Entourage 2008 may be the best software ever published for Mac users. Getting things done has never been easier or better.
It’s alright to argue with me. I’m used to it. I’m married. My husband is a Windows user. After using Entourage 2008 I’m ready to say it’s the best thing Microsoft has ever done on a Mac.
In fact, Office 2008, despite a few glitches here and there with the installer, is a polished and pleasant experience. The Home and Student version makes Office a value, even when compared to Apple’s iWork ‘08.
My focus today is on the one Mac application that I live, eat, breathe, and would sleep with if it were a guy. Microsoft’s Entourage. I’ve let Microsoft take over my daily tasks, email, projects, to-do’s, notes and I’m happier for it.
Most people, Mac users included, buy Microsoft’s Office for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint compatibility, productivity, and familiarity. The Mac Business Unit at Microsoft takes plenty of heat, but they produced truly Apple-quality applications in Office 2008.
The hidden gem, though, is Entourage. It’s more than just email, Microsoft style. It’s also about freakin’ time Microsoft did something about the increasingly anemic performance of Office, and especially Entourage, on Intel Macs running Office 2004.
The 2008 versions are sorely needed, but, won’t disappoint, especially if you love Office compatibility, don’t mind some bloatware feature creep (we’re talking about Microsoft, you know), and are willing to take a closer look at Entourage, what I consider to be Microsoft’s best work.
Entourage hasn’t been updated much since 2004, and it’s about the only way Mac users can connect to Microsoft Exchange Server, and even then with some crippled feature sets.
Since 2004, Apple has offered, within OS X and within iWork, some worthy competitors to both Office in general and Entourage specifically. Go down the list. iWork offers competition for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
OS X Leopard, and Tiger before it, offered somewhat worthy competition with Mail, Address Book, and iCal. But Apple didn’t address Exchange connectivity, and didn’t offer any features that handled tasks and projects as well as Entourage.
With Entourage 2008, Microsoft has finally entered the Intel era at Apple. While all the Office apps looked like Microsoft apps, these days they look like something from, well, iWork or iLife. Entourage actually looks like an application made for Mac users on Leopard.
Remember Microsoft’s ugly Entourage toolbar? It’s gone. In its place is a toolbar that looks like Apple designed it for Microsoft. Add, subtract, modify items on the toolbar. Yes, you could do that in Word and Excel, but not in Entourage. Now you can. Welcome to the 21st century, Entourage.
The center of Entourage is email. There’s only so much you can do with email, so Entourage doesn’t load up a lot of new and useless features, but enhances what was good in previous versions. There’s still the Mailing List Manager, which is better than Apple’s attempts in Mail.
Spotlight now handles the searches in Entourage. You can save searches now, similar to the features in Leopard. The Junk Mail filter, which I didn’t use because it didn’t work worth a toot, is improved, though I still prefer using Spam Sieve.
While Entourage’s user interface is more Mac-like, that means things have been moved around. Microsoft also heard users complain about extra steps to get things done. Delete an email message in the Junk Mail folder and it’s deleted, not just moved over to the Delete folder.
New in Entourage’s mail section is the anti-phishing feature which scans mail for dangerous file attachments and alerts you when links look suspicious.
Entourage is more than mail, and more than Mail. Calendaring is easier than the previous version, partially from the improved interface, partly new features. The mini-month calendar can show up everywhere in Entourage, including email.
That’s a very handy feature as it integrates nicely with email messages. Fewer changes show up in Entourage 2008 in the Address Book and Notes sections. My life bread is Project Center and Tasks, both of which are feature heavy, well integrated, and new and improved in how they look.
The one weakness I have to admit with my experience in Entourage is connecting to corporate Exchange Server. I’m not a corporation so there’s nothing to connect to. However, my husband, the Windows user, does connect his Outlook to the company’s Exchange Server.
So, for grins, we set up a user account on my Mac, and used Entourage to connect to his Exchange Server. It worked. I don’t know how he puts up with all those options in Outlook, but he says it works for him and he’s a smart guy. He married me.
My favorite new feature in Entourage is My Day, which is really a little utility that lets you check into Entourage when Entourage isn’t running. For me that’s never, but Mac users who don’t live in Entourage 24-hours a day will like the convenience.
One of the issues I had with previous versions of Entourage was the database. Backing up was easy, mixing and matching between Macs was easy, but corruption was somewhat common.
That’s how I learned to backup, backup, backup. So far, no issues with database synchronization, even when bouncing around between IMAP and POP accounts.
Here’s the biggest gotcha I’ve seen to date. Entourage uses an improve database to hold your information—messages, tasks, projects, notes, addresses, and so on. That’s all well and good but Leopard’s Time Machine doesn’t like Entourage’s database.
Any new email message or task or note means the database has changed. Every hour Time Machine comes along and sees a new database and backs up the whole freakin’ thing. So far, the only work around is to use Time Machine to exclude the Office 2008 user database, and rely on a different backup system.
Or, buy a couple of Time Capsule terabyte hard drives just for Entourage.
Entourage uses Leopard’s Services and supports a good implementation of AppleScript. There’s sample workflows for Automator in the Special Media Edition (the one I bought), but I couldn’t get them to run in the Script menu in Leopard.
I’ve read of a few gotchas with Entourage and Leopard’s Sync Services—syncing with Address Book and iCal and .Mac. That’s a necessary evil to sync data to your iPhone and iPod. Entourage still creates an Entourage calendar in iCal, but you can’t bring iCal calendars back into Entourage. That sucks, but I don’t use much of iCal.
Overall, if I had to rate Entourage, I’d go with 4.5 stars out of five, but I’m an optimist and have lived with previous versions of Entourage for nearly a decade.
Mac users who live and work in a Windows and Microsoft Exchange environment will cheer, but the price tag for the Exchange version is hefty, hefty, hefty. The real value is still the Home and Student edition. Both my thumbs are up. To improve on the basics of Mail, iCal, Address Book, you have to use Entourage. Click Here to look at more details of Entourage and Office 2008, including discounts from the Mac360 Store.