Microsoft Office For Mac 2008 Review - Microsoft Office 2008: Entourage Review

Entourage is a program that in many ways is like an added value application to purchasers of Office, since most Mac users are quite happy to use the separate, pre-installed Mail, iCal and Contacts applications. Those used to a Windows environment or who just prefer a bit of amalgamation of programs that should ‘obviously’ be grouped together, however, will find that as a Mac-based equivalent to Outlook there is nary a better solution – and if you need to connect to an Exchange server you’ll have no other option.

Unlike the rest of the Office suite there are no real interface changes from 2004, mainly because there’s only so much you can do with an email client and Entourage 2004 was pretty well refined anyhow. Important changes that were needed have taken place though, foremost being the rendering of HTML emails and the speed at which it happens, which has now been improved no end – presumably due to the move to native Intel code. By default, as with Outlook, images will be hidden unless specified otherwise and the spam and phishing filters are claimed to be improved too. Certainly during my testing I didn’t receive a single offer of an enlarged libido or Nigerian fortune in my Inbox – whether that’s a good or a bad thing will be a matter of personal preference.

As with Windows, emails are all bundled into a single giant file and are added to the OSX Spotlight index by Entourage, a la Outlook and Windows Vista. This is important as most regular Mac users should agree, using Spotlight to search for everything is a habit that’s rather hard to break. Of course, unlike Mac Mail, Entourage also incorporates an address book and calendar so it seems prudent to check them out. Importantly real-time syncing between the Microsoft and Apple flavoured equivalent applications works well. Syncing between, say, a Windows Mobile phone and an iPod using iSync to update your Entourage contacts can be more useful than one might think.

With calendar syncing, a few slight issues do arise, due to the different way that Entourage and iCal differentiate between separate calendars, in that the former allows the use of categories, such as work, personal and so forth, while the latter will simply dump the whole lot into one – it’s a minor gripe though. Another point worth mentioning about syncing is that, perhaps obviously, both iCal and Entourage will try to advise you of your various events and when you get to the stage of having four reminders for the same one event it can get a tad frustrating.

The last point to mention, and the only new addition, is the My Day widget. To look at it you’d think it would be the perfect tool to sit on the Dashboard as a quick reference tool to tasks for the day and possibly new emails, but alas there isn’t the option for that. Instead you can either leave it sitting over every program (not a recommended idea on a small monitor) or have it sitting in your menu bar or dock to open and check when you need it. The problem with this is that it means you may as well just leave Entourage itself open and minimised and you’ll get more information for the same amount of hassle. Hopefully for its next iteration, or an update, Microsoft will put My Day in the Dashboard where it rightfully belongs.

There isn’t anything more that can be said about this particular program, it does what it’s supposed to and it does it well. As I already mentioned, having email, your address book and calendar together feels a lot more natural to me as a born and raised PC user and Mac convert, but at the end of the day that’s a matter of personal preference. Meanwhile, if you’re an Exchange server user on a Mac you have no choice but to use Microsoft’s program to send and receive email. Don’t consider the new version a reason to buy Office 2008, but it certainly isn’t a bad extra – just ignore My Day until it can sit on the Dashboard.

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