use these non-Mac-standard shortcuts, but it was totally annoying me. I've discovered that under the "General" tab, there is a checkbox for "Use MIcrosoft Office keyboard shortcuts for editing text." Turning it off has returned me to my usual keyboard mappings, which makes me a much happier bunny.