A Mac can barely print to a Windows print server. Google Docs hardly works on an iPad. eBook readers do not open the others’ formats. Outlook for Mac cannot save a PST. Why aren’t these popular systems more compatible? Eric Castro reminds us that these companies are competitors that work to maintain a strategic advantage and increase profit.
Users express the misconception that computers are designed to work as well as possible for the customer. If only this were always true! Great design can drive sales, but usability takes a back seat when competitive advantage is involved. Users would love a touch screen Mac, but Apple has little incentive to compromise its iPad strategy. Microsoft would prefer that Office for Windows always be stronger than Office for Mac.
Tech departments can help users avoiding incompatibilities by communicating issues clearly, suggesting workarounds, and helping people understand how companies develop features and consider compatibility.
Here is a helpful graphic from Gizmodo.
A colleague recently wondered who would buy Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac, given the free cloud and desktop office applications available these days. For $80 (through TechHead), I would think that lots of people would. Office 2011 gets usability in a way that previous Office versions, Google Apps, and OpenOffice has not. One may conclude that Microsoft copied the elegant user interface of Apple’s iWork in places. Good usability is so critical to our users’ ability to adopt an application and use more than the most basic of its features.
Office 2011 for Mac places previously hard-to-find features in easy-to-find ribbons at the top of the screen.
- Create a meeting invitation directly from the recipients of an email message.
- Create and manage rules.
- Mark a message as unread.
- Mark a message with a category or follow-up flag.
- View filtered views of mail, such as “only to me” and “flagged”.
- Open another user’s calendar or a shared calendar object (if you have moved away from public folders)
- Update your calendar’s permissions to share with others
- Message window icons have grown in size, making them easier to notice when typing.
- View messages in a unified inbox or separately by account.
- Much improved network connection handling. Outlook now automatically resends one’s message when the network connection is restored.
- Easy access to media objects
- Now Word is actually useful for newsletters and other document templates. You know they got this idea from Apple Pages.
- Should be a hit with our English and history teachers and librarians
- Remember that picture of all of the MS Word toolbars visible at once? They took up practically the entire screen. Now take a look at how the ribbon has cleared away practically all of the toolbar clutter.
- Try doing this with Google Apps. Just this week, I used this to create an awesome circular Venn diagram for an online conference presentation.
- Automatically format table cells in Excel.
- Updated presentation themes. The previous ones were so 1996.
- Second display presenter view and recording features, terrific for posting narrated slide shows to the Web
Isn’t good enough good enough? Why does one need these features? I see this less as a matter of need than of cost and benefit. Outlook alone is worth $80 to most of our users. Even upgrading Office sitewide is a good deal for the dollar, considering Microsoft’s heavily discounted education prices. Why not invest a few dollars in an application that is so essential for productive staff, teacher, and student work?
This new version of Microsoft’s email client for Mac has not gotten much attention, but anyone who uses Entourage to connect to a Microsoft Exchange Server should consider installing the free upgrade. Version 13.0.0 is also known as the “Exchange Web Services” edition. At the time of writing, you need to download and install the update manually from the Microsoft Mac website. It only works with Exchange Server 2007
Microsoft has changed the technology the Entourage uses to exchange data with an Exchange Server from WebDAV to Exchange Web Services. This is as important as it sounds! You can notice the effect most clearly when synchronizing large numbers of items, such as when you migrate accounts or sync with a public folder. In my experience, the rate of data transfer has improved by many times. Beware that the upgrade does erase your local Entourage profile, so back up any Entourage data stored locally on your machine first. Any data already stored in your Exchange account will reload from there, so you don’t have to worry about that.
As with the last few versions of Entourage, the EWS edition talks to your organization’s client access server (which also hosts webmail), so Entourage works just as well off-campus and on.
Entourage 13 also synchronizes notes and to-do items, which previous versions did not.
One of our users files his mail into dozens of folders. With Entourage 12, his folders took so long to sync that the Sent Items folder would remain several days out of date, never having the chance to fully synchronize. Version 13 saved our bacon by (presumably) synchronizing more quickly and being able to keep all of his folders updated.
Incidentally, we are also using the EWS protocol in one of our home-grown web scripts to publish a calendar on our website for employee use.
Microsoft Entourage 2008, Exchange Web Services edition