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Microsoft Outlook for the Mac

by Kerry Dawson

Microsoft Outlook for the Mac

In this article, I’m strictly going to discuss Microsoft Outlook for the Mac. The reason I mention this is, unlike our Windows Counterpart, Outlook for the Mac has to be purchased as Office Mac:2011 or it can come as part of your Office 365 subscription. One of the unique features of Outlook for Mac is that it is one of the last all in one packages and as such is very powerful with the corresponding benefits.

Exchange Only


One of the downsides to Outlook, which is really a very good product, is it doesn’t run with the Mac‘s networking ecosystem. That is, it will run with any mail system you throw at it including iCloud mail but that’s where it ends. You are not able to take advantage of Contacts, Calendars, Tasks or Notes sync. However, you are if you run Outlook as an Exchange client and this runs beautifully.

I don’t think Microsoft necessarily meant to exclude the Mac environment. However, they don’t support the new standards Caldav and Cardav but support very old sync technology from Apple referred to as Sync Services. Sync services was entirely dismantled in Mavericks. I don’t think Caldav and CarDav would be overly difficult for a company like Microsoft to support and implement they just seem slow to the starting gate. It is likely we’ll see this kind of support plus a lot more in the next version of Office for the Mac.

Thus, for the purposes of this discussion we’ll talk about Outlook for the Mac running in an Exchange environment. It actually runs incredibly well and there are some things about the Exchange environment and it’s use of A that I prefer over Caldav and Cardav. However, really the primary focus here is that it just works and thus just works with any Exchange client (Windows version).


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Outlook is one of the programs that I really quite like for mail. Holding tight to standards and standards based rules, Outlook deals with mail in both a standard fashion with a lot of support tools to improve your handling of mail. As I’ve discussed in other articles, I like that methods are being developed to handle email more efficiently. I’m not too keen on what they’ve been doing in IOS that remakes email to allow you to achieve the golden outcome of Inbox Zero. I hold to one adage; do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Outlook in no way does that but just adds controls that help with the processing and management of mail and the maintenance of a sound mail strategy and system. In a nutshell, it’s good. I actually prefer it over OSX’s mail.

Outlook can connect to all IMAP systems along with Exchange. You could, if you wanted, have as many IMAP systems running with your Exchange system all well managed by Outlook. I basically run two IMAP systems along with my Exchange system which is based on Office 365. Office 365 is my business presence whereas one of the two IMAP systems is designed for another aspect of my business presence and one system is for personal email.

In Outlook for the Mac, putting together three accounts like this is no management issue at all. The toughest part is just the configuration in the beginning. Once done, it is a breeze to manage these accounts. As an example, all incoming mail just is amalgamated to incoming and all sent mail is amalgamated to sent. You can see the accounts individually as you need to but rarely do I find a need for this.

The Exchange Advantage

There are some very strong benefits associated with employing an Exchange infrastructure to run on your Mac. Instead of letting the Mac ecosystem manage your Calendars, Contacts, Tasks and Notes plus many other things you turn this over to Exchange. All things now sync both Mac (all IOS devices) and the PC. You can be a full member of an Exchange productivity environment with full sync capability but you are just letting Exchange do this for you instead of CalDav and CarDav. It works ideally.

As of Mavericks also there has been some grumbling over the so called dumbing down of the iWork applications. Frankly, I think they’re fine. One issue seems to be the lack of AppleScript in these packages probably to keep the desktop in sync with their IOS counterparts.

If power is of great concern to you then you have it in spades with a full Office 365 implementation which includes all of Microsoft’s productivity software. Personally, although I’ve used these products for years, I find now they’re getting very bloated with functions. Plus, they are going against the grain of distraction free writing in that there is a button or ribbon for this, that and everything. I find it distracting. Non-the-less, you can’t argue against the power of Office.

Outlook is a Great Exchange Client but so too is…

Although Outlook is a great Exchange client and I would say excels at email there are many things in the Mac environment that also support Exchange. Apple’s own ecosystem does and you can easily add an Exchange account to Mail, Contacts, Calendars and Tasks. BusyCal is also a full Exchange supported client. Fantastical, the popular third party Calendar and Task Manager also supports Exchange through Apple’s ecosystem.

In some ways you loose nothing having an Exchange architecture but can potentially gain greatly. Up time for an Office 365 system is slated at 99.9% This is impressive. You can work with your Windows Exchange colleagues no problem. Plus, if you’re so inclined you can install Windows 8.1 on your Mac with a full Office 365 deployment. Architecturally and functionally this is quite beautiful. It is extremely efficient. Finally, this is a mature environment.

Considering that for either Personal or Business use or both the system can be easily deployed in place of the Apple ecosystem is nice. Bottom line, it just works. To be able to part of an Exchange productivity environment cannot be underestimated and for too long Mac users have been kept out of that environment to their detriment. There’s no reason for that today.

Potential Use Configuration

Since Outlook is such a strong email client, I tend to like using it for that and I live in Outlook for my email. However, I’ll use any variety of things to get to my contacts and calendars. I might use Alfred, Launchbar or Cobook to get at my contacts while I like using BusyCal or Fantastical to get at my calendar information. Remember, all this information I’m accessing is from my Exchange server.

Room for Improvement but….

There are lots of areas Microsoft needs to improve Outlook from a dated look and feel to the lack of Caldav and Cardav support. The latter should never have happened as everyone was aware for a long time Apple planned on dropping this kind of support. In fact, the greatest need for Outlook at the moment rests with it’s requirement to support Caldav and Cardav so it can play in an Apple ecosystem.

Putting that aside, Outlook running on an Exchange environment is a very productive a versatile solution. With everything in sync you’re definitely good to go on that front. Your iPad, Outlook, Mail and iPhone will all remain perfectly in sync.

Secondly, Outlook immediately allows you to work in an Exchange productivity environment. It allows you yourself to set up your own exchange productivity environment say for that small business you’re trying to get off the ground. It does all of this in a surprising cost effective manner.

If you’re one of the one’s that is not happy with the state of nation regarding Apple’s iWork system, needs to work in an Exchange hosted environment or would like to run your own Office 365 system to operate a small business then this is absolutely the way to go. However, I do have throw in one word of caution. Office 365 is new for Microsoft and Outlook‘s not working in the Mac ecosystem sometimes creates confusion when setting this up even with Microsoft. Do not let this alarm you. It is more than doable and there are strong benefits to going down this road.

Welcome to the Outlook party for the Mac.

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